Blog: Dennis Kennedy, Sport Birmingham

Too many adults and young people drop out of taking part in sport and community life in general because they feel it's not for them. Community Games aims to open our eyes to the whole range of activities on our doorstep to enjoy. There’s something for everyone.

Birmingham’s newly crowned 2014 Shining Light, Dennis Kennedy, is on a mission to lure people away from simply observing sport from the sidelines so they can feel the benefits of being actively involved in community activities. We catch up with Dennis to find out more about the origins of his ambitious Sutton Coldfield Community Games.

Hi Dennis. Congratulations on becoming a 2014 Shining Light. You’re clearly very passionate about community sport and encouraging more people to get involved. Where does this interest come from?

Dennis: As far back as I can remember I have positive memories attached to sport and being active. Climbing trees and kicking a ball are probably my earliest memories. I’ve also taken a very serious interest in football, rugby and cycling over the years and I played ice hockey professionally for four years, representing England.

Other than being a self-confessed sports geek, what drives you to get more people in your community involved in sport and community life?

Dennis: I wholeheartedly believe that inspiring people to participate in healthy endeavours really matters. Being active in both team and individual sports teaches you so much, whether you’re winning or losing. Sport helps people develop so many important life skills - discipline, communication, persistence, commitment - the list is endless.

There are numerous ways in which we can be active and I think they are all as important as each other. Community Games supports my ethos. They promote true community events that are voluntary (not commercial), healthy, fun and inspiring.

Sounds like it’s a perfect fit for you. How did you get involved in Community Games in the first place?

Dennis: I started to get involved in March 2010, just after I’d decided to set myself an Olympic challenge. My initial thought was that I’d do a longer cycling challenge than I’d done before, but when I saw a piece on the local BBC news about the Community Games initiative I thought to myself – “do you know what? I could do that.”

I drew up a plan of what I felt the event could and should be and started talking about it to anyone who would listen. I got a positive response from everyone I spoke to and ended up forming a voluntary core team of eight people to organise and stage the Community Games. The same core team is still working with me today.

We've heard great things about the Sutton Coldfield Community Games but just how popular have your first two events been?

Dennis: In 2012 we had over 5,000 attendees trying 50 different sports for free. This year we have as many sports again and expect a turnout of nearer 8,000 people, again all for free.

Wow, that’s amazing. What format does the event take?

Dennis: Our Games run every two years, in line with Olympic and Commonwealth Games. This year we have a Commonwealth theme. I’ve also secured funding for 2016 when we will have a Brazilian theme.

Your Community Games has clearly been successful. What advice would you offer others inspired to run an event?

Dennis: Three things - vision, belief and most importantly team.

Vision: Community Games are unique with each one taking their own shape. You need to have a clear vision and be able to paint pictures to people when questions come your way. The stronger the vision the clearer the picture you can paint. I literally drew maps and used active pictures to show people my idea for a great big summer fete come sports day.

Belief: You have to have the unswerving belief that you can actually do it, even if you haven’t done it or seen it done before, as in my case.

Team: I absolutely love my team and they will all be my friends for life. We work hard, we laugh a lot, we run around like mad and we produce truly memorable and worthwhile events.

What is your ultimate goal for your Community Games?

Dennis: I’d be pretty pleased if one day a successful sports person referenced the Community Games as having helped them begin their journey with sport.

Feeling inspired? If you’re motivated by Dennis’ story, why not organise a Community Games in your area next year? Simply register your Community Games here and get access to great resources, tips and support.

Blog: Dennis Kennedy, Sport Birmingham