Author Topic: Students tell the BCA how to attract new, more diverse adherents to our sport  (Read 2213 times)

Offline andrewmc

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Since typing this I just noticed your most recent post explaining that you're involved with CRO. Yet your words above suggest that you "would have" had a go had you not evidently been put off by your perceptions. Now I'm confused.  :shrug:

CRO does the above-ground stuff as well... not everyone in CRO is a caver (most of the rescues are above-ground, after all...).

Caving really is the odd one out in many ways.

Offline Pitlamp

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Of course - thanks  - it makes better sense now.

Offline nearlywhite

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I mean getting on my hobby horse, I was quite annoyed at the lack of a mention for BCA Youth and Development - which in terms of concrete results has made a real impact in British caving. Far more than any other initiative thus far.

I agree with Capn Chris (miracles do happen  ;)) and it's my main motivator.

I disagree with your article though David, because I think the BCA is in a really good place on this issue, publications and information are about to update its image but the civil service of caving, BCA's volunteers, that run some of the organs of caving are better supported than ever and there is a vision for the future - we're not all over 50.

Offline David Rose

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Nearlywhite, I totally accept that the BCA is moving in the right direction here. At the same time, I do think the students' presentations make clear we need to take this seriously, and that there is no room for complacency.

Let me just throw one point back into the mix: diversity. Let's face it: the overwhelming majority of cavers are white, and most of them (not all - most) are male.

Are we worried about this? Should we be? And if we are, should we be trying to change things?

Offline nearlywhite

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Oh the irony... Why's my name nearlywhite?

It's something CHECC and Y&D have looked at before - as have the BMC. I think the best we can do within caving is to support clubs that promote it, something that CHECC member clubs do very well.

The gender ratios in student caving seem to have improved massively over my decade in student caving, it'll take a while to filter up.

I'm not advocating complacency, I just don't think you have a good grasp of what certain sections of the BCA are doing - mainly because we don't publicise it as most of us would rather get on with it in the background. I feel the need to emphasize that we're in a positive place so more people feel like getting involved wouldn't be an uphill battle.

Offline mikem

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But youth & development doesn't even have a page on the BCA website...

Offline Cookie

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That had been spotted by themselves.

I believe they are putting some info together.
Dave Cooke. BCA Web Services, BCA Webmaster, CSCC Treasurer, ES2016 Treasurer

Offline flashheart

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Perhaps the answer is to have 'clubs' where young people cave together, under the watchful eye of experienced and qualified leaders, and are encouraged to develop to the point where they can lead themselves or join an established club.  I think that the idea of caving with adults who are initially strangers is daunting to children and teenagers, who really just want to be around people of their own age and have fun.
This obviously present lots of logistical challenges to whoever organises such a club (funding, safeguarding, gear, transport etc) - one solution may be to work with local outdoor centres who have much of this framework already in place. Imagine if a young person who was introduced to caving on a residential could get dropped off with their mates at their local centre on a Saturday morning for a day of caving, for a small cost, in the same way that they might for football, swimming etc.
I'm aware that this sort of scheme may already exist within some clubs, and that organisations like the Scouts do a lot for youth caving. But lots of urban areas are withing striking distance of limestone, and what I'm describing (informal, fun regular caving for youngsters) doesn't seem to be 'a thing' yet.

Offline nobrotson

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Perhaps the answer is to have 'clubs' where young people cave together, under the watchful eye of experienced and qualified leaders, and are encouraged to develop to the point where they can lead themselves or join an established club. 

why not just join a student caving club, where you get experienced leaders, who are young, within an established club structure. If that's not your scene, I think Rostam has a good scheme lined up that he can describe much better than me...
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Offline flashheart

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Perhaps the answer is to have 'clubs' where young people cave together, under the watchful eye of experienced and qualified leaders, and are encouraged to develop to the point where they can lead themselves or join an established club. 

why not just join a student caving club, where you get experienced leaders, who are young, within an established club structure. If that's not your scene, I think Rostam has a good scheme lined up that he can describe much better than me...
I can see lots of positives in this idea, if the student clubs concerned bought into the idea and could prove competence to the parents of their younger charges. There are other pressures on their time, however, and a stable arrangement would encourage young cavers to stay and develop as cavers.

Offline mikem

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Uni clubs had enough problems with insurance for experienced non-students forcing many to stop supporting them (which coincided with the start of decline in number of clubs), I don't think the student unions will allow younger non-students (for a variety of other reasons too).

