All posts by tkorman

Tales from the European Week of Sport: The European Sport Village

Now that it has all come to an end, we have so much to share with you!

In Brussels – where the official opening of the Week took place on 7 September – a European Sport Village was set up. Why? Well… knowing that 59% of Europeans never or seldom exercise or play sport, we decided to work with partners to create a local, fun, and accessible environment where people of all ages and walks of life could easily engage in sport. The European Sport Village offered people a great opportunity to try out different sports and get inspired by the multiple benefits sport can provide! From football to pony riding, families, young adults, colleagues, seniors and tourists had the opportunity to try out about ten different activities.

brussels, 7 Sept. 2015. Photos www.vivianhertz.be
brussels, 7 Sept. 2015. Photos www.vivianhertz.be

A tent was set up in the village by the European Commission to share information about the Week and physical activity facts and figures in Europe. Visitors were also invited to commit to be more active by signing the call for action (have YOU signed yet?) and fun goodies were handed out.
But that’s not all! About 10 exhibition stands were set up by our Partners to inform the public about their work to fight physical inactivity and introduce initiatives that promote social inclusion through sport.

Another great addition to the Week was that a few of our fantastic Ambassadors, including Paula Radcliffe, Clarence Seedorf, Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Jean-Michel Saive and Joel Gonzalez participated in activities during either (or both) the Opening and the Flagship event. It was a blast!
Stay tuned, we’ll be sharing all the incredible outcomes of the Flagship event, including who won awards, what recommendations emerged out of the four workshops that took place and, of course, pictures of our fabulous Ambassadors.

#BeActive

We move as one

Since launching the first European Week of Sport, we have been amazed, inspired and motivated by the immense outpouring of support and participation from people of all ages and backgrounds across Europe.

From our partners and ambassadors, to the hundreds who participated in the #MyWeek #BeActive challenge, to the thousands participating in events and activities in over 30 countries, Europeans are embracing the #BeActive movement and working together to build a Europe that moves.

Together we can build on this momentum, reverse the inactivity crisis and carry a more active Europe into the New Year. We’re also looking towards the next European Week of Sport.

This is just the beginning.

Are you willing to sign our call for action? Click here and tell us what you’re going to do to #BeActive in the spirit of the European Week of Sport.

Outdoor Sport and the Need for a Collaborative Approach

The first European Week of Sport provides us with a great opportunity to reflect on the role we all play in helping to get people engaged and active in sport. The sport sector has been superb at getting those already active even more active through the provision of better facilities, opportunities and interventions. A greater challenge is how to get those who rarely or never participate off the couch and engaged in sport and physical activity. The outdoors provides a fantastic opportunity for meeting this challenge.

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In recent years, the popularity of outdoor recreation activities has been growing, particularly those undertaken independently rather than through organised clubs and bodies. This can perhaps be explained by the accessibility of outdoor spaces and the variety of opportunities they provide for people of different ages, interests and fitness levels to get active. Whether it’s a gentle walk through local parks, a cycle across rural trails, or rock climbing in the mountains, the potential for physical activity provided by our outdoor spaces is vast. As well as the inherent benefits to our health through physical activity, outdoor recreation also provides us with a way of taking time to interact with our green spaces, something recognised across the world as very important for mental wellbeing in particular. From a financial perspective, there are further benefits. Good outdoor spaces and recreation opportunities can provide tremendous opportunities for local economies and tourism, both locally and internationally. Getting back to the theme of accessibility, one of the great positives of outdoor sport is that costs are often relatively low, not only for providers but for end users as well.

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At a European level, the potential and importance of the outdoors and outdoor sport has been firmly established. The European Network of Outdoor Sports (ENOS) was created in 2011 to provide organisations involved in developing, promoting and managing outdoor sport across Europe a means of sharing ideas and expertise, developing partnerships and taking a collaborative approach to support the protection and free use of mountains, forests and water. This collaborative approach to outdoor sports development has also been applied locally. In 2013, Northern Ireland became the first region in the UK to publish an Outdoor Recreation Action Plan. Engaging the Government, business and voluntary sectors, the Plan allowed us to clearly set out a series of measures covering themes such as legislation, funding, structures and research, enabling us to take a holistic approach to making outdoor spaces both accessible and sustainable. The implementation of the plan is now underway and has already led to some great developments for community trail networks delivered by our partners Outdoor Recreation NI.

It’s tremendous to see European Week of Sport highlight ‘outdoors’ for one its themed days of the Week, and I’m greatly looking forward to representing Sport Northern Ireland at the flagship event in Brussels for a workshop exploring how the outdoors can help to deliver on the EU objectives for increasing participation. During the workshop I will be providing a presentation on how we are striving to engage people with outdoor spaces here in Northern Ireland through the implementation of our Action Plan.

