By SANJEEV MANN
AFTER a successful Rio Olympics for Team GB’s Athletics team, Scotland’s Director of coaching Roger Harkins believes we must cash in on the golden legacy.
I caught up with the man himself today at an event held at the University of West of Scotland to find out his thoughts on recent success and the future of athletics through the athletes themselves to government-led programs.
We all know about the successes of the London and Glasgow Games but how can we carry that on? Roger believes that future events show the legacy left behind.
He said: “I think there was a legacy that probably started in London 2012 at the Olympic Games, and then moved on Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014.
“So there’s a feeling of how good sport is for society. This has led onto the World Championship in London next year and then the indoor championship the year after.
“London and Glasgow have not just been one-offs, it seems that they are actually encouraging more things. That therefore inspires more people to get involved with sport.
“It’s one thing you see on television but it’s another thing if it’s on your doorstep”
So a legacy is there according the Roger but what about participation? Sport England data for March 2015 to April 2016 shows that, 15.8 million adults play sport at least once a week in the UK. This is a 1.75 million increase from 2005/6.
There has also been an increase in people participating in sport for 30 minutes at least once week, 343,100 more people compared with 12 months ago.
Harkins outlined its importance stating: “The more people are active, the healthier they’ll be and for longer and that will impact on the long-term resources of the NHS.”
Even though the benefits are clear, cutting more funds may still be a possibility. I asked Roger about his thoughts on this issue.
He said: “It’s a difficult one. You’ve got medicine, education, sport, housing and lots of different things. The government has got less and less money to spend on things, so everyone is getting a squeeze put on them in terms of what funding they can get.
“I think it’s going to be really hard in the future and I think we need to find ways of maybe working more collaboratively so we can get the best out of the resources we’ve got.”
When asked about how we can keep producing talent, Roger told me about the main program used for finding future talent. He also explained the pathway taken for many elite athletes in the UK.
Roger said: “We’ve got a talent identification program called the ‘National Academy’ where we identify young people who maybe between the ages 15 to 18.
“We then bring them in to a twice a year ‘National Academy’ where we have a curriculum that trains them on positive behaviours, how to react when going to university, how to structure training, how to plan things, and how to identify better competitions.
“That’s an educational package that goes from parents, athletes, and coaches. When they leave that, they come into our performance foundations, and eventually they get to the stage where they are a Great Britain funded athlete.”
Legacy is a term which is difficult to define, but the huge successes of London 2012 to Glasgow 2014, make it a little easier to understand. Athletics in the UK is currently in a healthy state, and with rising participation, things can only go up. Unfortunately because of cuts, this may be hard to guarantee.