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Women's Sport Week: Get Out Get Active women- Debbie's story

Women’s Sport Week takes place between 19- 25 June. Although the campaign comes before a packed summer of elite sport, the Get Out Get Active (GOGA) programme is making waves at grassroots level across the UK. To mark the week, GOGA is celebrating some of the fantastic women working on the programme. Today, we hear from Debbie, Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012, about her aspirations for GOGA.

GOGA is funded by Spirit of 2012, is an exciting new programme that supports disabled and non‑disabled people to take part in fun and inclusive activities together. It aims to make activity more appealing for everyone. Working in 18 different areas across the UK, partners are delivering over 30,000 sessions over three years.

The Women's Sport week campaign encourages the public to have fun and celebrate this vintage summer of women’s sport by watching, listening, volunteering and taking part in sporting activities. Those involved hope the campaign generates debate and encourages people to show their support, in order to help more women and girls reach their full potential through sport.

Spirit of 2012 is a funding charity, established with a £47m endowment from the Big Lottery Fund. We fund partners across the UK that provide opportunities in sports, physical activity, arts and culture, volunteering and social action. It was founded to continue and recreate the spirit of pride, positivity and social connectedness that people experienced during the London 2012 Games and we invest to create good outcomes for people and their communities.

In January 2016, Spirit of 2012 announced they were awarding £4.5 million to a UK wide consortium led by the English Federation of Disability Sport, for Get Out Get Active. The funding will be used to get people active in eighteen locations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Debbie Lye profile photo

Debbie Lye, Chief Executive, Spirit of 2012

As leader of Spirit of 2012, which funds GOGA, and an engaged member of the GOGA steering group,  my role has been pivotal in getting GOGA onto the ground in eighteen localities across the UK. The spark of the idea originated from the days in the early noughties when I was the DCMS policy lead on community sport and physical activity.

We knew then that sedentary lifestyles were going to have a catastrophic impact on health and wellbeing in years to come. My then Minister, Richard Caborn, convened a cross party ministerial group called ACT  (Activity Co-ordination Team), with the intention of pulling together transport, health, education and communities and local government resources as well as sport to get the nation moving. Sadly there was not the same priority put on this in every part of government and, despite some excellent pilot projects including by Sport England working with the Countryside Agency, we failed to turn the tide.

GOGA is a tiny initiative in the scale of things, despite being Spirit’s biggest grant award at £4.5m. So we can’t change the general population trend. What we can do, by encouraging EFDS to continue working intensively, sensitively and responsively through local partners with the least active people across 18 UK localities, is make a difference to thousands of lives. EFDS and their partners in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, are also ideally equipped to champion the principle of genuinely inclusive practice – accessible, fun and sociable physical activity that everyone, including disabled people, can take part in together.

Ultimately, I want to see GOGA identify approaches that really do work to motivate inactive people to begin to exercise. It helps that for the past two years Spirit has received Scottish Government funding to tackle the same issue, and plenty of good learning coming out of that initiative is feeding into GOGA.

I play tennis, usually twice a week, and more if I can – I just love it, and despite slowing down a bit I am still developing my volleying technique. I also love walking and am lucky to live somewhere where I’ve plenty of opportunity for long walks, and to have a friend who lives in the Brecon Beacons where I can enjoy strenuous walking weekends.

My message to others is to just do it – it’s never too late to be active! I was never sporty at school and I didn’t learn to ride a bike till I was 45. Now I cycle somewhere most weekends. And if you are mum, the example you will set your children as an active woman is a gift that will have a great beneficial influence on their own lives and health.

Find more information by emailing the team or calling 01509 227750. Follow the campaign on #WSW2017 or GOGA conversation on #GetOutGetActive.