My First Festival!

January 29, 2015

Sky Sports Living for Sport Live, Leeds, 28th January

(Pre Leeds)

27th January

Hey everyone!

My name is Forrest Payne and I’m from the United States of America, specifically the state of Wisconsin. I’m interning for SportInspired this spring and my first impressions are all very positive. The people that make up this company are some of the friendliest I have ever met. They possess ambition, passion, and integrity in everything they do. It’s a fun environment because of the energetic attitudes and teamwork displayed every day. It’s only been a couple of weeks but I can truly say it’s an absolute privilege to have this opportunity to work alongside these inspiring people and support their cause in any way I can.

An upcoming event I am very excited for happens on the 28th of January. I will be taking a train up to Leeds to work a Sky Sports Festival. This will be my first chance to see one of the many final products of SportInspired’s office work. I know what sports are going to take place and how the day is scheduled but the emotion, volunteer participation, and atmosphere remains unknown.

I will be finding out very soon though, and can’t wait to report my day to you all soon!

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(Post Leeds)

29th January

My first reaction after the festival is “WOW.” So many feelings and thoughts run through my head after an experience like that. All the coordination and work done in the office truly pays off. Let me share with you briefly what I encountered on the 28th of January.

I begin the day waking up at 6am in a hotel, and soon hop in a taxi with the other SportInspired employees over to a beautiful facility called the John Charles Centre. There we set up our sports and started registering the Sky Sports volunteers as they arrived. Even though this festival was kicking off in the early part of the morning the volunteers seemed to be very energetic as they played football and chatted excitedly. Games Manager, Felix Sullivan, then gave them instruction about their goals and roles for the day. He rallied the excitement and energy within the volunteers as he arranged the famous cheer tunnel.

That’s when the primary school students started arriving. I began handing out bibs to the students and team leaders. The energy in the room just started building. Students were running through a tunnel full of happiness and chaos. Their eyes lit up and smiles widened as 100 plus adult Sky Sports volunteers and secondary school leaders cheered them on. They had no idea about the amount of fun they were going to have today.

Teams were organized and warmed up in creative ways by the volunteers. Immediately bonds were being formed within the 24 teams, especially with the less confident students. I remember seeing a volunteer take his time helping put a bib on a very shy student. Even though their team was walking away to their numbered spot, this volunteer made sure this student was prepared and ready to go. Felix then got everyone hyped up again with a type of wave/shouting opening ceremony. Everyone seemed excited to meet the professional athlete mentors that expressed what their goals and roles for the day were. Finally the trophies were explained which brought determination to every team.

Once the rounds began it was my job to manage the teams, the time, and direction. I would check in with volunteers to make sure they knew where they were going next. I also had the chance to participate with the primary school students in each sport event. You wouldn’t believe the amount of chants and cheers created as a team moved from sport to sport.

One short story I’d like to share was when I was in the middle of a round and noticed a young boy in the boxing area punching the air by himself. I went over to him and made my hands his new target. His eyes lit up and he started giving it everything he had. I will never forget that smile and joy. I only gave him a little attention and encouragement but the power that comes from that is unbelievable.

Similar acts like my short story were happening all around me. Volunteers and young team leaders were giving their time and attention to students who really needed it.

As the rounds finished we started our closing ceremonies. It was award time and the winners of the Spirit Trophy and Competition Trophy were ecstatic. This included the Sky Sports volunteers who were just as pumped as the students when they heard their team won. Every student there then received a medal which brought more happiness, awarding them of their accomplishments and effort shown today. They kept asking me if they were made of real gold.

Seeing the volunteers leave their students was bittersweet. They hugged their teammates and some even had developed secret handshakes. It’s unbelievable how so many bonds can be formed in so little time. It truly was remarkable seeing the experience, development, and growth a festival like this can bring to young students.

I have now witnessed the pay off or the product if you will. It’s amazingly wonderful for everyone involved. Big thanks to Sky Sports and their volunteers for their time, patience, and positive attitude. Thanks to the young team leaders for being great role models, and the teachers for doing what they do best. Thanks to the staff at the Leeds John Charles Centre for all their hard work, set up, and clean up. They were a huge help. And thanks to SportInspired for coordinating and managing an unforgettable day for the students, volunteers, community, and myself.

I now understand more than ever the importance of these festivals and the work that goes into them. I can’t wait to help prepare the next one and experience that energy again.

Forrest Payne, SportInspired Intern

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