Adrian’s bid to get more people active and healthy

Adrian Leather, chief executive of Lancashire Sport Partnership
Adrian Leather, chief executive of Lancashire Sport Partnership
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The London Olympics in 2012 inspired many people to take up sport or volunteer, with a similar effect expected from the Commonwealth Games currently being held in Glasgow. And closer to home, Adrian Leather is working hard to encourage people to participate in sport or physical activity.

He is the chief executive of Lancashire Sport Partnership, based on Lancashire Business Park in Leyland.

His aim for the next three years is to engage with 55,000 people across Lancashire and get them to be more physically active.

Adrian, 45, and his team of 20 “enthusiastic and committed” staff work with a range of other organisations to reach their goals, including sports clubs, governing bodies and healthcare providers.

They are particularly focusing on four key groups - inactive people, women and girls, disabled people and young people.

And Adrian, who lives in Salesbury, near Blackburn, is setting a good example himself by leading an active lifestyle.

He said: “I’m a magpie when it comes to sport.

“Recently, over the last few years, I have done things like scuba.

“I have done quite a lot of diving in the UK, in freezing cold weather. I have been diving in water that’s just above freezing, at two degrees, and the ice was above us as we were diving in Euxton.

“More recently, I have done a lot of cycling and do sportives. I’m a member of Clitheroe Cycling Club.

“I also do a lot of running and I’m currently planning to go to Everest base camp for a trek there in October.

“There will be a lot of high altitude.

“The big issue is about stamina. On one day, we only walk 2.9 miles but we are walking for 12 hours.

“That shows how gruelling it will be.”

Keeping active is something that Adrian enjoys.

He said: “I have always been interested in an active lifestyle and sport and personal challenge.

“I love learning new skills and meeting new people. There is always a sport or a network or group out there. There are clubs that are really welcoming.”

Adrian is also chairman of the North West Amateur Swimming Association and vice-chairman of Hyndburn Leisure Trust.

He has been chief executive of Lancashire Sport Partnership since 2006.

He said: “It’s hugely enjoyable and has massive amounts of variety.

“There is always a good side to improving people’s lives and also helping to ensure that the success that comes through sport reflects positively on Lancashire and the North West.”

Adrian’s background is community development work and working with disadvantaged groups.

He believes that sport can change people’s lives.

“It’s got so many benefits to communities and individuals,” he said.

“It can do such great things in term of providing people with opportunities for jobs, new social networks, friends, and great opportunities for people to change themselves and be proud of themselves as well.”

But Adrian has a big task ahead of him as he works to get more people active.

He said: “In Lancashire, nearly half of our population of adults are physically inactive.”

One of the partnership’s main target groups is women and girls.

Adrian said: “Women and girls are less likely to be engaged in sport and physical activity and they are more likely to disengage from it.

“I think there is a lot of pressure, particularly on young women, to be concerned about how they look and I think there’s a perception that if you are going to do sport, you are going to get sweaty, your hair will get a mess, and you are going to be in clothes and doing things you might find embarrassing.

“A lot of women don’t want to put themselves in that position.”

Adrian and his team are working hard to encourage women, whether it’s through allowing young women to exercise away from men or promoting activities such as dance and zumba rather than team sports.

He added: “For older women there are things like running groups which are very much about social networks and making friends.

“A lot them will go running from neutral places like a supermarket.

“Quite a few of them are later at night when people feel more comfortable because they are less conspicuous.”

Another key group being targeted is disabled people.

Adrian said: “We are going to change perceptions about sport – that it’s very male, very white, very middle-class.

“We have done our research and it tells us nearly one in five adults in Lancashire identify themselves as disabled. It’s really high.”

Adrian praised the way the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow is holding competitions for able-bodied and disabled athletes at the same time.

And the same approach is being used for the Spar Lancashire School Games.

Adrian said: “We have disabled events happening alongside mainstream events. Yes, there are events specific to disabled people like boccia, but they are happening at the same time and under the same banner as the mainstream events as part of our school games.”

Lancashire Sports Partnership is part of a national network and is mainly funded by the National Lottery, through Sport England.

A key part of Adrian’s job is securing funding and he hopes that more money will allow them to extend their work further.

The partnership, which could become a charity, does much more to involve people in sport.

Adrian plans to do more work with schools, colleges and universities, to support young people as they gain qualifications and secure jobs in sport.

Lancashire Sport Partnership provides funding for upcoming athletes, such as hammer thrower Sophie Hitchon.

Adrian believes seeing elite athletes in the Commonwealth Games could inspire people to become more active.

But he also hopes it will encourage people to consider volunteering in sport.

He said: “We have seen the numbers fall from 140,000 people across the county three years ago to 117,000 at the moment.”

He added: “Grassroots sport lives and dies by its volunteers. We have certainly seen a big drop off over the last few years and we need people inspired by the Commonwealth Games to get involved.”

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