I hated sport at school. I can't really run, or catch a ball and I'm quite bookish so I wasn't cool enough to be picked for teams anyway. My reports always read:
Effort - excellent
Achievement - average.
I enjoyed swimming but I think we only did that in year 7- once, and I did a paper round for years and years on my trusty Dawes racing bike (sadly stolen in Cambridge but that's another story). I just was never any good at the stuff you were meant to be good at.
Despite all of that in 6 weeks time I will be representing my country at the World Marathon Mountain Bike Championships. My school PE teachers would be astounded.
How did this happen?
Firstly a few people inspired me to try cycling at university, some more to try mountain biking. I was rubbish, but it was sociable and we were all rubbish apart from a few. I realised I liked being out in the countryside on my bicycle, I explored and took my bike on holiday with me. I tried racing, I was still pretty rubbish but the atmosphere was nice at the events so I wanted to get better. I gradually improved, I took it more seriously and here we are 5 years later and by a quirk of the UCI qualification rules I am going to the World Championships, with GB kit in my wardrobe.
How I think sport in school should develop
I often wonder what would have happened if when I was at school some people had come in and allowed us to try cycling as a sport. Or if I had become aware that cycling clubs existed. I certainly always loved to ride my bike. Whatever would have happened to me, the concept of school children being exposed to lots of different sports is a brilliant one. Sports clubs being encouraged form links with schools so that if a child wants to continue outside school they have an idea how to is also a really key development. Unfortunately the School Sports Partnerships that facilitated these links have been closed down by the present government but I hope that sports clubs and national governing bodies for sport will continue to develop these links.
Lizzie Armitstead is someone who benefited from the fledgling school cycling programme now known as Go-Ride. Through exposure to the GB coaches she has excelled in a sport that she might never have come across otherwise.
Sport can change lives, but not every sport inspires every child. The more different sports a child can try the better in my opinion.