The importance of community
Following on from her first blog, former CST employee Beth continues the series reflecting on her time in the role. Here she explains how she witnessed the importance of community in bringing people together. If you missed her first blog you can read it here
Local communities harbour a diverse range of latent skills and experience but the opportunity for them to be used or even made known is not always there. By taking the time to understand what shapes the community and to get to know some of the individuals who have shown an interest to change it for the better, the ways in which that can be achieved became more obvious.
The Alfretonians Walking Football group is a great example of the potential that can be unlocked by providing important support to those willing to play an active part in the change they want to see in their community. Charlie, a retired teacher, began to show potential as a leader soon after he started playing. He would encourage the other players and always had a kind word for anyone who had come along for the first time. Charlie’s ability to make the other players feel valued meant that other skill sets in the group started to emerge. Other players volunteered their time, taking on roles within the group such as washing the kit and bibs, writing match reports, organising fixtures, welcoming new players and collecting subs.
Working with the Community Sports Trust has shown me how important strong communities are for developing healthy, happy people. I have experienced moments at work where I thought my heart was going to burst, watching human nature at its best as people created space and time to come together and be active. One of the first Village Games sessions to be set up was a social activity morning in Codnor. One of the abiding memories I will cherish is watching the group cheer on 90-year-old George, who stepped up to bat in a game of walking rounders and proceeded to smack the ball into oblivion. George had recently lost his wife and the group was a place where he could meet his neighbours for a friendly chat and the difference it made to his life was clear to see.
Each session has a different core motivation for why it came about and why it works. For the Codnor group, it is about friends and making sure no-one in the community feels isolated or lonely. The chance to be physically active is a by-product of wanting to keep a strong sense of community. The walking football players are playing for nostalgia. They are playing a game which takes them back to their youth and gives them a true feeling of joy. Players come from a wide geographical area, but they are cemented as a community by the game. These differing motivations show that one size does not fit all. Each community has its own set of characters, motivations, desires, beliefs and values.