FIVE-TIME Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave was at Brunel University to meet students tasked with getting other people into sport.
The rowing legend chatted to volunteers who are busy trying to encourage friends and fellow students to get active and also help anyone minded to return to sport to do so.
Sir Steve – ‘just Steve is fine’, as he routinely reminds his audiences – is a Sport Makers ambassador.
The programme, part of the London 2012 sporting legacy which was vital to winning the games, aims to get 40,000 people nationwide, such as the Brunel students, ‘making sport happen locally’ by encouraging and organising activities, with the emphasis on fun and informality.
Since a convention last month, which introduced the programme to potential volunteers, 56 have signed up at the university in Kingston Lane, Uxbridge.
They are supported by Pro-Active West London, which is based on campus and promotes sports participation in this region, backed by Sport England.
From jogging groups and judo tryouts to the ‘Back To’ programme, such as Back To Netball, which gets women playing again who might have played once but long since gave up to simply nagging a housemate or study buddy to turn up for training, Sport Makers casts its net widely.
Sports clubs, teams or ad hoc groups can go to it for help – to get new members, for example, or to seek coaching.
Mr Redgrave told the students how his former high school English teacher, Francis Smith, had been the one who steered him into rowing.
“A little bit of enthusiasm from someone like you Sport Makers can really make a difference,” he told them.
“If we can get people who can maybe touch people’s lives, we will really have a legacy effect from the London games.”
Sport Makers Christine Jarvis, a second year sport development and management student, and Malika Moubtahij, a second year sports science and business student, explained why they got involved.
Christine said she had been affected badly by players dropping out of women’s football teams she played with, so decided to do something about it.
Sport Makers gives her the network to recruit and retain players, through the ripple effect of peer to peer encouragement. She is also making sure her housemate keeps up with the dance classes Christine persuaded her to sign up to.
And Malika, who plays rugby at the university, has gone out into the community and started a Back To Netball session at Uxbridge College, in Park Road.
“It’s great seeing people who do not know each other making friends by playing netball,” she said.
Professor Ian Campbell, the university’s pro-vice chancellor for student and staff experience, pointed out that when Mr Redgrave won his first gold medal, in Los Angeles in 1984, none of his student audience were born.
All were by Sydney 2000, when he bagged number five, testimony to his longevity and an inspiration for them all.
He said the programme would go on to bigger things, with a programme to encourage university staff to take up or get back into sport.
“What’s fantastic is that we also have a real desire to get our students out working in the community,” he said. “There is more that we can do and will do, over time.”
After chatting to the students and posing for photographs, Mr Redgrave then went into the university’s indoor training facility and fired the starting pistol for a newly formed Sport Makers jogging group, decked out in yellow bibs, to head off into the chilly night for a bit of exercise.
Whatever you need this Christmas, go to www.LocalMole.co.uk - the fast, accurate local business directory.