Jim Parker: Sport is bouncing back in Bay as its days of Cinderella are coming to end - and we will all benefit

Tennis club officials leaning on net

Tennis club chairman Andy Pelling (left), secretary Kirstin Neilson-Hunter and manager Steve Maslen - Credit: Submitted

A few years ago I was privileged to be involved in a brilliant sports initiative which captured the imagination of Torbay. 

Then Torbay Sports Council chairman and now president Roger Mann played a major part and so too did Torbay Council, the local health trust and other partners including Sanctuary Housing. 

The original idea was to encourage more people to get involved in local sport. Local clubs, groups and organisations, like local gyms, were asked to offer their services free of charge for a set period of time for those who had signed up for the special campaign.  Roger was in charge of the list which grew quickly. and was regularly updated. 

People took part in all kinds of sporting and physical activity for the first time. Not only that but many stayed on and joined the clubs who had offered them free sessions to boost their membership numbers and, in some cases, secure their futures. 

The initiative was developed into a wider and bigger healthier living campaign. People were asked to sign up for different challenges and set goals like losing losing weight and giving up smoking as well as leading more active and healthy lives whether it be by running a marathon or just walking the dog. 

The health trust were particularly interested because this in the long term would prevent some people from becoming ill and needing costly treatment later in their lives. 

Sport was also there for one and all. 

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Now we seem to have gone full circle and another initiative is hopefully being launched by the local authority which bears a striking resemblance to that one of old.

This time local sports clubs and organisations would be being asked to offer their services for taster sessions with the council picking up the tab for those who want to take part. The detail of the scheme have yet to be finalised but it should happen sometime soon.

For me this shows the council, now being led by a new Liberal Democrat/Independent partnership, is serious about sport. 

That has been further backed up with £90,000 being ploughed into developing the local sporting offer over then next three years with grants available for a variety of purposes for local clubs. There will also hopefully be funding for our more elite athletes.

Again details, criteria and a launch date has yet to be confirmed but is not far away.

Sport was always treated like Cinderella in the Bay with little or no investment over many years.

But now it is being realised that sport isn't just about kicking a ball about. It is about heath, mental health and tackling social issues like poverty an deprivation.

The council and other partners including what is now Sport Torbay started a mapping exercise before the pandemic got in way to identify areas where sport and healthier lifestyles could help people from all walks of life lead healthier and happier lives. Hopefully that will continue.

It is all about 'Re-setting Sport' and getting Torbay on the Move especially after the Covid lockdowns.

It is all about forming new relationships and partnership with the local community, sports clubs and governing bodies.

One shining example of all that is a brilliant weekend at Torquay Tennis Club on Saturday July 24 and Sunday July 25 when a host of clubs will be presenting and profiling what they are all about. 

It is a chance for sport to 'bounce back' in more ways than one.

Tennis club chairman Andy Pelling said: "I know just how hard these past 12 months have been for the clubs, the organisers, the children, the parents, the volunteers and everyone. People have had to endure so much, so now is the time for Torbay to enjoy all that its clubs have to offer."

All part of sport being reborn!