On Wednesday 29th March 2017 41 key delegates from 14 different EU member states and pan EU organisations gathered in the NI Executive Office in Brussels for a seminar run by the “Get WET” partnership on water sports development.

The seminar was led and developed by Sport Northern Ireland and was a great opportunity to showcase the Get WET project but also to create networking opportunities and to get feedback on the toolkit developed by the partnership.

The seminar was opened by Olivier Fontaine, the EU Sport Unit policy officer who provided a great insight into the priorities for the Sport Unit but also the issue of inactivity and the growth in obesity in EU member states. This is a major issue that there will be a strong focus on tackling going forward. Olivier also highlighted the partnership approach that the Sport Unit has adopted to deliver on increased grass-roots participation which was well received. He outlined the role of Erasmus Plus and also the #BeACTIVE European Week of Sport campaign. He finished by showcasing a great video on the European week of Sport in 2016. More information on EWOS can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/sport/week/index_en.htm

The next speaker was Jose Maria Costa who is the mayor of the city of Viana in Portugal and also a member of the Committee of Regions in the EU. Jose provided an excellent overview of the project in Viana that showcased the partnership arrangement in Viana between the municipality, the schools and the water sports clubs that provides all children with water sports opportunities as part of their curriculum.

This project was the inspiration for the GetWET initiative as they have clearly shown how Watersports can only be Enhanced Together in partnership! They have built world class facilities for their clubs using European Regional Development Funding but ensured sustainability by providing opportunities for all school children in Viana to participate in watersports. They also have created strong pathways for long term participation and increased club membership.

Mike McClure from Sport NI then outlined the key aims and achievements of the Get WET programme and this was followed by each of the members of the GetWET partnership presenting one aspect of the project as follows:

  • Engaging people with a disability and groups with special needs
    (Joao Zamith -Surf Clube de Viana - Portugal)
  • Innovative approaches to increasing participation – the Blueway 10K
    (Sharon Lavin - Waterways Ireland)
  • Watersports creating lifelong participation sport – engaging older people
    (Paivi Palvimaki - Suomen Latu – Finland)
  • Inspiring and challenging children and young people
    (Stefka Djobova – National Sports Academy, Bulgaria)
  • Engaging families and multi activity events
    (Dr Eduard Ingles Yuba, INEFC, Barcelona)
  • Promotion and collaborative working
    (Mike McClure – Sport Northern Ireland)

The final part of the morning was a quick introduction to the toolkit that has been developed by the team.

In the afternoon the delegates moved into a more participatory approach and were involved in round table discussions to provide feedback on the toolkit. This proved both stimulating and useful and the feedback will be incorporated into the next edition of the document which will be available to download at www.beactive-getwet.eu