Random thought 04: What will it take?


2012/11/22 by grahamfawcett2012

Walking for good health and discovery!

(Leser außerhalb Nordamerikas sollten verstehen, daß in den meisten Ländern, Volkssport Organisationen nicht im Allgemeinen die gleiche Menge an großzügige Regierung oder kommerzielle Unterstützung von Organisationen an anderer Stelle erhalten.

Readers outside North America should understand that in most jurisdictions, Volkssport organizations do not generally receive the same kind of generous government or commercial support received by organizations elsewhere. Volkssport organizations in the European Union and Asia, for example, may receive direct support in ways that we can only dream of. All our activities are funded only through the modest participation fees paid by walkers. Only one Canadian province in ten gives support to the Volkssport organization locally. The American Association has the status of a charitable organization for tax purposes, but that is all, I believe. There are also significantly different social, geographic, and climatic conditions here. These factors force us to deal with our challenges in different, and quite novel ways. We are continually trying to understand the challenges, and find new strategies for publicity, promotion, and marketing to deal with them. In spite of our differences, it is hoped that the thoughts below will still present new possibilities that Volkssport organizations elsewhere may find useful.)


One recent weekday morning, I received a phone call from a lady who trains small groups of Nordic pole walkers. She had heard of a walking festival in Ottawa of which I am the Co-Chair, and wanted more information. Near the end of our conversation, she made the remark we have all heard so many times before: “This is great! Why have I never heard of it before?”

I patiently explained more about the event and how we had promoted it over the past four years. Our publicity efforts have included notices on an electronic bulletin board beside the road at the event site itself, full colour brochures sent out through every City Library and Recreation Centre, information posted on at least half a dozen community Internet bulletin boards, our own web site, brochures in some sports stores, emails sent directly to over 400 previous participants, and so on and so on ….

What does it take? Why is it so hard to get people’s attention? I’ve been organizing Volkssport events long enough to know that this shouldn’t surprise me, but we’re still hearing it.

Last month, quite coincidentally, I heard of a different approach to rearing children. It is based on very strict limits to the amount of stimulation young children are exposed to in the early years. The premise is that over-stimulated children have less discipline, less ability to focus, and a greater incidence of psychological and physical problems, including autism, hyperactivity disorder, learning difficulties, obesity, and even tendency to suicide. This report triggered a memory of a term I had heard years ago: the “hurried child syndrome”. As I remembered, too many parents are overstimulating their children in the hope of keeping them active and ‘out of trouble’, achievement-oriented, on a continuous learning curve, etc. Unfortunately, schools and the media also play major roles in reinforcing this syndrome. The effect, however, is that all the over-stimulation only produces self-absorbed, spoiled, impatient, and ego-centric young people who are never satisfied with anything. Since the term seems to have been coined twenty-five or so years ago, the question then turns to what kind of adults these children have become. I did a Google search on ‘hurried child syndrome’ and came across an article that begins to answer my question.

The following comes from a review by Susan Perrow of David Elkind’s two books, The Hurried Child and Miseducation, pre-schoolers at risk.

“We live in a time-oriented and time-regulated society, where the emphasis is on speed and instant results. Very often it is quantity rather than quality that is becoming an accepted norm. It takes great strength and discipline to try and lead a slower pace of life, so most people flow with the fast current. According to Elkind, this fast current is growing rapidly faster. The hurried child syndrome is connected to the hurried life syndrome, which was once a minor condition two decades ago and has now become an epidemic.”

Everything above in bold applies equally to the same adults that we hope to attract. He then adds this:

“…why are parents today treating their children as little adults when they really ‘know’ they are not little adults?

Elkind’s answer, frightening but real, is STRESS, widespread stress. The stress of fear, loneliness and insecurity; the stress of divorce and single parenting; the stress of living in a time of rapid change and impermanence – all this leaves little or no energy for enthusiastic child-rearing. And, parents ‘who are stressed, like those in ill health, are absorbed with themselves – they are, in a word, egocentric’.”

So there it is, I think, the challenge we face. How do we present Volkssport as a way out of all the stress? How do we help them break the vicious cycle too many people find themselves in? Fundamentally, how do we speak to people’s self-interest and convince them to give up some of their time, their most precious commodity, to come for a one or two-hour walk? Better yet, how can we get them to eliminate some of their burden first, then use the time found to come for a walk with us?

What will it take? I have some ideas; if you have some, please share them in the Comment box below.

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2 thoughts on “Random thought 04: What will it take?

  1. Another thought… today there are just so many wonderful events and walking opportunities for people to choose from, and we are all vying to capture the interest of potential participants. In our local area (Canberra, Australia) the various walking groups/organisations are starting to work more cooperatively, which will hopefully pay dividends for every group – and help to match those who want to walk with a group that fits their needs/interests.

    • Thanks, Diana, for your feedback. We, too, face the same challenge of competition with other walking groups. They are everywhere! They also create great difficulty for our scheduling process, as there are so many fund-raising walks held throughout the year. The subject of Volkssport and social engagement will be the topic of another article in the near future.

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