Festival of the Flame: From Desperation to Inspiration…

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A strange journey into the city centre today: a distinct lack of Games Makers, Ambassadors and signage depicting venues for London 2012. The Metro and Evening Standard have their celebratory headlines and stories, while online there is now much talk of ‘Post O/Paralympics Blues’ and the need to ensure a lasting legacy.
I consider myself extremely fortunate in that I managed to attend certain events over the past few days:
  • Sitting Volleyball at Excel;
  • The T54 Wheelchair Marathon;
  • The final session for athletics at the Olympic Stadium, where Oscar Pistorius won the final gold medal of the Games;
  • The Closing Ceremony featuring Coldplay et al;
  • The Athletes Farewell Parade.
All events were stunning; the organisers, competitors and audiences created many memories that will be forever treasured.
Now we need to build on the successes and achievements of this summer’s sporting calendar and move forward. At the Closing Ceremony, ‘The Festival of the Flame’, Carol Barwick made reference to the riots of 2011 via FaceBook: ‘Last year we had flames of desperation and fear; this year we have flames of aspiration, motivation and potential. What turnaround…’
This sentiment was reinforced during Lord Coe’s short but poignant closing speech whereby he commented on the doctor he had met and their conversation about closure, albeit related to a different situation. I have always considered myself more of a Steve Ovett man, but I have been impressed by Lord Coe over the past year. His thanks to the Games Makers brought about a standing ovation that could have ran and ran. He stated:
“In this country we will never think of sport the same way and we will never think of disability the same way,” he said. “The Paralympians have lifted the cloud of limitation…we will never think of sport…or disability…in the same way.”
For a great review of the Closing Ceremony, read the words of David Batty at www.guardian.co.uk
As to legacy, I am looking forward to working with Evolve SI and their perception-changing initiative with the likes of Dave Wolverson and Brett Wainwright.
On the subject of changing perceptions, Channel 4’s coverage was incredible, as was  ‘The Last Leg’, introduced by Adam Hills. I am sure there were many moments when the viewers were completely bemused. Alex Brooker‘s Rocks, Paper, Scissors, Stone Challenge to Freddie Flintoff was one highlight among many. Seek it out on You Tube…
To EVERYONE involved with the London 2012 O/Paralympics…a Thousand Thanks. You have helped shift the mindsets of many, myself included, and made me feel very humble indeed.

Evolve National Conference…One Year On.

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This time last year I was asked to attend my first ever Evolve National Conference. One year on I was invited back to Birmingham, this time to co-present three sessions.

As the conference progressed I became aware of the feeling that this year the whole set up seemed more professional than the previous year. The venue for 2012, the Lakeside Conference Centre at Aston University, set the scene in that there was a great sense of purpose and learning taking place.

Evolve SI is obviously a company that is growing in many different ways. This was addressed in the opening sessions led by two of the Directors, Graham Morgan and John Bishop.

During Day One, the staff were invited to review not just the successful XLR8 Transition Camps, but also the Evolve organization as a whole. This could have been deemed a foolish move by some, but not when you consider that a successful organization needs direct lines of sight in both directions, as highlighted by Chris Daffy, one of the speakers on Day Two.

The keynote speaker for Day One was Jeff Grout, who initially led a seminar with the Directors, Regional Managers and Health Mentor Trainers on’ What do Leaders Really Do?’ Later, with all the delegates, Jeff shared ‘Lessons from Sporting Excellence’. Jeff is one of the great speakers, one of those people who has the experience and expertise to have the audience hanging on to every word. In the words of Ash Khan, one of the Apprentice Health Mentors from Tower Hamlets: ‘Jeff Grout truly is an inspirational man…big thanks to Evolve for giving me the privilege to meet such a man of wisdom! ‪@Evolve_Impact’.

The after dinner ‘speech’ was made by Leon, a spoken word artist, whose tale about romance and relationships in Starbucks means I will never order an ‘iced latte made skinny’ again. The Regional Managers were then allowed to demonstrate their own spoken word skills by announcing their Health Mentors and Rookie Health Mentors of the Year. To find out who won, check out the words of Hannah Ennis on http://www.evolvesi.com/2012/09/evolve-health-mentor-of-the-year-awards/#more-1070.

The conference gave the Regional Managers opportunities to raise the expectations in physical education of the Health Mentors. The teams from different regions blended really well; it didn’t matter if the Health Mentors were from Birmingham, Wales, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Nottingham or Tower Hamlets, all of them brought their own qualities and soon became friends as well as colleagues.

The conference incorporated workshops led by the Health Mentor Trainers and guest speakers. What struck me was the quality of the dialogue and conversations during these sessions. I was fascinated to hear about how the Health Mentors were developing Assertive/Achievement Mentoring sessions with individual learners. It was refreshing to hear about how Pause Button Therapy sessions were being incorporated into mentoring meetings, and how they have made a positive impact on the lives of young children.

Day Two ended with an ‘Agony Aunt’ style session led by the irrepressible Jan Edwards, Head Teacher at St. George’s CE Primary School. She shared her wisdom with intelligence, warmth and wit. It made me smile when one of the younger Health Mentors whispered to a colleague, ‘Did she really say THAT?’

The conference ended officially with John Bishop giving feedback on the Health Mentors feedback from Day One. Billed ‘the Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, John pointed the way forward for the coming year. The aims of the conference were clearly met. The Health Mentors know that they are at the heart of Project HE:RO and they are ready to help move Evolve from a good to an outstanding organisation.

Some of us had places to go, people to meet and things to do, meaning I was unable to play in the football match at the end of the conference. That said, last time I played with some of the Evolve staff I ended up in plaster for 2 months. Maybe I am growing up after all…

For more detailed reports of the Evolve National Conference read entries in Hannah’s Diary.