Sir Bill Gammell: Glasgow 2014 youth empowerment

Sir Bill Gammell. Picture: TSPL
Sir Bill Gammell. Picture: TSPL
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YOUTH empowerment will be best legacy of Glasgow 2014 says Sire Bill Gammell

THERE is no doubt that 2014 will go down as one of the most significant years in Scotland’s history. The deb­ate around our constitutional future generated by the forthcoming independence referendum and the hosting of two major international sporting events (Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup) has put the global spotlight on us more prominently than any other time in living memory.

With all this international focus on Scotland, it is an ideal time for us to think about how we can create the best possible environment to see a true legacy from events of 2014 for the benefit of future generations.

Like their counterparts in the rest of the world, young Scots face an unprecedented rate of change that will bring with it more challenges, risks and uncertainties than ever before. To succeed in an increasingly competitive global marketplace they will need to be more resilient and confident, better able to quickly adapt to change and handle adversity. While there is, of course, no silver bullet solution which can achieve all this, I believe that increasing the focus on what young people can learn through involvement in sport and physical activity can make a significant difference.

Speaking from my own experience, sport has certainly made a positive impact on my life, teaching me character-building life lessons.

Independent studies have shown that when young people are positively exposed to a range of physical activities and sports, they are more likely to continue to stay involved throughout their lives.

This is extremely beneficial, because sport has the unique potential to contribute to a healthier, happier and ultimately more successful Scotland. It can deliver a positive change in attitude and behaviour among young people making them more res­ilient and able to contribute to the development of their communities.

Recognising these wider benefits led us to set up the Winning Scotland Foundation in 2006. The charity is committed to ensuring that positive learning experiences through sport become a child’s right in an active Scotland.

We do this by delivering a number of programmes and projects tailored to the age and stage of development of children and young people, working alongside the relevant key influencers such as parents, teachers or coaches.

Our aim is not to discover the next generation of elite sportspeople in Scotland but rather to empower all young people to better equip themselves for the key aspects of life through the values and lessons that can be learned from sport and other physical activity.

We need to set more young people on a path to self-fulfilment and help them recognise the importance, not of how good they are now but how good they can become – whether that be in sport or any other aspect of life.

That will be the theme of next week’s Be Your Personal Best event being staged in Clydebank, where Scotland’s top athletes will meet with pupils aged 11-16 from across Scotland to talk about their own experiences and how they achieved personal success.

The core theme that young people have the capacity to succeed in whatever they choose to do by working hard and learning from mistakes is one that we are determined to better promote throughout Scotland for years to come.

While 2014 will be a significant year for Scotland, we are unlikely to see any softening of the global challenges that we are facing. The social, emotional and physical well-being of our young people is therefore paramount with sport and other forms of physical activity at the centre of their development to help ensure we create a successful, strong and cohesive society. «

Sir Bill Gammell is chairman and founder of the Winning Scotland Foundation.