By Ciaran O’Donnell
Adapting programmes and initiatives for target groups during the current Covid-19 lockdown is the biggest challenge facing Donegal Sports Partnership, according to its coordinator, Myles Sweeney.
“We are looking at our target groups and seeing how best we can provide some sort of a support to them,” Mr Sweeney commented.
“We are doing this through communicating and linking up through online platforms, by telephone and through providing activities, exercises and physical movements that can be done safely at home. Assisting people to keep active and healthy at home in the current pandemic is our key objective,” he added.
“The whole Covid-19 pandemic came upon us very quickly resulting in a lot of work plans being suspended, including schools’ programmes, community sports, our work with disability groups and education and training programmes. With all the DSP staff having to work from home, this has really challenged us as an organisation.
“One survivor of the current lockdown has been our Women in Sports Leadership Beyond 2020. This has moved to online tuition using Zoom. It’s great that all 14 participants continuing to engage with our tutors. Thankfully we are adapting with the support of Sport Ireland. With all the agencies represented on our board, we have managed to maintain some sort of service to our communities.”
Noting the emphasis on technology and its impact on connectivity “is huge at the minute”, the DSP Coordinator continued: “Many of the groups that we engage with represent those most disadvantaged and marginalised. We are extremely conscious that many of those don’t have access to online systems as a means of communication. Many are at home cocooning under Covid-19 restrictions with the only means of communication being radio, television or the local newspapers.
“We are, therefore, testing different ways in which we can connect to those individuals and groups. One such initiative is a partnership with the Age Friendly Network and the HSE using a maildrop of a simple exercise guide which is going out to communities this week. This is being supported by a campaign with Highland Radio, Ocean FM and Radió na Gaeltachta where a professional physiotherapist will take people through the information on the guide on a daily basis. We also hope to raise awareness of the importance of keeping the body and the mind active.”
Mr Sweeney said DSP is extremely conscious of the need for activity and exercise in the current climate.
“Thankfully the good weather has allowed us to get out walking, jogging, cycling and running within our 2km confines and social distancing.
“Younger people at home have an array of online resources which can be accessed – one example is the Joe Wicks YouTube Channel. Joe provides an extremely energetic and entertaining exercise session at nine o’clock every morning and has 20,000 followers watching him from all over the world. His gym is in his sitting room and using only body weight exercises, he manages to do a really effective physical activity session, coupled with some trivia questions,” he said.
“We don’t need an awful lot of equipment or time. Ten, 15 or 20 minutes every day or twice a day can be very effective in keeping us all healthy. If you can get up in the morning and get 15 minutes done and do another 15 in the evening, that would be a great habit to get into five days out of the seven days. This way you’d be getting what is recommended by the World Health Organisation.
“Children are expected to do up to 60 minutes of exercise five of the seven days which is a bit more of a challenge. But children by their nature are more active and are running around anyway.”
Stating that the community response being coordinated by Donegal County Council has been extremely effective in keeping people safe in their homes and providing them with a link to services and information, he added: “There is positive work happening through partnerships and collaborations, with many of the local and national agencies all across the county working together to reduce the impact of the pandemic on our communities.
“As we move closer to phase two of the restrictions, we will, no doubt, be further challenged to provide support. One of the key government objectives in the next phase is around staying fit and healthy, and staying connected. I am confident Donegal Sports Partnership can play a role in that area along with many other sporting and community organisations.”
“As a sports development organisation, we are conscious of the many sports clubs around the county and the impact the current situation is having on volunteers and communities. We are also aware of the many great sports initiatives being delivered by clubs to their members. We are encouraging clubs to keep in touch with their national governing bodies of sport, or with the DSP, to discuss any immediate issues at club level,” he said.
“There are 29 Local Sports Partnerships in Ireland and every one of them is doing excellent work in terms of trying to engage with their local communities keeping sport and physical activity alive.”
“As we move into this new phase it’s important that we do so together in a coordinated way nationally and locally. It’s really about bringing all our resources together and working out how we can do things more efficiently and more effectively to engage and support the communities we work with.”