By Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport
As I reach the end of my year as Opinion column host, I want to express my gratitude to Bailiwick Express for offering me this exciting opportunity to share my passion for sport and physical activity and its many benefits to the island. It’s been an honour to speak from this platform and to shine the spotlight on various aspects of sport and physical activity in Jersey.
My goal has always been to show the numerous ways in which sport and physical activity are intricately interconnected with island life, health and the economy. Sport and Physical Activity brings the community together and plays an integral role in supporting Jersey’s economy – as seen in the summer when the British and Irish Lions used Jersey as a base for their training camp ahead of their South Africa tour.
Over the last year, the global landscape has changed considerably, and it would be naïve to suggest we’ll return to our ‘normal life’ any time soon. However, I do sincerely hope that the pandemic remains stable enough to allow for the continuation of sport and events, and that islanders continue to be engaged with sport at all levels from grass roots to podium.
At Jersey Sport, I am proud of all the work our teams have done in giving sport and physical activity more visibility, and for the success of new projects such as the island’s first inclusive adapted cycle centre, Cycle Without Limits. Inclusivity and equality for ALL islanders is a key part of the Inspiring an Active Jersey strategy, and we look forward to playing an important role in all future developments, including the long-awaited skate park, a new facility in the east of the island and changes to Springfield stadium and Oakfield Sports Centre. This investment in sports facilities will support Jersey in becoming a world leader in sport and active living over the next ten years and beyond.
The Sport and Active Lifestyles Lottery Fund has been an exciting development that will permit more local people to become engaged in sport or to become physically active for life. The funds are open to both small and large projects and I am looking forward to supporting the chosen clubs, organisations and groups to bring their visions to life – especially those that will create a huge impact on young people’s lives and social development.
With general elections taking place in Jersey in June 2022, now is the perfect time to highlight sport and active living as a key agenda. With an ageing population and a diminishing social security fund, it’s imperative that Jersey’s government supports all islanders in looking after their own health throughout all stages of life. People who exercise regularly, live a healthy lifestyle with plenty of fresh air and who engage with others in the community are known to have better outcomes from serious illness and are less likely to suffer with mental health issues. While the element of personal responsibility is fundamental, the island has much to do to address financial and physical inequality and equal access to sport and physical activity before we can truly make a difference on a large scale.
Before I wrap up this final Opinion column, I want to take the opportunity to thank you all for staying strong and resilient through the difficulties of the last 21 months and for supporting the island’s local clubs and sports organisations through some immensely challenging times. There have been so many amazing and innovative opportunities that have supported islanders in staying physically active, connected and positive throughout the pandemic and beyond. We are truly blessed to live on such a beautiful rock with so many inspiring leaders from all walks of life who genuinely go out of their way to help others. Thank you to each and every one of you who has volunteered, raised money, set up a new organisation or supported others in some way to lead a happier and more physically active life.
As Christmas is just around the corner, I want to wish you all a wonderful festive season and look forward to seeing you out and about over the holidays, walking, running, swimming or cycling in your Christmas jumpers and Santa hats! Please remember to stay safe, illuminated and reflective on the roads during the darker hours of the day and have a very, merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
This article was originally published in the Bailiwick Express on 9 December 2021.