An introduction to Programme Director, Mark Fishpool

Written by: Mark Fishpool, You've Got This Core Team

Three months have passed since I took up the You’ve Got This Programme Director position, so it felt like a good milestone to introduce myself properly!

Before joining the, You’ve Got This (YGT) team, I’d spent the last 18 years as Director of Middlesbrough Environment City (MEC), a charity that promotes healthy and sustainable living across the Tees Valley. I’m really proud of my time working at MEC and the impact it is able to make in our community, but I felt ready for a new challenge.

I’d already been quite heavily involved in the YGT programme right from the start having been asked to contribute to the initial Sport England proposal by Mal Fitzgerald, the previous Director. Mal and the team worked tirelessly to lay the foundations of YGT, and as a result, they were successful in their bid for South Tees to become one of 12 Local Delivery Pilots (LDP’s). Through the LDP’s Sport England wants to understand how we can use local identities and structures to deliver sustainable increases in physical activity levels across the country through the pilots.

Physical activity is also a crucial part of creating a sustainable future for our communities and our planet, particularly its benefits to people’s physical and mental health and the environment. The pilot allows us to test whether taking a behaviour change approach in South Tees could unlock something groundbreaking for the whole country and find sustainable solutions.

On reflection, my move to YGT might have surprised my PE teachers from my school days, as I was hopeless at sport! But I always enjoyed getting out for walks and cycle rides in the country and also keep active looking after my garden. Because of this, I have never really viewed physical activity as being something to go and do. Instead, I see it more as something that is part of my daily life.

I ride my bike to work most days; it’s a great way to get some exercise, separate work and home life, avoid being stuck in traffic and reduce carbon emissions which helps tackle climate change. When not at work, I still enjoy being out in nature, marvelling at some of the fantastic wildlife around us in South Tees, especially some of our excellent Tees Valley Wildlife Trust nature reserves like Maze Park, Coatham Marsh and Saltburn Gill. I take great pride in growing veg at home and managing much of our garden to attract pollinating insects and other wildlife. It sometimes looks a bit messy, but the bees and butterflies love it, and so do I.

Photos courtesy of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust

I am really excited about taking on this new challenge, particularly working with our local communities and ambassadors as we strive to achieve population-level changes in physical activity. Of course, none of us can say we have the answer, but I believe we can accomplish a great deal by working together.

Looking at the “how” and “why” of the things we do, not just the “what”, is fascinating and helps us better understand the changes that are taking place and how these can be sustained long term. New ways of evaluating what we are doing together through approaches such as storytelling are also exciting as it helps us understand the real positive impacts of physical activity on people’s lives, rather than just numbers on a page.

As I continue to settle into my new role, I am looking forward to meeting new people and organisations. However, I am equally pleased that I will still be able to work with many friends and partner organisations from my time at MEC as we collaborate towards our shared vision of “active lives as a way of life”.

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