We still have a long way to go before sport and physical activity is truly inclusive
Posted: Fri, 25 Jun 2021 08:49
Alan Webb, Chair of Trustees
This Pride month, Active Oxfordshire is more determined than ever to make sure that everyone feels welcome and included into physical activity and sport. But it's very clear that we still have a long way to go. Our Chair of Trustees, Alan Webb, talks about the damage that early experiences and negative cultures has had on his experience of sport, and what we need to be doing differently so that everyone in our county can enjoy the benefits of being active.
Early experiences have life-long impact
From a young age, I was terrified of doing sports at school, and felt that my sexuality greatly affected my ability to take part in sports. I regularly experienced negative language, both from my peers and from teachers, too: phrases such as "bloody useless" and "gay" were common. Add to that the challenges of the all-too macho culture within changing rooms, and these early experiences did a great job putting me off sport for life.
The legacy of this is simply that I don't do any sport. I'm terrified of messing up, and even if a ball comes near me when I'm out on a walk I'm paralysed by fear of getting it wrong. It's clear from talking to friends and peers that these experiences are all too common, with life-long repercussions that too often can result in not being active at all as an adult.
Fortunately, I've found my own ways to enjoy an active life: through running, walking, weight training and any activity I can do by myself. But surely, I – and my peers – deserve the opportunity to enjoy team sports without the legacy and early experiences of bullying and abuse?
What needs to change?
It's vitally important that our youngest generations are given the right messages so that they can feel welcome and included in every sport or activity they take part in. We need greater awareness of language used and understanding of the damage that negative, careless comments can have. We need far more positive role models and to see that differences are embraced within sport and physical activity.
As Chair of Active Oxfordshire, I'm delighted to see how strongly we are focusing on equality, diversity and inclusion – both in terms of our own organisation, and also through our mission to make Oxfordshire a level playing field for sport and physical activity. But even one young person experiencing cruel, negative comments about their sexuality when they are doing their best to enjoy sport is simply too many. Let's keep telling our stories, listening to people's real-life experiences and never let go of our determination to create a truly inclusive Oxfordshire, where everyone has the right to enjoy an active life.