Date: 29th October 2021
Scottish Cycling recognises the important role that a range of female role models have within the sport and the different roles that they fill within the sport. Day 5 of the Women & Girls in Sport week we wanted to put a spotlight on one of the many important roles within our clubs, the Wellbeing & Protection Officer, to understand how this role positively impacts on the many women & girls in the sport and unpack how the role operates within one of our clubs.
To do this, Ross McGowan Safeguarding & Compliance Officer for Scottish Cycling sat down with Lesley Archibald, Wellbeing & Protection Officer for Falkirk Junior Bike Club and asked a range of questions to find out more about how she got into becoming the Wellbeing & Protection Officer, how important she sees this role within clubs and what she would say to those women & girls who are considering getting involved within cycling, not necessarily as a participant.
RM: How did you get involved in cycling and how/why did you become Wellbeing & Protection Officer for Falkirk Junior Bike Club?
Lesley: "I became involved in cycling after my son joined Falkirk Junior Bike Club 5 years ago – he’s been a member there since day one! He had previously competed for a local athletics club, where I was a Club Welfare Officer. Before this, I had been involved in setting up two youth sports clubs and had child protection and welfare roles in both of those clubs. I was asked to take on the Wellbeing and Protection Officer lead at FJBC quite soon after the club was set up and was happy to help.
How would you describe your role as Wellbeing & Protection Officer and how important do you think it is having the Wellbeing & Protection Officer role within the club?
"We have two WPOs in FJBC – I’m lead WPO and Tom is support WPO. We are there to ensure that the club is a welcoming environment for all. At FJBC we make sure we are visible from Day One, by holding induction sessions with parents / carers of new riders where we can introduce ourselves and explain the role we have within the club. We also make sure that we promote the club’s Wellbeing and Protection policies, and that families know where to find our contact details in case they need to get in touch.
"It’s important to be approachable and accessible so that everybody can feel comfortable coming to us with any safeguarding concerns. We are there for everyone at FJBC - our riders, their families and the coaching and leadership team.
"To that end we have one male and one female just in case anyone has a preference, or a need to approach someone of their own gender. I believe it’s also good practice to have 2 WPOs where one or both of them is a parent of a club rider, as we need to be impartial.
"WPOs ensure the club operates safely by ensuring we adhere to all Scottish Cycling policies and have enhanced this by writing our own Club Codes of Conduct for riders, parents and coaches. We ensure that coaches and volunteers who undertake regulated work for the club are PVG checked (age appropriate) and that all of the coaching team, and club helpers, complete mandated training regarding child wellbeing and protection. Tom and I are proactive in upskilling ourselves and promoting further courses to our coaching and leadership team.
Would you say your role as Wellbeing & Protection Officer for Falkirk Junior Bike club has had a positive impact on the women and girls involved within the club?
"I hope that it shows that being involved with a club can be lots of fun, and very rewarding. I don’t get involved in any cycling, but I meet with new riders and their parents when they join the club, and I can always be found volunteering at club events. It’s important for a WPO to be recognisable and approachable, so I try to be present as often as I can.
What challenges have you faced in your role as Wellbeing & Protection Officer for Falkirk Junior Bike Club during the covid-19 pandemic?
"Initially, the biggest challenge was being locked down, and not being able to be together as a club. However, FJBC came together virtually for loads of activities and our online Forum was busier than ever with photos of what our riders had been up to. So, Tom and I tapped into this and made virtual connections with our riders, their families, our coaches and volunteers sending out emails explaining what virtual Wellbeing and Protection meant for us, and how we were still very much able to support them. We also regularly shared young people’s and family Mental Health Support signposting to everyone, just in case anyone needed specialist support.
"Along with the challenges, there were lots of opportunities to educate and upskill ourselves. We also undertook Mental Health Awareness for Sport and Physical Activity training, Covid-19 Psychological First Aid and Psychological First Aid for Children and Young People. We also encouraged our coaches and volunteers to do the same. We did this as we wanted everyone to be aware that lockdown may have had negative effects on young people’s mental health, and we were keen to be prepared for this. We wanted everyone to feel comfortable and confident to return to activity, knowing that FJBC were ready and able to support each other, our riders, and their families.
What would you say to women or girls who are considering getting into cycling, not necessarily to participate but maybe considering similar roles to yourself, and what benefits do you see cycling having on women and girls?
"As someone who very rarely cycles, I am in awe of the girls I see during our club training sessions. Watching them grow in ability and confidence over the years, has been fantastic. It is also inspiring to see their friendships grow and see how they support and build each other up. This is evident from club level, through to the national the races I attend.
"As a mum of a junior male XC and CX rider, I have been privileged to meet so many young women and girls competing at high level who are such great ambassadors for cycling. The support they give each other is immense and seeing them competing under the same conditions as the male riders is really inspiring.
"The bicycle is historically so empowering for women, and whether we cycle to commute, for recreation or for sport, it is a great legacy to see that still evident today. I’d love to see more equality in the sport, but it is rightly being challenged, and am confident this will come.
"For women and girls who are like me, there is still a great deal of empowerment to being involved with cycling at a different level. I am very proud that there is a high proportion of women on FJBC’s coaching and leadership team and I am hopeful this inspires our female riders and family members to get involved with the cycling in other ways.
"If anyone had said to me 5 years ago that I would be so involved with cycling I would never have believed them, but here I am. I don’t feel like I need to be a cyclist to play my part in developing women and girls in the sport. I love being part of the FJBC family, and hopefully being present and championing the sport from the side lines helps inspire others to get involved."
For those individuals who are looking to get involved as a club Wellbeing & Protection Officer and what requirements are needed to undertake such a role. You can find more information on Scottish Cycling’s Wellbeing & Protection pages here which also includes a wide range of advice on guidance relating to wellbeing & protection practice and how to contact Scottish Cycling’s own Wellbeing & Protection Officers should you require to.