Every month Jo Cox writes a column for The Press. This month’s column appeared in last week’s edition.
Sunday saw a sporting spectacle that we’ve waited months to behold. No, not the Super Bowl – the rugby league Championship got underway. Batley Bulldogs played host to Leigh Centurions and beat them in a memorable game.
Win or lose they are a huge asset to the town and this is true of many of the sports clubs across our area who do amazing work in our community. When I was at the club last week I was shown the trophy cabinet, including the most recent silverware, which was won by the girls’ team. The club has grown to more than 100 girls and has just returned from a ground-breaking trip to Australia.
Batley & Spen has a rich sporting life. Our constituency has produced Olympians, Paralympians, international rugby players, first class cricketers, premier league footballers – and a range of other successful sportsmen and women from cyclists to canoeists.
Of course, sport is about so much more than winning. When I think about all the people I know who play football or tennis or go swimming, I know it isn’t always about winning. I like to run. But it is very rare that I race anyone. For many people sport is about keeping fit and healthy, or the camaraderie of the team or the social life. For others it helps combat loneliness and isolation, or it allows them to develop and improve their skills.
Sport offers role models and in some cases heroes emerge who our kids look up to and who many want to emulate. Its power is quite remarkable. It also opens doors for people. The opportunities sport presents can be unlike any others – the chance to travel the country or the world, the chance to showcase your particular sporting talents in a range of competitions and places.
Look no further than 15 year-old Jordan Catling from the Bulldogs. She was named the National Satellite Club Participant of the Year in recognition of her contribution and commitment to community sport. It helps nurture skills that can be put to good use across the rest of your life.
But whether we’re talking about winning or just about taking part, this can’t happen without the right infrastructure. We must get things right at the grassroots if it is going to thrive. Nor should we underestimate the work of volunteers who make much of it come together. I’m looking forward to visiting Cleckheaton RUFC to hear about the plans they have to grow their sport and the amount they contribute locally. I have been to cricket clubs, such as Mount and Batley, who are doing wonders at opening up their game to new groups. I’ve visited junior football clubs in Cleckheaton and Gomersal who offer scores of kids somewhere to train and play.
One of the reasons I’m so keen to help those who will be affected by the planned closure of Whitcliffe Mount Sports Centre is because such clubs and sports must continue. It’s a sad situation but the work and commitment of those who organise these clubs must not be lost.
We may not know what our future sporting landscape will look like in terms of facilities, particularly with the plans for a new Spen Valley sports village, but we know most of our clubs rely on the goodwill of volunteers.
We must celebrate our sportsmen and women and all of those volunteers behind the scenes. This means ensuring that we are getting it right at the grassroots and making sure that these doors remain open.