& most outdoor centres can't afford to run sessions at the sort of prices that scouts offer - so you're still left with a lack of opportunities...

Mike

Offline flashheart

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& most outdoor centres can't afford to run sessions at the sort of prices that scouts offer - so you're still left with a lack of opportunities...

Mike
I agree Mike. Such a scheme would rely on volunteers and would have to be subsidised from elsewhere, rather than as part of the outdoor centre's business model. It would rely on the co-operation of the centre, as they would essentially supply gear, facilities and transport (during times when they were not required for 'paying customers'). Could the BCA help with insurance, subsidies, a support framework etc? I don't know. It just seems to me that the pieces are all there.

Offline JasonC

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Uni clubs had enough problems with insurance for experienced non-students forcing many to stop supporting them (which coincided with the start of decline in number of clubs), I don't think the student unions will allow younger non-students (for a variety of other reasons too).


This is true, but some Universities (especially Russell group ones) are under pressure to recruit from a wider range of schools and already run outreach programmes.  So a link-up with local sixth-forms could be spun as an effort of this kind and get the authorities actively supporting it, rather than trying to block it.

(I know, and pigs might fly too...)

Offline andrewmc

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It's probably one of those tragic ironies that, unlike most sports, you _have_ to join a caving club to cave. I know that's not actually true, yet every person who comes onto this forum gets told to join a club...

And yet in most sports where do young people start? Clubs, whether it be the local football club or whatever. And what do caving clubs do for young people? Very little... With a few exceptions, of course, but most caving clubs in the country don't want anything to do with young people.

If caving really wants more kids involved, then it needs people willing to a) jump through the child protection hoops (which is a lot easier if you have NGB support) and b) willing to take kids caving on a regular basis. Such people do exist, and are already taking people caving, and should be applauded, but I don't see queues forming to lead kids' trips... Not that I'm any better of course (although a very brief failed career in teaching suggests I'm not the person to make kids behave!).

Student clubs are absolutely the wrong answer to getting U18s caving (I actually wrote drinking instead of caving initially - Freudian slip!) for a variety of reasons.

(and since there is another reply, here are some of those reasons...)

Uni clubs often have enough trouble getting leaders to run their own trips, let alone others.
Taking kids caving requires adopting a very serious duty of care, leading trips appropriately and having sufficient experience and management skills to never end up in trouble. Essentially the same sort of management as commercial caving.
Student caving is all about personal growth and trying new things; 'normal' caving where you try things that are sometimes outside your comfort zone and previous skills. Its a group of peer or near-peers exploring the world of caving, not a leader and those the leader is caring for.
Student clubs are a place for people who have just become adults to express themselves - they've only just broken free of being U18, and now they have to start looking after them?
Also the drinking.

Offline Chocolate fireguard

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Let me just throw one point back into the mix: diversity. Let's face it: the overwhelming majority of cavers are white, and most of them (not all - most) are male.

Are we worried about this? Should we be? And if we are, should we be trying to change things?

Caving is an activity which at first sight has little to recommend it.
Not many people take it up, obviously fewer do it more than once and even fewer carry on year after year.  There will be many reasons for this.
Is it sensible to assume that people of different ethnicity, gender, upbringing and so on all attach the same importance to all these reasons?
In an ideal world everyone would have the same opportunities to become (or not) a caver.
But just playing the numbers game (and I’m afraid that’s what often follows a mention of “diversity”) ignores the valid reasons for people of different backgrounds wanting to do different things and does not prove that the opportunities are not there.

Offline ian.p

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I think there's an important point to be made that I think gets forgotten in the social media age, especially by the older demographic. It's all too easy to just accept the narrative that getting photos on social media is all that matters to young people it's just not the case.

At the end of the day social media is not really all that important.

Try not to gasp too loudly! I have been involved with student and children's caving groups for over a decade. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat - they might turn someones head and spark an interest and done well can help to signpost people to resources that will help to introduce them to the sport, but at the end of the day it's the people they meet and the communities they form that makes the difference. What is more, even if getting that photo on Instagram is the most important thing for 90% of the population that's not the 90% we are interested in and its not the fraction of a percent we need to create a long term caving community.

I think it's important to remember that throughout cavings history it has always attracted outsiders - those that don't fit in anywhere else and aren't really that "cool". These are the people for whom caving will become the most important part of their life, these will be the life long devotees and these are the children who will use that lifeline to survive their adolescence if they are thrown it.

