Last weekend I attended the Cornwall School Games which was taking place at a number of venues around the county. 1600 Cornish school children took part in a whole range of events including athletics, rugby, hockey, netball and even sailing, cheerleading and gig racing.
Cornwall was one of just nine areas across the country to pilot the idea of a major county wide games event covering many different sports. The aim is to boost the amount of competitive sport taking place in schools and to inspire all children, whatever the ability, to achieve their own personal best performance in the sport of their choice.
With the Olympics coming to Britain next year, we need to do all we can to leave a lasting legacy and if one of those legacies is a new games event that lasts for years to come and helps children find the sport that is right for them, that would have been one good outcome.
I have always thought that sport has a crucial role to play in education. Despite the old stereotype of the brainy children at school being the less sporty, the truth is that there is actually a lot of evidence that physical activity and fitness can boost the performance of the brain. There has also been concern in recent years about the growing problem of childhood obesity. The growth of electronic games and home computers means that some children are less active now than they perhaps might have been in the past and it requires a special focus on sport to try to counterbalance that development.
Because of our coast, Cornwall is also blessed with a whole range of sporting activities that are not realistic prospects in other parts of the country from surfing to sailing and so everyone can find something that they enjoy or are good at. At Stithians reservoir, we also have the best site in the UK for windsurfing.
The other striking thing about sport is the strong network of support with all of the voluntary clubs and we should take our hat off to the hard work of volunteers who keep those clubs going. When I was growing up, my passion was running and I will never forget the volunteers at Cornwall Athletic Club who gave up their time to coach us, drive the mini bus to competitions at the weekend and act as officials at all the events. Quite often, these volunteers started because their own children were interested in the sport, but once involved, they were committed and would often stay involved for many years after their children had moved on.
I hope that last weekend, some of those 1600 children will have discovered a new passion for a sport they excelled at and will go on to pursue it through one of the many local clubs.
George Eustice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1 Trevenson Street, Camborne, Cornwall TR14 8JD or on 020 72197032.