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Looking further ahead, later in this month the 3rd Nature and Sport Euro’meet will be happening in Northern Ireland and this is a fantastic opportunity to hear examples of good practice from across Europe about how other regions have developed opportunities for health-enhancing physical activity in the outdoors.

Mike McClure is Outdoor Recreation Development Officer for Sport Northern Ireland and Secretary of the European Network of Outdoor Sports (ENOS).

Who dares to have fun at school?

When most look back to their time in school, they find similar memories: long rows of clumsy tables, uncomfortable chairs, a teacher’s monotone voice in front of the classroom, the quiet yawns of classmates, slowly but surely closing your eyes… Hey, wake up! Your school memories could have been something else.

Researchers and educators have already figured out that sitting quietly, and alone, doesn’t contribute to one’s ability to learn very efficiently. Of course, we still need some individual time for our own thoughts and quiet time for certain things, but teaching methods of the past shouldn’t be the only ones used in schools today. In the working world, we have already come a long way from assembly lines and workplaces made up of rows of offices with shut doors, and improvements are still on their way. However, when it comes to schools, this progress isn’t happening fast enough, and too many are clinging to methods of the “good old days”.

When I started my own career as a primary school teacher, I became filled by doubts about these ancient beliefs. I felt sorry that my pupils had to stay seated all day long, filling in their old-fashioned notebooks with soon-to-be-old information. Those bored faces, sore backs and tapping feet reminded me of my own time in school and suddenly, I wanted to do things differently. I asked myself one question: What am I usually doing when I’m having fun learning?

For me fun was always found through learning in groups and particularly through physical activity. With this in mind, I was fortunately able to test this new way of teaching, and learning with my pupils.

Before long, my doubts and concerns were replaced with ideas and answers – but it was a bumpy start, and I quickly realized that finding new ways to teach meant going back to the “classroom” myself. Teaching without books or a blackboard was frightening in the beginning and believe me, using monkey bars and other outdoor facilities during my lessons made me feel the way Mr. Edison most likely did while discovering his famous lightbulb.

More than nine hundred attempts, several litres of sweat and dozens of hours of brainstorming gave both me and him our own personal goals: he got some light and gave it to us, and over a hundred years later, I discovered my way of offering light to the kids I teach every day, by helping them find fun in learning.

We all know that our world needs co-operative, flexible and self-confident individuals and future employees. However, sitting quietly in dim classrooms while being spoon-fed information isn’t the way forward.

If we support our children and teach them to work together today, we can be quite sure that they will carry this spirit into their adult lives and careers. If we want them to solve future problems and challenges, we should provide them with the skills they will in fact need – and they should be taught in the way our future leaders are more able to learn them: by letting them be active, question, cooperate and most importantly, have fun.

Believe me, the last one isn’t the enemy of learning – it’s actually our key for success. Therefore, anyone who dares to succeed in life should dare to have fun while learning one’s future skills. I am quite positive that this involves all of us and is worth trying.

Sari Kontra (M.Ed.) is a 27-year-old school teacher who would rather take her students outdoors to the monkey bar than stay and teach in a traditional class room environment. Kontra believes that by incorporating physical activity and new forms of functionality into our teaching, we can tackle many of today’s challenges in the field of education.

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This Girl Can: Sport but not as we know it

It’s been a great year for England’s sporting women: European champions in hockey and lacrosse, world medallists in football and netball.

It’s also been a good year for those of us who are not so sporty.

Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign to get more women and girls taking part in physical activity has won worldwide recognition and praise for its use of humour and non-airbrushed images of normal, everyday women in their jiggling, wiggling and sometime giggling glory.

It has sought to surface the often unspoken concerns – from worries about we look like in Lycra to getting red faced and sweaty, from thinking we’re too fat to get fit (and will hold everyone up) to guilt about spending time away from the family – that stops so many women from lacing up their trainers and joining in.

By sharing the stories and images of the women who have tapped into their own ‘don’t-give-a-damn’ attitude to overcome these fears we have shown that they are more common and less important than might initially appear.

The campaign – whose central film is being screened in the European Sport Village – has been covered in 119 countries and has won a hatful of awards including nine Cannes Lions. But what really matters is the impact it has had on women and girls themselves.

Early research shows that we are making on impact on shifting attitudes – women who previously didn’t thinking sport was for them are now starting to think differently. The campaign rapidly went viral and the #ThisGirlCan hashtag is now commonplace on Twitter.

Many women have reported back to us that they have been for run, gone back to netball or tried something new as a direct result of the campaign giving them ‘permission’ to get out there and do it – and not to worry if they’re weren’t doing it particularly well. It was just great they were doing something.

Sport’s traditional imagery shows the human body at its most sculpted, developed, toned and defined. It takes an extraordinary body to run, throw, jump, hit or swim as far, fast and fabulously as elite athletes can do. And it can be beautiful and awe-inspiring to watch.