We need to have a much broader discussion then just how to use social media if we really want to improve our sport for young people.

Things that really make a difference to youth caving:

-Scout leaders taking young people caving.

-Groups of like minded adults who think its important young people can access sports like caving setting up clubs (EECC /FSC) or groups within clubs (like the UWFRA outdoor club) that are geared towards taking young people caving.

-National and regional bodies taking clear and proactive stances in support of developing caving for children. The ongoing debacle with the Charterhouse caving company is a national disgrace.

Things that make a difference to student caving:

-If you are involved in a student caving club and you want it to grow think first about how you build your community. Create spaces for those people who want to be involved in your club but aren't stoked about getting boozed all the time. In ULSA we started having soup kitchens before training evenings. Some cavers raid the local supermarket bins a day or two before, it all gets cooked up, everyone piles round someones kitchen / front room has a good feed, natter and a catch up and it helps create a space where quieter folk and those that dont drink can come out of their shells at their own pace. I remember when I was a student SUSS had Sunday roasts and I think SUSS currently has regular film nights. If you have a community the caving will follow.

- Do not be elitist, only discriminate based on enthusiasm!
 
- If you've just graduated, stick around, don't move home and definitely don't get a proper job! They need you - just try and remember that the next years worth of students will have to reinvent the wheel. They will probably just resent it if you insist on telling them its round and goes on the end of an axle. You will fail at this because its to frustrating not to try but they do just need to f£ck things up themselves the same way you did a year or two ago... stick around anyway you're probably the only one with a car.

Now if only i could get this post down to 280 characters then it would make a real impact....

 
 

Offline PeteHall

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even if getting that photo on Instagram is the most important thing for 90% of the population that's not the 90% we are interested in and its not the fraction of a percent we need to create a long term caving community.

I think it's important to remember that throughout cavings history it has always attracted outsiders - those that don't fit in anywhere else and aren't really that "cool". These are the people for whom caving will become the most important part of their life, these will be the life long devotees and these are the children who will use that lifeline to survive their adolescence if they are thrown it.

We need to have a much broader discussion then just how to use social media if we really want to improve our sport for young people.

This is precisely what I was trying to say in my earlier post. Thank you for articulating it so much better!
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Offline kay

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why not just join a student caving club

Because more than 50% of the population do not go to university (and many of those who do go to "former polytechnics" who don't tend to have caving clubs).

If you're serious about increasing the attraction to young people, increasing diversity etc, you need to look beyond the conventional "university caving club" answer.

Offline nobrotson

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you don't have to be a student to join ULSA. We've had quite a few non-students join over the years, quite a few of whom have stuck with caving (and even gone on to join other non-student clubs). As for the more vocational universities, we try to recruit from Leeds Beckett and Leeds College of Art each year as well. Beckett have limited amounts of space at the freshers fair so its always a bit tricky but definitely worth trying to do. SUSS is another example of a student club which recruits from multiple universities and also has had success recruiting non-students.

Whilst student caving clubs might not always be the best way to attract young people to caving, right now they are probably the single best vehicle for introducing new people to the sport. Yes, there should be other things available. But realistically right now there aren't. What do you suggest as an alternative pathway for young adults to become involved in caving? I don't see many of the conventional clubs successfully attracting any young cavers. Unless those young cavers were formally members of a university club...
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Offline Goydenman

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you don't have to be a student to join ULSA. We've had quite a few non-students join over the years, quite a few of whom have stuck with caving (and even gone on to join other non-student clubs). As for the more vocational universities, we try to recruit from Leeds Beckett and Leeds College of Art each year as well. Beckett have limited amounts of space at the freshers fair so its always a bit tricky but definitely worth trying to do. SUSS is another example of a student club which recruits from multiple universities and also has had success recruiting non-students.

Whilst student caving clubs might not always be the best way to attract young people to caving, right now they are probably the single best vehicle for introducing new people to the sport. Yes, there should be other things available....

Didn’t know ULSA and SUSS recruit non-students that’s good to know about...well done

Offline andrewmc

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Unless those young cavers were formally members of a university club...

Ignoring the fact that many university clubs have strict limits on non-students of their particularly University (yes I know there are exceptions, but for example Exeter aren't even allowed to have alumni members officially), what would make a student club any better than a 'conventional' caving club at taking U18s caving (or are you not talking about U18s)?

