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Ignite Sport CEO Justin Merritt discusses local success at the Commonwealth Games and the role of grassroots sport in supporting participation across all levels
It’s been an extraordinary year for elite level sport in England.
From Team Great Britain’s gold medal at the Curling Olympic Final in February to England’s outstanding European Championship success in front of a sell-out crowd at Wembley Stadium.
Couple that with Team England’s record-breaking 176 medal haul – including 57 gold medals – at the recent Commonwealth Games, you’d forgive yourself for assuming we’re closing in on the end of the year and not midway through August.
After all, we still have a FIFA World Cup to look forward to in November!
The Commonwealth Games was a particular highlight on the sporting calendar, not least because events coincided with the school holidays but also as competition took place in Birmingham - just a short drive from our headquarters.
The Games were entertaining, competitive, well-attended and showcased the ability of the Commonwealth's very best athletes.
But there was a bigger picture to this year’s Games, with Birmingham 2022 delivered to bring people together from countries far and wide and local communities while embracing the Commonwealth values of humanity, equality and destiny.
Those values are closely linked to sport and participation at all levels, especially grassroots which is a key area of focus at Ignite Sport.
It’s our ultimate goal to inspire participants of all backgrounds and abilities through teamwork, communication, problem-solving, new experiences and role models – all of these elements fit under the umbrella of sport.
Role models are particularly relevant at the foundation level of sports participation.
Oxfordshire athletes including Tanya Watson, Kieran Bird and Jade O’Dowda who proudly represented their respective country at the Commonwealth Games all started their journey somewhere.
Each of them hold the power to inspire a new generation.
A generation of athletes who might one day put on the Team England tracksuit at the Commonwealth Games in years to come. A generation that might fulfil one of the many exciting careers in sport when they’re older. Or simply a generation that turns out for their local football, cricket or rugby team because of the influence at a younger age.
On behalf of everyone at Ignite Sport, a big congratulations to Tanya, Kieran and Jade for their achievements as this year’s Games – especially Jade who scooped bronze in
Looking forwards, September is always a busy time for our team as schools return from summer holidays, families return to their week-to-week routines and winter sport seasons begin.
We’re anticipating unprecedented demand for our school sport, multi-sport and junior and youth provisions this term – all because of the contributing factors mentioned above. In addition, our sister programme Velocity Football will host a record number of female students onto the course in September.
It’s a promising time for sport and participation across Oxfordshire and the UK generally.
We’re confident this upward trend can continue into the new year and prompt thousands more children living locally to reach their true potential through the power of sport.
Justin Merritt, Ignite Training CEO.