John Newton – Programme Coordinator

The immeasurable stresses and strains of COVID-19 has — like for everyone — put Sport Works under pressure to reset and adapt. 

In July 2020, after four months of only digital engagement, authorities finally gave us the green light to restart face-to-face delivery of our disability inclusion sport programmes for the summer holidays.

This was fantastic news, but the new reality presented a number of challenges. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have concerns — and for me, it was how do we ensure the safety and wellbeing of our participants, parents and staff?

This wasn’t going to be easy. You have to plan for every single scenario. Adapting to ever-changing government guidelines. Finding two suitable COVID-19 safe venues. Making sure parents were regularly updated every step of the way. And as Project Coordinator, I had a total of six days to turn this around.

I’m not too proud to say I’ve never been so anxious to start a programme and questioned whether it was achievable. Even though I had everything covered from a risk assessment point of view, there’s still the fear of the unknown.

But I needn’t have worried, as there was one lesson I learned from this whole experience, and it’s that I wasn’t doing this alone: the entire Sport Works community was in this together.

I’ve seen teammates, participants and parents eagerly adapt and support each other throughout.  Colleagues have done whatever it takes to make this new reality work, particularly when it comes to caring for children with additional needs. This group was our main priority.

The support from parents and guardians has been incredible. They knew the obstacles we were faced with. Many of their children had been shielding throughout the lockdown and they acknowledged the effort we had made to plan COVID-safe sessions, working with us to make them even better. Honesty from everyone was vital in helping reach our goals, and our family feeling of togetherness made this possible.

From a personal and professional point of view, I’ve learnt so much from this experience.

The sports industry, like many others, has taken a real beating over the last four months and I’m delighted to be back to some sort of normality.

I’m a big believer that when things come to test us, there’s an opportunity to turn negatives into positives. Our strategy, across the organisation, is now even more robust and we have a clear plan regarding how we can support even more people into regular physical activity.  We also recognise our role in keeping people safe.

One thing we all want is for the quality of life to return to how it was pre-COVID, but if this is the new reality, thanks to the determination, passion and togetherness of the Sport Works community, we’re ready for whatever the future has in store.

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