I used to be in a fencing club and did get an (extremely basic) coaching qualification. It was, I believe, a rule of the national governing body that you _must_ be CRB (now DBS) checked to operate as a fencing coach in any fencing club in the country affiliated to the NGB (which would be virtually all of them). This wasn't, in practice, a problem since the NGB did a lot of the work in helping clubs get the relevant boxes ticked off for child protection (it might even have been a requirement) and applying for a CRB check was easy and free (as a volunteer) through the NGB. Again, this all made sense since virtually every fencing club in the country has kids there who get dropped off by their parents and picked up two hours later (or whatever). I had to get CRB checked once to help volunteer at the UK School Games (I was doing computing things).

I assume most other sports operate in a similar fashion, probably including kids climbing clubs. Caving is, of course, not a sport...

Are there _any_ clubs in the country that have ticked all the relevant boxes to take U18s caving without parental or loco parentis supervision? There must be some, surely...

Of course, the _real_ problem with doing this is getting the volunteers with the sufficient experience or competence (LCMLA level 1 would be a good box to have ticked) who actually want to take kids caving every Tuesday evening for 2/3 hours...

Offline ian.p

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Ignoring the fact that many university clubs have strict limits on non-students of their particularly University (yes I know there are exceptions, but for example Exeter aren't even allowed to have alumni members officially), what would make a student club any better than a 'conventional' caving club at taking U18s caving (or are you not talking about U18s)?

There are ways around this sort of problem. At Leeds we actually have two clubs Leeds University Union Caving society (LUUCaS) and the University of Leeds Speleological Association. LUUCaS functions as the student wing of ULSA is part of the students union and receives the associated grants etc. ULSA has nothing to do with the uni apart from its name so we can have whoever we like in the club and the constitution states that members of LUUCaS are automatically members of ULSA. Rules are there to be got around, anyone with enough imagination and the will can find ways to include whatever demographics they want in there club worst case scenario don't make them join just go caving with them anyway!

Quote
Of course, the _real_ problem with doing this is getting the volunteers with the sufficient experience or competence (LCMLA level 1 would be a good box to have ticked) who actually want to take kids caving every Tuesday evening for 2/3 hours...

Yes this is the hard bit but its not as onerous as you think. Take LCMLA competency in FSC we have a number of people who do have LCMLA level 1 training and/or certification which mostly ticks a box for our insurance and helps us to ensure that our curent practice is inline with current good practice. The majority of our staff volunteers who assist with the running of caving camps do not have formal qualification but we have an internal processes that makes sure suitably experienced leaders take suitably capable children to appropriate caves, it works extremely well. There is no legal requirement for volunteers (or professional's for that matter) to be qualified in order to take children caving. What matters is that you can show you have taken sensible steps to ensure the safety of the children in your care and actually exactly the same duties of care apply to you if you are undertaking to take novice adults underground as a more experienced caver you are expected to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of those involved.

BCA public liability insurance covers adults taking children caving, Education in the Environment Caving Club (EECC) has used it for years. organisations like the scouts and FSC that undertake other activities and have large non caving memberships cant use it because of the requirement that all members of a club take out cover but for caving specific childrens clubs its an excellent potential resource.
 
Having a child protection policy in place if you are going to provide an activity for children is important but it doesn't actually have to require DBS checks especially not if you aren't providing a residential stay. Again you just need to have sensibly thought out common sense processes that to ensure the safety of the children in your care DBS can form part of this (and volunteer DBS checks are still free) but they aren't the only and shouldn't be the only solution to creating a safe environment for children.   

Offline PeteHall

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Of course, the _real_ problem with doing this is getting the volunteers with the sufficient experience or competence (LCMLA level 1 would be a good box to have ticked) who actually want to take kids caving every Tuesday evening for 2/3 hours...

Is it the real problem?

Do we really think the way forward is to have kids being taken caving by volunteers every Tuesday evening for 2-3 hours? Personally, I think not.

Is there any caving region in the country (or world for that matter) where parents could drop their kids off at the club hut and where there are sufficient kid-friendly caves within range for a different trip every week? It wouldn't be much of a caving club if they went to the same cave week after week after week (mind you people kick the same ball across the same pitch week after week  :shrug: ).

In my view caving is not well suited to guided kids trips on a weekly evening basis (unless we can get the kids digging; now there's an idea!). A more appropriate approach would be caving as an occasional activity in other youth organisations, such as scouts, cadets or schools. Alternatively, what about caving during holdiday camps?

