I just returned from Glasgow at the European Championships 2018 looking for inspiration. These games gave me an opportunity to volunteer as an athlete service worker for the rowing event. I had a reference from British Rowing to work at the event, which was a fortunate thing to get. I was more than happy to take up this offer because I hadn’t been to a rowing event before. It also gave me an opportunity to network amongst the rowing community to improve my own agenda with minority sports.
The event itself was a good one. I had the pleasure of meeting and working for all these rowers from Europe. I was handing out water and providing assistance to them in the boat park as they got ready to take to the water. The rowers were very friendly and seemed very happy. The Irish in particular were probably the most demanding of water, and the British as well. After the races I found myself working in the athlete’s dining area watching over them to ensure they had a stress free lunch after all their hard work.
One day after my shift I went to Glasgow Green still in my uniform where I met one of the rowers. This was Karen Bennett, and she had just won silver that day in the Woman’s Eight. I got a picture of myself with her and I congratulated her on her win. Also I told her about my activism for sports and my own ambitions with what I intend to do for the Commonwealth Games. This is where minority sports can be advanced in a creative, proactive and constructive way.
I told Karen about my love of rowing and how it can be a useful means of achieving a social objective as well as a sport. The boats operate on waterways which are vulnerable to pollution. Rowing requires clean and vibrant waterways like lochs, rivers and lakes which attract a lot of visitors and require protection against littering and toxic contamination. If we got rowing associated with environmental groups and local governments we can increase people’s appreciation of rowing and in doing so get more people into that sport.
Karen agrees with me and this and think it’s a brilliant idea. Now think about applying these kinds of things to archery. Archery has a number of social and civil objectives that it can give to people and communities. Like rowing we have a part of our sport which involves the use of green spaces and parks. I shoot in practices and competitions where my sport takes me to the beautiful realms of nature with trees, birds and clean air. Open up the archery community with the environmental protection agencies and we can keep the fields clean, just as we do in archery etiquette for our practice ranges.
Mental wellbeing and physical health is also a useful selling point in archery. Archery is more than just bows and arrows. Archery gives me a means to enhance my mental abilities and strengthen my focus on an objective like a target. The target is a metaphorical measure for a strong, sharp mind. If I aim and hit the centre often enough it means that I am happy, healthy and strong in body and mind. Since archery requires 90% of person’s mental abilities the impact that it has on a person’s wellbeing provides a good source of nourishment for the brain. In this day and age we are trying to remove the stigma of mental health and we can use archery as a means to fight that stigma.
This strategy is very beneficial to a minority sport when it struggles to be accepted in the mainstream when it presents itself only as a sport. In 2015 the Commonwealth Games Federation committee decided to demote and remove rowing and sailing from their optional sports list due to a lack of demand from host nations who didn’t want to put those sports on. Now having been a volunteer at a rowing event I want to see it reinstated.
I think rowing and sailing have a social purpose within the Commonwealth for environmental purposes. The CWG operates as a missionary service for the Commonwealth of Nations, whereby it uses sports to promote the objectives of the Commonwealth as in it’s slogan ‘Humanity, Equality, Destiny’. One branch of the Commonwealth is for action on protecting the environment with an aim to decrease marine waste and to create a management of the national environment of it’s member states.
Sailing could be a useful asset to the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme (CMEP). This was set up in 2015 for the purpose of developing safe and sustainable economies in the small island nation states of the Commonwealth in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. Some of these countries have never hosted the CWG because of their size or lack of economy to be able to afford to host it. But they can provide a useful base for the sailing events to take place.
It is time that we started using sports in ways that can be unconventional, but beneficial to people and communities. Some people like the athletes themselves might find this unnecessary or wasteful to their sports careers but history has shown how useful such schemes can be. In 1995 Nelson Mandela collaborated with Springbok captain Francois Pienaar to use the Rugby World Cup to unite the South African people when it was still undergoing a period of transition from the apartheid era.
There was a lot of mistrust, hatred and violence still going on in the country and Mandela used rugby to help bring his people together as one nation. Thanks to this collaboration with the South African rugby team the two men even got many of the blacks and whites playing rugby together. It saw a large boost in rugby participation especially amongst the blacks who didn’t play rugby that often as whites did.
Now imagine if different social objectives can be achieved through minority sports in the Commonwealth Games. It will increase participation in rowing, archery and sailing, which in turn will lead to greater capital for the sports themselves.