The other day, I was doing some research for an article, and happened to be on the website of a national governing body. I'm leaving the sport nameless, because a) I don't want to point fingers, and b) I know this particular NGB doesn't own the patent on this type of screw-up.
On its website, I found a message declaring that this is the national month to try this sport. Or was - the message was two months old.
I was winding up to give myself a mental head-slap for not knowing about a publicity campaign that I could have called people's attention to. But then I realized I wasn't the one who needed to have sense knocked into my head. Obviously, the NGB had established its National Try Our Fabulous Sport Month, but beyond that, they hadn't done much.
What counts as not much? Well, essentially, the NGB had done nothing. No press releases to (ahem!) industry magazines, no e-mails to editors, no social media campaign and no announcements to health clubs, parks departments, community centers or anyone else who might have facilities to try to get them interested in hosting a free clinic or a demo competition.
The NGB had created downloadable posters, which was a nice move - but they weren't readily accessible from the home page. In fact, there was nothing on the home page at all about this. And really: those who aren't involved in the sport aren't going to be on the NGB's website anyway. So there's a big disconnect between the idea and the execution.
Sometimes, sports need to grow, but those in charge forget that it takes human effort. It takes athletes talking up their sport by offering free clinics in public places. It takes work, it takes time and it takes resources.
Admittedly, this is a bad time to be talking about resources. Everyone is stretched to the breaking point financially and time-wise. The NGB, I suppose, was trying when they put up that notice on their website. But sometimes, we forget that even in the electronic age, there's no substitute for a personal approach. It's true for sports, just as it is in any other arena where awareness is needed. A politician wouldn't get far without stump speeches, and particularly not without a lot of people doing door-to-door campaigning.
Want people to take up a sport? Have people (not a website) promoting it. College students, health club members, park visitors, community center users - they'll be likely to try a sport when they can see the athletes doing it, having a great time and inviting them to come in and try it themselves. We need to pry people away from their computers, TVs and so forth. No app on any smartphone can do that. And when the NGB of a sport just wants to use the computer to publicize its campaign - and doesn't seem to be making the effort to get actual people involved - it tends to defeat the purpose.