Guess what though (or ask any outdoor instructor), these things already exist and happen. There are loads of kids adventureous activities during the school holidays, or as part of school trips. And guess what else, it's generally the commercial caving (/outdoor) instructors who run these activities. EECC and FSC excepted, but again, this isn't "tuesday evening for 2-3 hours" it's occasional camps.

This isn't the real problem. Kids do what their parents/ schools give them to do and many, many kids get a go at caving, some like it, some don't.

The real problem is reaching out to young adults who are free to choose what they want to do for themselves. Translating the "been caving as a kid and enjoyed it" into becoming a caver. Like it or not, if you live in a caving region, or happen to go to a university with a caving club, this will be much easier.

Universities provide a social space where young people come together in one place, free and trusting to meet new people, new ideas and new activities. This is the perfect environment to introduce young adults to caving.

In a caving region, people will see cavers, meet cavers and hear cavers chatting in the pubs, another great environment for nurturing an interest. I recall getting a funny look off a young bloke in the pub on the edge of Mendip once; we were covered in mud after digging, he asked what we'd been up to, said he'd been caving as a kid and next thing we knew, he'd joined the club and was a regular on the digging team as well as sporting trips in the area and further afield.

For those outside a caving region, or university environment, I guess the internet is the next best thing and I guess the debate here is really about how best to use the internet to reach out to potential cavers and that is basically what the PR students were trying to do.
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Offline nobrotson

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The real problem is reaching out to young adults who are free to choose what they want to do for themselves. Translating the "been caving as a kid and enjoyed it" into becoming a caver. Like it or not, if you live in a caving region, or happen to go to a university with a caving club, this will be much easier.

Universities provide a social space where young people come together in one place, free and trusting to meet new people, new ideas and new activities. This is the perfect environment to introduce young adults to caving.

In a caving region, people will see cavers, meet cavers and hear cavers chatting in the pubs, another great environment for nurturing an interest. I recall getting a funny look off a young bloke in the pub on the edge of Mendip once; we were covered in mud after digging, he asked what we'd been up to, said he'd been caving as a kid and next thing we knew, he'd joined the club and was a regular on the digging team as well as sporting trips in the area and further afield.

For those outside a caving region, or university environment, I guess the internet is the next best thing and I guess the debate here is really about how best to use the internet to reach out to potential cavers and that is basically what the PR students were trying to do.

Spot on. Peachey's comment earlier about not being elitist is key to involving young adults who are not at university, and I feel that this attitude is very strong amongst student cavers.

People outside of caving regions that want to start definitely have it more difficult these days than they might have done 30 years ago. My parents were in a caving club based in Northamptonshire in the late 80s and early 90s (before I was born), and despite the distance to caving regions for them at its peak the club had a lot of experienced cavers and was actively caving at least once a month. The club had people with a range of ages and professions, but was primarily working people who hadn't been to university. My parents were exceptions to this, having both been to university. I don't really know the exact reasons that it was easier for them to do this in their 20s and 30s than it is today. Maybe understanding this is a way toward getting young people outside of caving regions involved again?
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Offline Cap'n Chris

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Guess what though (or ask any outdoor instructor), these things already exist and happen. There are loads of kids adventureous activities during the school holidays, or as part of school trips. And guess what else, it's generally the commercial caving (/outdoor) instructors who run these activities.

Pete is correct, I believe.

Everyone can stop worrying. There is PLENTY of under 18s caving occurring in this nation; masses of it.

However, in many instances if a young participant wants to progress and take things further in a structured way there is little on offer for them - exceptions being the Scouts and similar bodies. Clubs by and large are not seeking unaccompanied under 18s, and even if they were they would probably not be equipped to emulate, free of charge, the professional sector, which I guess most of their potentially concerned parents would expect, furthermore BCA's own Youth and Development had hitherto appeared to be focused on CHECC (which is adult, 18+, by definition) although I understand there are very significant good moves being made with regard to under 18s; all of this is unsurprising considering BCA and Regional Councils are mostly comprised of (and focus their attention on) caving clubs, and British Caving Clubs are historically pub-centric groups and that doesn't really help. Many European organisations are not like this.

Caving is not under threat by a demographic transition, as stated in previous comment(s), it will continue to exist, but in a different manner so perhaps a way forward is to seek a visionary future for caving rather than hand-wringing about how things can be made to repeat golden decades from another century. The framework organisational bodies are under threat, for sure, though, and the alarm bells have been ringing loudly for more years than I care to recall; the surprise is that they are only appearing to be heard now.
« Last Edit: December 16, 2018, 06:49:52 pm by Cap'n Chris »