But if we want more of women and girls (and men for that matter) to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that sport and physical activity can bring, then we need to show that sport isn’t just about the pursuit of perfection. It simply about getting out there and starting to move. Whether you’re running, swimming, cycling or whatever – you may be slow, but you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.

The French initiative: Sentez-Vous Sport

The French Week of Sport, Sentez-Vous Sport, is an event that has been organised by the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) since 2010.

The goal of the week is to gather French citizens every September around sport, to raise awareness and encourage them to be physically active regularly. Thousands of events and various activities around sport and physical activity (conferences, demonstrations…) are offered to people throughout France, who can participate regardless of their age or physical condition.

In 2014, six million participants took part to one of the 11 000 Sentez-Vous Sport events.

The 6th edition will take place next month, from the 12th to the 20th of September in France and its overseas departments and territories. The French Week of Sport is structured around thematic days:

-The Vital Sport events (in partnership with Decathlon) will take place on the weekend of the 12th and 13th September at 61 locations
-Schools : The school sports day will take place on Wednesday, September, 16th
-Workplaces: The sport in the workplace day will take place on Thursday, September 17th
-Universities and Grandes Ecoles: Events will take place in universities and Grandes Ecoles on the 17th and 18th of September
-General public: Free activities for everyone will be available in participating cities on the weekend of the 19th and 20th of September
-“Les Journées du Patrimoine Sportif” (Sports Heritage Days) will take place on 19th and 20th September

As a National Coordinator for the European Week of Sport in France, the CNOSF is organising an event in France focused on Sport & the Workplace. The conference, which takes place on September 10th, at the MEDEF (employers union), will be the opportunity to reveal the results of a significant survey about the impact of sport in the workplace on human capital, on business and on civil society.

Four hundred guests are expected at this event, mostly business leaders and human resources directors. Many speakers, from different backgrounds (business world, politics, sport, university…) will debate, exchange and share their experiences through a round-table.

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Tips to get your #BeActive lifestyle back on track after a break

Here’s a scenario many of us may be finding ourselves in at the moment: You finally had a great exercise routine down, you even managed to discipline yourself to stick to it, and then BAM – holiday time.

A change in routine can quite often throw people off of a good exercise habit, whether it comes from a holiday, a move, or a new job.

For all of you who maybe didn’t do such a great job of staying active during your summer (and anyone else looking for a jump start after a break), don’t worry, we’ve got a few tips to get you back on track:

1) Start your day with a fail-safe, small win: choose an active commute to work, skip the lift in your office, or take that morning class at the gym you’ve been saying you’d try. This is a great way to build positive momentum to keep you going.

2) Set a schedule/make goals: Until you get into the habit again, consider pulling together a schedule of activities to partake in.

3) Find a buddy: you don’t have to be in this alone. In fact, exercise can be so much more fun if you do it with a friend.

4) Don’t let this happen again. Just kidding – let’s be honest, it probably will (nobody is perfect). The thing is, if you learn to incorporate physical activity into your daily life, in such a way that it doesn’t feel like a burden, it won’t be so difficult to carry those good habits into your next holidays.

Go out there and have fun! #BeActive

How Lizzy Yarnold, champion skeleton racer, is helping to build a #BeActive UK

I spend a lot of my time hurtling down a freezing cold ice track at 90mph. Is that the same for most of you?

I’m guessing not.

As a skeleton racer, living an active lifestyle has helped me get where I am today. Exercise is a crucial part of my daily routine. But I know that not everyone can – or wants – to be a performance athlete! Getting fit and staying active is massively important, but if you’re not doing it as a career it’s hard to fit it in, particularly when lifestyles today are so hectic. That’s why we need events like European Week of Sport, that make it as easy as possible for people to get active and inspire them to take up new sports.

I was absolutely delighted when Sport England asked me if I wanted to be one of the European Week of Sport Ambassadors for the UK.

It’s fantastic to see the UK among those countries leading the way – as I write this, I hear there are more than 150 European Week of Sport events planned for 7-13 September which will take place across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I’ll be at the #BeActive launch reception in London on Monday 7 September, kicking off what promises to be a great week and previewing all the fantastic things that are planned. We’ll be screening the UK’s fab new #BeActive video and hoping to get people excited about sport.

Then on Saturday 12 September, I’ll be heading to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the #BeActive festival which is being hosted on the South Lawn by StreetGames (working with Sport England, LLDC, London Sport and Active People Active Park).

It’s a multi-sport festival that gives people of all ages and abilities the chance to try more than 20 different sports and activities including boxing, table tennis, badminton, football, canoeing and athletics.

Since winning Olympic gold in Sochi 18 months ago, I’ve visited nearly 100 schools across the country, trying to encourage young girls in particular, to take up more sport and activity and helping to spread the message that we are all different and should embrace our own individual body shapes.

