Friday, April 27, 2012

#communitysport blog: Matt Page

Our latest blog in our Community Sport series comes from Matthew Page, a professional endurance cyclist for the Wiggle team. The Carmarthenshire athlete was 2011 UK and European 24 hour solo champion, 2010 UK 24 hour solo national champion and 2009 mountain mayhem 24 hour solo champion.

Here, he gives his thoughts on growing up with sport and the opportunities he had to take part.

Matthew Page: Wiggle Edurance cyclist 

As a child I was always very active and took part in a long list of sports.

I was always willing to get stuck into whatever was being played at school or on the local parks. Cricket, squash, football, rugby, tennis, cross-country running, hockey, gymnastics and obviously cycling - although it was more of a hobby and way of getting around than a sport while I was young.

I have a problem in that I can't sit down for more than a few minutes and really struggle if I'm asked to relax or do nothing. Sport was my outlet and I think my parents could see the benefits, so I was encouraged to participate in as many activities as possible.

School and sports clubs were an important part of life for me. Sport was what I most looked forward to, both in and out of school. Every playtime we would be out playing football or something similar.

In school I played for the cricket and rugby teams and represented the county at cross-country running. Outside school I played football for Llandovery until about 11 and also in the local squash league. It was usually a case of being OK at everything but not exceptional at anything in particular.

Now, to be able to call myself a professional cyclist and be lucky enough to travel around the world is something I never dreamt of doing. It has been hard work, but also taught me many things and given me far more confidence in life than I had before.

If I had one criticism of sport in Wales it is that as a nation we are very fixated upon Rugby and as a result no other sports get a look in. Rugby will probably always be the main sport, which is fine but it would be great for more sports to be recognised which would give young people access to them and give them more choice. I was very lucky that I had the opportunity to try and wide range of sports as a child, but not everyone has the same opportunities.

There are a few places that I've been to over the last few years that can teach us a few lessons.
In Australia, sport is a culture, everyone is mad for it. Either you compete at sport or you follow it. They have TV channels dedicated to it but they are far from a single sport country and they will show a huge variety of sports from around the world.

In Spain it is less of a culture, but they still have a great outdoor scene and use sport and activities as a way to socialise. In the UK many people go to the pub but in Spain everyone goes out for a walk, run or ride.

And in Pakistan I was able to see what is achievable even when money and facilities are almost non-existent. Children there use sport as an outlet to relax and have fun and improvise with whatever is at hand to play.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattpage24 or check out his blog.

This blog was written in conjunction with the launch of a strategy for Community Sport in Wales.  If you’d like your say, get involved in the debate on twitter – using the hashtag #communitysport and you can mention us @sport_wales