Our Lay Adviser Stephen Morrison reports from the Advancing Excellence in Healthcare Conference #AEH2014, where the FSEM had its own Sport and Exercise Medicine Symposium.

Last week I had the privilege of attending the first day of Advancing Excellence in Healthcare Conference in Glasgow, on behalf of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine. I say a privilege, as not being a medic, it was an opportunity to listen to and learn from the tremendous line up of speakers gathered in one place by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

During the day there were several sessions that were of huge interest to me, including the key note speakers which HRH Princess Royal attended.

This day warrants (and will hopefully provide) several blog posts, as it opened with an illuminating Plenary Session with Dr Frank Dick OBE, President of the European Athletics Coaches Association and widely regarded as one the world’s top sport coaches. I am a runner and although the closest I’ll get to Mo Farah is watching him at Glasgow 2014 as part of my #Team14 Commonwealth Games Blogger role, the advice given by Dr Frank Dick was as relevant to me as it would be to elite athletes:

Identify our dreams and work backwards, using milestones to track and celebrate our progress. Progress, he stated, didn’t have to be becoming the best, but simply by becoming better. Better today, than you were yesterday and better tomorrow, than you are today. Advice that we can all benefit from, in all aspects of our lives.

He then spoke about the need and the challenge of getting children more active and interested in sports. About the need to create balance and a dynamic tension between supporting young athletes and challenging them. One word that resonated with me throughout his speech was excite. To attract children (and adults, alike) to sports and to retain them, he suggested that we ask them what they wanted, what they needed and what excites them.

How often do we tell people to get more active? How often do we tell them how to get more active? How often do we actually listen to people without dismissing them or deriding their ideas? We seemingly know what they need.

In 2009, West Dunbartonshire Council installed hair straighteners, in schools, to encourage more girls to participate in Physical Exercise. Across the media the councillors were labelled as barmy and public opinion was mainly that it was pandering to silly girls. I might even have laughed myself, as I approached the heaviest and least active period in my life.  Just last week, Jennie Price, the female chief executive of Sport England heralded a similar approach in a school in Hull, which had seen girls there go against the grain and remain as physically active as their male counterparts. She further suggested that girls get 15 minutes extra to “reconstruct” after PE and wear clothing they feel comfortable in. This isn’t barmy thinking, but rather simply asking children what they want, listening to their needs and acting on their wishes. Exactly, as Dr Frank Dick suggests.

Frank has coached some of the world’s top athletes and his next words provided and reiterated a simple yet brilliant approach to getting people active for life. Get them excited. Get them practising and then get them participating. Again the key message of excite, attract and retain. To do this, Frank suggested, we need to ensure that we have the strategic plans and the people in place to respond to the answers we receive. To get novices moving from practising to participating we should, he advised, use our very best coaches. Sporting Federations should divide their attentions between both novices and the elite and to ensure behavioural change, we need to ensure that we retain a sense of sustainability, have a long term vision and commit to staying the course.

This summer, Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games. We have a real opportunity to excite the nation, as some of the world’s finest athletes gather. Once excited we must use this momentum to encourage and inspire people into trying and practising new sports. We must use programmes like the Active Places Fund and Community Sports Hubs to empower and enable the people to decide how they wish to get and remain active. Together we must use our expertise and experience to lead, while remembering to listen.

And as Frank asked, if not you, then who, and if not now, then when?

Follow Stephen on Twitter @HowManyMiles_

Stephen Morrison is Lay Adviser to the FSEM UK and works for the Department for Work and Pensions. He is an everyday Physical Activity Champion for HASSRA Scotland, a Fitness Day UK Ambassador, and Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Ambassador. Having turned his life and health around with exercise, Stephen’s agenda is to raise awareness of health inequalities and push for a more holistic approach to inactivity within community wide programmes. Stephen also champions the management of obesity with physical activity, the issues surrounding this in the public domain and a call for “a different approach”. Stephen is also a columnist for Man v Fat and charts his journey as a try athlete at http://howmanymiles.co.uk/

Written by Stephen Morrison at 04:30