John Burroughs (JB to his mates), pictured above, was always passionate about sport and has managed to make a career in it. Recently he became one of 150 College Sports Makers under a new scheme sponsored by the Government to expand the reach of sport and fitness within Sixth Form Colleges. Could this be one of the best jobs in the world?
JB has been involved with sport for as long as he can remember. He’s tried his hand at just about everything, and been in all sorts of teams for all sorts of things, although now he’s reached the grand old age of 30 he’s settled down to a sporting life of cricket, hockey, skiing and surfing. The first two he proudly plays for his town teams at a good level. The other two he does for fun and relaxation and for the adrenalin rush.
The College Sports Maker (CSM) initiative came to life following London 2012. Sport has become high-profile on the curriculum as it links into everything from exam performance through social skills to weight, obesity and diabetes with other stops along the way, not to mention being generally healthy. The more colleges can do to keep students active the more they can help people do better in the short term and then go on to avoid some potentially serious threats to their health in later life.
JB feels that a part of the problem is that college students associate getting fit and sports with being involved in organised teams and competitions. Most colleges will have teams for the major ball sports and there are national competitions, but the fact is the choice of activity is enormous – 54 in all being available.
‘People forget that you don’t need to play organised sport or games to have fun,’ JB says. ‘Just banging a ping-pong ball across a table for 15 minutes will give you exercise, you can grab a basketball and shoot some hoops with a friend, or knock up for a bit on a tennis court. Best of all it all counts towards getting fit.’
All things considered JB may be in for something of a challenge in trying to make sport cool. But he believes that these days Colleges have the resources and the choice and students have the time. It’s not going to be a quick fix but he’s in it to win it. And our money is on him!
Of course, as JB has to admit, not everybody likes sport as much as he does:
‘It seems a general rule across the UK that only 20% of people actually get involved in sport at College,’ he says. ‘My challenge, in fact my brief from the Government, is to increase that statistic and get more people involved in getting fit and staying fit.’
With 80% of people to have a go at JB has a big target to attack. However he makes the point that it’s not necessarily that easy to get people engaged:
‘For some people sport just isn’t cool,’ he accepts, ‘but even so, when you look at the link between exercise and exam grades, where people who raise their heart rate for 30 minutes 4 times a week are shown to get better marks, it’s worth finding a way to be active just to improve your chances and choices when it comes to Higher Education or a job. ‘
JB points out that being fit in general helps you get more out of life. Exercise is good for the body from the outside in – good for your lungs, good for your skin, good for sleeping, good for mental health and so much more. When you combine it with healthy eating it’s good for looking after your weight and body image.
‘Of course people come to college to pass exams and move on to the next stage of their academic careers or working life,’ says JB, ‘but success in life isn’t just about qualifications. Take going to a job interview for example – an employer will look at your qualifications and grades but will also be hoping to find somebody who takes an active part in life in the broadest sense of the word, and who knows how to look after themselves and stay healthy.’