The next step in the easing of coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions will kick in on Monday 29 March. As part of our build up, we've spoken to a number of clubs and organisations about their experiences during lockdown and what they've learnt over the last year that'll help them to reopen.
Here, we talk to Leanne Procter of the Billy Project in Blackburn.
What has been the biggest challenge to your club through the coronavirus restrictions?
The last year has been one of change and adaption for us. The biggest challenge for us as a team has been keeping ourselves motivated. We're so used to being together on the gym floor and communicating in person but it’s much harder over the phone or internet.
How have you engaged and communicated with your members through the pandemic?
We moved all of our clients to online platforms so that we could keep in contact with them through the pandemic. We already had active Facebook and WhatsApp groups, which helped, and these allowed us to offer our women online fitness sessions, daily and weekly challenges, plus quizzes.Read more
We also set up telephone calls to clients, provided food parcels and supplied school items for children.
As soon as we could, we started to meet clients one to one while following the guidelines and procedures. Then slowly, when restrictions allowed, we met up in small groups.
If there were any positives or opportunities emerging from what you’ve experienced over the past year, what do you think they are?
The positive from the past year has to be how we’ve managed to engage with more participants who needed our help.Read more
During lockdown, as so many services had to close, we set up a self-referral process to allow women to self-refer themselves to us.
Normally clients are referred into us by other organisations but, since last November, we’ve had well over 100 women self-refer to us. These women wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to access us.
What do you think your members' attitudes are to returning and how are you reassuring your members it’s safe to return to play?
Our ladies are definitely excited to start to get back to normal. We already have our Covid-safe procedures in place.
How have you planned for the reopening after this lockdown and what are the key things you’ll have to do in order to reopen safely?
Our reopening is going to be wonderful. We’ve had an outdoor shelter built which means that we can train our ladies outside in the fresh air whatever the weather. We're also in the process of trying to secure funding to build an outdoor gym.
What did you learn from the reopening process you went through after the first lockdown in 2020?
We'd just built the outdoor shelter when we reopened after the first lockdown. We knew that, if we were to survive future lockdowns, we'd have to adapt and change to fit with what the new future was going to be. We knew that things were going to be different.
What funding or support have you received to help you through the lockdown and what difference has it made?
We've received funding from Sport England, the Lancashire Police Crime Commissioner and the National Lottery to help us through the pandemic.Read more
The money received has enabled us to build the outdoor shelter and continue to run our project.
The money has helped an additional 100 vulnerable women access us and helped us to continue working with our existing clients.
What do you think the future holds for you, your teams and the people you support?
We hope the future will sees The Billy Project go from strength to strength. Fingers crossed we secure the funding to build the outdoor gym as that would be amazing. We see outdoor fitness as the future.