We in the minigolf family recognize the importance of grassroot participation in sports. For our clubs they are the bread and butter of our activities. Many clubs and national federations are already actively working on inclusion with various groups, i.e. children or people with different abilities.
When the WMF was approached by TAFISA (The Association for International Sports for All) to take part in an EU-sponsored project together with several other European sport federations it was therefore an easy decision to accept. The project - "International and European Sport Organisations Activate Citizens – INTERACT" - aims to increase grassroot participation and the principles of "Sport for All". The INTERACT project hopes to achieve that by means of an online platform of good practices, a Sport for All toolkit, and eventually a new multisport event. For our part, the WMF was tasked with the first part of the project, which was to build an online database of international and European sport organisations.
The WMF reached out to Verners Kiršs (Latvia) and Marcus Larinen (Sweden) to work on this project. Both agreed, quite enthusiastically, and have put in many hours of work the last few months to build and complete the database. They presented their outpout to the project partners at an online meeting and could present a database with nearly 500 individual organisations including contact data.
Let's hear what Verners and Marcus have to say themselves!
Verners Kiršs, Latvia
My name is Verners Kiršs and I live in Liepāja, Latvia. Someone named me as a Godfather of Latvian minigolf - maybe there is some truth in this saying. I really have a very rich, wide and different experience in minigolf sports since 1991. At that time I together with some friends built the first minigolf course in my native city – Liepāja. After the course was installed we immediately organized the first minigolf tournament in Liepāja. All this process resulted in the establishment of Liepaja Minigolf Club and I was elected as a President of the Club. In the middle of the 90-ties when the Latvian minigolf entered into international arena I was one of the players of the Latvian National Team. In 1999 I became a Head Coach of the Latvian National Junior Team which resulted in my election to the WMF Youth Committee in 2005. I am still a member of this committee and enjoy working with an international team for our youth. In 2003 I became Head Coach of the Latvian National Team and since 2015 I am the General Manager of the Latvian National Teams. All this time I have been involved in the organization of minigolf sports in Latvia being a Board Member in the Latvia Minigolf Clubs Association (LMCA). Nowadays I am the Sports Director of LMCA. Furthermore I am also one of the licensed WMF International Referees. I have been refereeing at many WMF International Top events – at several International Youth Championships (2011–2018), at European Championships (2016) and World Championships (2019). Last year I was elected to the new established Development Committee of WMF. In 2019 our Liepaja Minigolf Club in co-operation with Latvia Minigolf Clubs Association had the great honour to organize an unforgettable event in Liepaja – the Youth European Championships. I was the Head of Organizing Committee of the Championships and hosted 55 boys and 24 girls with their entourage in Liepāja.
The involvement in the TAFISA Interact Project gives me personally a new and very valuable experience. Our WMF team had an interesting and challenging task - to find different (both International and European) Sports Organization (Federations, Associations, Unions, etc.) and create a database. Honestly speaking it was not an easy task, it took us much more time as we expected at the beginning but on the other hand it was such an interesting and exciting work for me and my Swedish colleague Marcus Larinen. I could never have imagined before that there are so many different sports with international organizations. One of my tasks was to find the organizations for different ball sports and I can tell you I discovered quite many ball sports which were totally unknown to me.
Marcus Larinen, Sweden
My name is Marcus Larinen and I'm from Sweden. My involvement in minigolf doesn't stretch back more than fifteen years. I was introduced to it by one of my closest friends who had managed to amass quite a number of national and international medals, Jenny Erlandsson. Unlike hers, my own skills has always been mediocre at best but I still enjoy the game. Despite that I think that many international players recognize me. I've been working at several international championships - those of you who were there might recall me struggling with the Chinese names when I was the speaker at the World Championships in Zhouzhuang. My first experience with championship at that level was way back in 2011 in Stockholm. I enjoy being behind the scenes at events like these more than I ever would playing them. The people you meet and the tasks you are assigned, the problems you have to solve along the way and the satisfaction you get when players and spectators alike enjoy the shows all makes it so rewarding and fullfilling. After Zhouzhuang I was approached by the WMF who asked if I wanted to chair the Sports for All committee. I "only" have ten or so board and committee assignments for other organisations (including sports, politics and much more), so I thought why not. I hope for the committee to be a factor in spreading of grassroot participation in our sport.
That's why I also didn't hesitate when the Secretary General of WMF asked me to take part in the TAFISA project. It sounded very exciting and taking part in it has certainly delivered every bit excitement I could have hoped for. Apart from our assigned intellectual output, the database, it has been an opportunity to learn so much about other sports and to network with our colleagues in various other sport federations. The personal connections and the networking we have done so far has given me new insights into how things can be done, what the WMF is doing good and what we can do better. I also think that our friends have had their eyes opened for our sport, and that could lead to the inclusion of minigolf in future multi-sport events. My fifteen years in the sport has been one heck of a journey, and with the TAFISA project I feel like the journey has just begun. I am looking forward to what the future will bring - not only for me but for the WMF and for minigolf.
The project will run until December 2022, and eventhough the WMF has produced it's intellectual outpout for the project, we will assist our partners where it is needed and try and bring our experiences and our knowledge to the table.