New Eden Valley Sports Partnership manager Oli Luke has a simple goal — to get as many children active as possible.
The 33-year-old, who combines his partnership post with teaching PE at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School, recently replaced Becky Wolstenholme as manager.
Becky has moved on to become CEO of Cumbria Youth Alliance, based in Workington.
Originally from Brighton, Oli spent five years in the Middle East, teaching at an international school in Bahrain.
He and his girlfriend then decided to head back to the UK, making where they lived a priority over their jobs, and chose the Eden Valley, settling in Newbiggin-on-Lune.
“I was working at the swimming pool in Appleby for a year, then the PE job came up at Kirkby Stephen,” said Oli. “I had met Becky previously and helped run a few Eden Valley Sports Partnership (EVSP) events for her.
“When I saw that a job was available at the partnership, I remembered how much I enjoyed helping them in the past and thought it was a great way to have a positive impact on children’s activity levels in the Eden Valley, so thought I would apply.
“I now work five days a week, combining teaching and the partnership role,” added Oli, whose sporting speciality is rugby union, having played for National 2 side Worthing as well as for Bahrain — a team made up of ex-pat players, who travelled around the Middle East to play fixtures. He has now started playing for Upper Eden RUFC.
He is also a keen fell runner and has taken up ultra running, including completing the gruelling Lakesman triathlon.
EVSP works to promote sport and physical activity in primary schools and organised competitions in various sports, although these have had to be virtual since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, EVSP coaches have been going into schools during lockdown to help with vulnerable and key worker children and have sent out weekly emails suggesting different activities.
“The only thing the partnership hasn’t been able to do is face-to-face competitions, which is what schools have missed the most,” said Oli.
As with everyone, June 21 is the big date on the EVSP calendar, as most restrictions are set to end on that day according to the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown.
“We don’t want to promise too much, but we are hoping to run some ‘come and try it’ days to try out new sports such as Tri-Golf, frisbee, lacrosse and orienteering,” said Oli.
“We don’t want to go straight back in with competitive sport. We want everyone taking part on a level playing field — we want everyone to enjoy the day. I want to get as many people as active as possible.
“In September, fingers crossed, everything will be back to normal and the calendar will be full.”
He is also keen to get children outdoors as much as possible.
“We live on the doorstep of the Lake District, and the Eden Valley is just as beautiful. Why can’t we get out a bit more with activities like orienteering and enjoy where we live? That will enable us to do survival skills and life lessons at the same time,” he said.
He believes that, going forward, there will still be a place for virtual activities, but the priority will be face-to-face competitions.
This includes Cumbria School Games, with which EVSP is involved, although Oli was keen to stress that the partnership offers much more than just the school games.
At present, 24 out of a possible 35 Eden primary schools pay to be members of Eden Valley Sports Partnership, with five having dropped out due to coronavirus.
Oli plans to contact all 35 schools after Easter to explain more about the partnership’s plans.
“I want it to be an exciting opportunity for schools — I want then to want to be part of Eden Valley Sports Partnership,” he said.
Alongside Oli, EVSP has two permanent staff members in Julie Stephenson and Debbie Barr, along with employed coaches Lucy Potter and Eleanor Holmes, and a couple of self-employed coaches.