I know when I was growing up having healthy role models I could look up to really helped me and I hope that the European Week of Sport will encourage more people to get active.
Schools across the country will be holding days dedicated to health and fitness and, importantly, children will be given a fun planner to help them stay active beyond the day.
There is also an array of multi-sport sessions and taster days going on across the country that anyone can go to.

I really hope you’ll all find a way to take part and #BeActive during the week in one way or another, whether that’s coming along to the #BeActive festival or finding an event near you and getting involved.

Let’s make this first European Week of Sport one to remember, and let’s all celebrate how great it is to #BeActive.

Lizzy Yarnold MBE
European Week of Sport Ambassador for the UK
Skeleton Olympic, European and World Champion

Sport: Positive and Proactive Response to Youth Unemployment

Eight years after the global financial crisis that caused the subsequent economic crisis, millions of young people across the old continent remain unemployed. On average, some 17% of all young people in the EU are neither in education, employment or training.

The consequences of youth unemployment and social disengagement are not only costly in terms of public funds (some countries pay up to 2% of their GDP to deal with consequences of youth unemployment: here) but also in terms of the quality of our lives and democracy.

Political disenchantment, social exclusion, lack of confidence, poorer health and a rise in depression… These are but a few of the negative aspects associated with young people being out of work, education and training.

There have been many initiatives both at the EU and national level that have taken to task to address this issue. The European Commission has pioneered the so-called Youth Guarantee scheme, which pledges that all young people under 25 – whether registered with employment services or not – should get a good-quality, concrete offer within 4 months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. Early intervention and activation are key and, in many cases, reforms are needed, such as improving vocational education and training systems.

However, as important as the macroeconomic reforms in fighting youth unemployment and social disengagement are, and despite visible success in some countries (e.g. Scotland and Austria), it is important that these top-down efforts are coupled with grass-root initiatives.

Offering a pro-active solution Project 668 and Brussels Interns NGO (B!ngo) ASBL joined forces to help young people defy the common notion of youth being passive. #Run4Employment is a positive response to youth unemployment. The idea is to highlight the importance of health for job-seeking while at the same time raise funds to support the development of an app which will empower young people to find or create jobs.

The 5 km relay run of will take place on 13 September in Brussels’ Parc Leopold. Our mission is to tell young people that their aspirations can be extended beyond the current discourse of the “lost generation”; that they can be proactive, stay or become fit and increase their chance of finding a job.

To prove that we are serious about what we do, we have developed a teaser video that gives you a little taste of what is to come on 13 September!

Join us in September, sign up for the run and help us raise awareness of sport being part of the solution for youth disengagement and unemployment.

About Project 668
Project 668 is an EU-wide professional development community of current and former trainees from the EU institutions that aims to fight youth unemployment. It aims to increase employability of current and former EU trainees by offering them activities where they learn how to land a job

About Brussels Interns NGO (B!ngo) ASBL (co-organiser)
The Brussels Interns NGO believe in an improved job market mentality where the current and next generations of workers are allowed to develop professionally. It promotes quality internships by:
1 – Promoting the European Youth Forum’s ‘European Quality Charter for Internships’ & provide quality information
2 – Helping internship-seekers and internship-providers
3 – Dialoguing with stakeholders in defining how internships and interns are seen

Top 5 reasons to try out yoga

So often people find themselves wanting to get active, but are completely unsure where to even begin to pick something from the massive amount of options available out there. If you are looking for something that will not only gently strengthen your body, but also free your mind, why not try out yoga?

Here are our 5 favourite reasons to roll out a yoga mat:

1. Your moment of zen: Yoga lowers stress and improves your mood

The meditation techniques often used in yoga are known to lower stress levels, help you focus on your breathing and as such, help to clear your mind – leaving you happier and more relaxed.

2. Tone it up: Yoga sculpts your muscles and improve your strength

While different yoga styles, from Hatha to Ashtanga to power yoga, range in physical intensity, all of them help improve muscle strength. The great thing about it is that different poses target different muscle groups from the upper body to hamstrings, quadriceps to abs, and to the lower back.

3. Stand tall: Yoga improves your posture

Say goodbye to slouching! Thanks to strengthened abdominal and back muscles, your weight is better supported and you are more easily able to sit or stand with correct posture.

4. Stretch it out: Yoga improves flexibility

Yoga safely stretches your muscles, ligaments and tendons and increases the range of motion in your joints.

5. Whenever, wherever: Yoga can be done anywhere

One of the best things about it is that you don’t need a gym or a fancy studio to do it in! Rain or shine, big bank account or tight budget, all you need is a mat and a floor to put it on – scratch that, yoga out in nature is amazing, so really, you don’t even need a mat, just some solid ground. We’d still recommend you start out with an instructor though!

Are you willing to give yoga a shot? We’d love to hear about it! #BeActive!