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Sport Cares: A panel discussion on the past, present and future of welfare in sport.

Hosted by the University of Abertay

With panel members including John Beattie, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Ian Braid, Leon Lloyd and Dr Rhiannon Lord, the conversation was around how far have we come in the last 25 years and what does ‘good’ look like in the future.  Sport should be about welfare and wellbeing, not facilities and technology.  It costs a lot to win medals but the welfare of athletes, coaches, officials etc. costs even more. A frequent question raised throughout the evening, who is looking after the people who look after the people, was left unanswered. Further, who is preparing coaches for the scrutiny that comes with allegations (or that potential) and the impact that this can have on mental health?

There needs to be a stable funding model that doesn’t focus on performance outcomes just because that’s what keeps people in jobs. The 4 year funding cycle doesn’t work either was also a common view – why people are attracted to, join or leave sport needs to change.  The duty of care should also focus on parents – do they know what they are letting themselves in for when e.g. their 5 year old takes up gymnastics and who, within a couple of years are easily training for 10-15 hours a week? Or the identity crisis they may be unintentionally imposing on a child when that level of training is their life with no other interests?  Funders also need to consider their duty of care too and make a shift from only handing out ££ and a good luck, with no further support or follow up – do parents or athletes know how quickly that funding will run out and how do they cope after that? And those athletes who are transitioning out of sport either through their own choice, injury or de-selection don’t feel that sport offers a duty of care they need at that point more than ever.  Here’s hoping the good examples that do exist and the maturity of the systems enables more change for the future, and that duty of care is no longer just a tick box exercise designed to protect the sport rather than the individual.  All very thought provoking for all of us professionals working in sport.

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