I’M not averse to using the phrase “the power of sport” and I have definitely waxed lyrical about the amazing benefits of sport that can help everyone in our society.

In fact, we used this as the theme of our 2019 conference, the last “in-person” conference that we delivered.

At that point we looked at how participation in sport helped people deal with problems in their own life and heard from an array of guests, who had themselves benefitted in the main from active participation in sport.

When we look at the work of organisations such as Street Soccer, SAMH and of course my favourite, Scottish Sports Futures, (I am showing some bias here as I am privileged to be chair of such a caring organisation), there is no doubting the transformation that using sport as a “hook” has in helping people deal with the many issues that life throws at them.

The good news now is that the benefits of sport doesn’t stop there, it’s not the exclusive property of young people and there is another side to the power of sport that we may not be just as familiar with as yet: the power to help those, who number around 850,000 in the UK, that are suffering from dementia.

Sport is being used as one of the tools that help unlock memories and it plays a major role in reminiscence activities. Reminiscence activity is known to act as a positive intervention that can help bring back memories of the past by recalling past experiences and helps to improve participants’ self-esteem and communication skills.

I would expect this gives much needed joy to the sufferer and relief to friends and family who now have a communication tool to help break down barriers.

A new booklet which has input from across the four nations, was recently launched by Scotland’s Sporting Heritage Network and Football Memories, with support from Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre. It has case studies, training, useful checklists, and resources on how to launch an effective memories activity using sporting heritage: sportingheritage.org.uk/content/what-we-do/projects/sporting-heritage-memories-and-reminiscence-project/memories-handbook

I don’t think anyone has ever captured it better than Nelson Mandela, when he said: “Sports have the power to change the world.

“It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sports can create hope, where there was once only despair.”