As children go back to school, we’re sure they will be feeling inspired by the Paralympic Games and the “superabled” athletes who have shown us all that we mustn’t let adversity define us.  

In addition to the heroic performances another thing that the Paralympics has demonstrated is inclusivity and it’s great to read more and more about how schools are trying to introduce different activities into their PE curriculum so as to be more inclusive.  Most recently we have heard that there is a renewed focus on archery.

When thinking about sport in schools, archery may not be one of the first activities that spring to mind and it is perhaps considered to be a non-traditional sport.  However, it is well established within the Olympics and Paralympics and is also part of the School Games, funded by the Sport England National Lottery.

Physical abilities can create barriers of engagement for children, particularly for those that feel they do not have the speed or strength that is traditionally seen as necessary to be successful at sports. The different nature of archery helps break down these barriers, creating a competitive or non-competitive sporting activity that is accessible and inclusive for all, including those who might have previously shied away from sport at school.

The flexibility and inclusivity of archery also extends to incorporate participation from many children with a range of disabilities across the spectrum. It is one of the few sports in which non-disabled and disabled participants as well as widely different ages can compete against each other on the same level, making it one of the most inclusive sports.

As well as archery, the schools we’ve worked with tell us that their indoor sports facilities have also enabled them to start offering other non-traditional activities too such as climbing, fencing and pilates which helps to encourage more diversity and attract more prospective parents.

Of course not every school is going to have adequate space or facilities in which to create a safe environment suitable for these sports to be enjoyed all year round but not all those who have been able to invest in indoor facilities are keeping them to themselves.  Many are reportedly opening up to allow access to other local schools and the broader community therefore going even further to promote inclusivity while also generating an additional income, which we’re sure is secondary!

What about Tom Daley though!?  At the age of 11 he told a BBC reporter that he wanted to go to the Olympics and win a gold medal.  16 years on and he finally realises his dream!  Now, if that isn’t inspirational, we don’t know what is.  Don’t get me wrong, we have no interest in wearing a pair of tiny, tight speedos and jumping off a 10m diving board but we’ll certainly be visiting the local pool a bit more this summer.  Hopefully lots of other people will have been given an incentive to check out what’s on offer at their local sports facilities, maybe try something new or just get involved in the broad programme of community sport.

We’ve been fortunate enough to work with lots of local authorities, sports bodies and schools over the years who see the value of investing in their facilities to make sport more accessible to a broader community.  Indoor venues provide a comfortable environment for people to participate all year round and in all weather conditions, which in turn offers maximum ROI.  Schools open up their facilities to the public during the holidays as another means of increasing revenue and we’re all the better for it.  Who knows what talent is being nurtured but we do know that it all starts with grassroots at school or local level.  

After the tumultuous 18 months we’ve had, there seems to be a real appetite for people to get together again and have new experiences.  Nothing does that quite as well as sport.