The Observatory for Sport in Scotland Ambassadors support the ethos and aims of the OSS, and are passionate about the life benefits of community sport for all ages and abilities. Each month, we are featuring an article from one of our ambassadors, sharing their story, and how they are working to remove barriers to sport.
First up is KIRSTY GILMOUR, Scotland’s leading badminton player. Born in Glasgow, she has played all over the world, including in European Championships, World Tour, Commonwealth Games and two Olympic Games. Kirsty became Scotland’s first female singles finalist at the Commonwealths in front of her home crowd in 2014, and now has launched a community sport enterprise to make badminton accessible to everyone.
By KIRSTY GILMOUR
IT IS a cliche. I am not the first to say it, and I won’t be the last – SPORT IS AMAZING. But why have I found it to be so, and yet for many others in Scotland sport totally passes them by?
Let’s start with why I think it is amazing. Firstly, there are the health benefits, because the evidence is irrefutable that sport can develop stronger muscles, lower blood pressure and stimulate better blood circulation, which is good for us at all ages. And that is before we get scientific and talk about the heady cocktail of endorphins and dopamine that flood into your system when taking part in sport activity, and just makes you feel good.
Beyond the health benefits, sport can also provide opportunities to hone interpersonal skills, to learn about ourselves in stressful situations, how to work and communicate with others, develop strategies, and the ability to reflect, to name a few. Regardless of the sport, team or individual, whether it’s in a sports hall with friends having fun or a packed-out arena at elite level, you are challenged and, therefore, you grow.
This is not new information and I have to be clear from the outset, I know I got lucky. So, so lucky. I happened to be born into a sport-orientated family and feel I won the jackpot. Seven members of my immediate and extended family are currently or have been involved in high performance sport, across badminton, rugby and cricket. And pretty much every other family member has participated somewhere from recreational community sport to national level. So, sport was built into my home life and was readily available in my back garden and living room. As I grew and progressed, my dad’s role as a coach meant he knew people who could give me lessons and clubs I could join for group sessions. We were in the know. We had a blueprint to follow.
But what happens if you’re not born into a sport family? What happens when you don’t, by default, spend your Friday nights in a sports hall trying to beat your keepy-up record? And your Saturdays aren’t spent screaming “man on!”, tearing around a football pitch, red-faced? These are the questions we at the Observatory for Sport in Scotland are investigating.
This is where easily accessible, omnipresent, unavoidable community and grassroots sport is so important. High performance sport is not for everyone, but that’s the beauty of it; you don’t have to fancy that, as sport has a place for everyone – all ages, levels, reasons, abilities. From messing around with friends as a way of bonding and having fun to competing in local tournaments and finding out that you actually possess nerves of steel when it’s crunch time.
The key, however, is accessing those opportunities. We believe passionately that no-one should miss out on the opportunities, benefits and life skills that I have touched on above due to their circumstances or where they live.
In my humble opinion, sport should be accessible everywhere, all of the time; any sport that you fancy, the one that suits you best, or the one that challenges you the most. Of course, I’m biased but I think badminton ticks these boxes, and so I have used my experience and love for the sport to set up Badminton Academy Social Enterprise (BASE). The aim of BASE is simply to make badminton more available than ever before to anyone who wants to play, and that’s from the people already involved and looking for more games at a similar level, to the absolute beginners who have never held a racket.
When I set out creating BASE, my core aim was to identify and remove barriers that might stop someone getting on a court. Areas such as financial situation, gender and sexuality I knew about, but, speaking to more people, I have become more aware of things like race and survivors of gender-based violence. We are developing a framework to remove such barriers and make badminton accessible for ALL groups, and the growth in uptake and feedback we’ve had across communities has been incredible.
I know now that I was lucky with my introduction to sport and the encouragement given to me to play for fun and go on to represent my country, taking part in major events around the world. But my good fortune now fuels my passion to help more people to discover the same enjoyment whether it’s just playing with friends in the local village hall, school or club, or pushing themselves to experience the thrills of high-level competition.
With the OSS, I am putting my passion to work to help identify and remove barriers across Scotland, and with BASE we are simply adding a piece into the jigsaw of growing community sport that helps a few more people experience the joy of sport, who maybe otherwise would not get the chance.
Follow Kirsty on social media:
Twitter – @KirstyGilmourr