GiveToLocal: How important was community sport to you as a youngster?
Will Bayley: It was massive. I started playing table tennis at home in our garage but just to have the opportunity to go and play table tennis regularly was amazing and even more so because it was only 10 minutes from my house. Gary Howes was the coach at Byng Hall Table Tennis Club and I was really lucky that they had a three day a week club there so it made a huge difference to me.
GiveToLocal: What are the benefits of community sport to the wider population in terms of physical and mental health and general wellbeing?
WB: I think it’s vital for the general population. I’ve got children now and it’s really important for them to have the opportunity to get out and be part of a team and compete in a sport. They learn so much about themselves — they learn to win, to lose and to be patient — and it’s also about keeping them healthy and fit. It’s so much better for them than playing on the Playstation or on their phones. To be out there doing sport is amazing and when you see it first hand, as a parent, you realise just how important it is.
GiveToLocal: How difficult has it been for community sport clubs since March?
WB: I play at Brighton TTC when I’m at home and I know it’s had some problems this year and struggled financially to keep going. It’s a brilliant example of a great club as it is open to everyone and they run a lot of free sessions for people who have absolutely nothing — for example, the homeless. It’s a real shame to see these clubs suffer because they do so much in the community. Brighton TTC does so much for so many people in the local area. They go everywhere to give people the opportunity to play table tennis, from prisons to old people’s homes.
GiveToLocal: Fundraising is key to keeping community sport alive — how important is it to support those volunteers who dedicate their spare time to raising money for clubs across the UK?
WB: It’s really important, especially now. These people give their own free time to help out the community and create the next generation of sports people. It’s amazingly selfless so anything that people can do to support them is brilliant. Volunteers really are the lifeblood of all community sports clubs and so important.
Will is a childhood cancer survivor who is supporting Great Ormond Street Hospital and has helped design the Will Bayley Signature Face Mask in order to raise funds for the hospital. Click here to find out more.