• Alison Hodge
    There is plenty of discussion in the media (unsurprisingly at present) about young people becoming involved in sports activities, including the ways to spot and support talent, and aid progression to higher levels of achievement:

    - limited training facilities - long distances to travel (including international) and limited capacity
    - shortage of trainers and coaches
    - costs of coaching / training
    - costs of special equipment / clothing, especially while children are still growing
    - pressure of school work / teachers
    - major career decisions at a very young age
    - disproportionate emphasis on "popular" sports, rather than minority sports
    - some sponsorships - but there are funding gaps
    - conflicts with family life, parents' jobs, siblings with different interests
    - time commitment for those directly involved but also parents and families
    Costs are being emphasised in the discussions - there were estimates quoted of the costs amounting to many £thousands and even £10s thousands!

    So, how does this compare with ringing? Has anyone estimated costs of training young ringers to the level of those in the National Youth Competition a few weeks ago, for example?
  • John Harrison
    How are you defining costs? In the context of cost being a barrier to progression in sport I think it would be interpreted as cost to the individual or family, for example buying equipment. in ringing there are hardly any such costs. The most notable would be the cost of transport to events, but while I am sure lack of transport limits some ringers I suspect it's not the monetary cost so much as th time cost.
    The tuition costs, which would be born by the family of a child learning a sport are invisible in ringing because they are invariably born by the teacher and supporters as opportunity costs, which get overlooked when counting cash that changes hands.
    In short, I think it would require great care to do a meaningful financial comparison between ringing and sport. You would need to take in many other factors and try to find valid equivalences.
    And sadly, any valid lessons to emerge from such an analysis would probably fall on deaf ears because 'ringing is different' and 'ringing isn't like sport', and unlike in the real world, ringers don't like to talk about money and ringing in thee same sentence.
  • Tristan Lockheart

    Bellringing is traditionally run on a shoestring. Pretty much everything we need to pay for, bar major repairs, is covered by tower donations from visiting groups, practice donations, wedding fees and the church (incidentally, perhaps the "going-rate" for all sorts of donations needs reviewing - materials for repairs are much dearer, but I doubt fees and donations have increased in the interim). Perhaps we ought to check our reliance on the church to subsidise the exercise - it's £170 for a peal at one private tower currently!

    As @John Harrison mentioned, time cost is the big cost, and is often overlooked. From my perspective as a learner, I really need two practice nights a week, and general practices tended to be a bit of a waste when it was one go at rounds, then sitting on the side for the remaining 1hr20. Even in London, finding a tower where I can actually progress means travelling quite far - a good practice could get me travelling on three buses to my destination, costing me money for the fares and time (I can easily spend 2-4 hours just on travelling to a practice). I could go to the tower at the end of my road, except it is silent now. This is a barrier to progression - young people in particular are reliant on public transport or lifts from others, which means any sort of distance incurs time and monetary cost penalties. People have other things going on in their lives, and taking out an entire evening multiple times a week is not going to happen.

    From my perspective as treasurer, I really want to send some of our members on ART courses so they can lead and teach handling. The course tailored to university societies is in Bristol this year (so further away from most university societies than, say, Birmingham), and train fares + accommodation + course fees take it up to a cost of over £120 per person. I can only afford to send one person, but we rather keenly need to send two. Therefore, the cost stunts both the number of people able to teach and keep the society afloat, and the skills of our ringers who could go out to make very fine leaders wherever they settle after university.

    From my perspective as a tower officer and a service planner, the time burden is also on the teachers and leaders. The first type is the Respected Leader. They become known for being the person who always steps up and is good at what they do. They train up people, act as tower captain, become a district officer, try and set up clustering, fill in last minute at peals and weddings, etc. They carry too heavy a burden, such that they burn out due to the emotional, time, and monetary costs, causing the numerous responsibilities they hold to fall by the wayside. The second is the Firefighter. They are filling in all over the place because there is no-one else to take their roles on. Their cost is that they're too stuck with just trying their best to resolve immediate crises, with the opportunity cost of their own development, and maximising their time.

    Overall, I'm not sure that quantifying the cost of providing tuition is helpful in itself, but we do need to identify where we can cut the costs of taking up ringing, cut the costs of providing ringing locally, and optimise the use of our money to provide facilities and trained leaders which improve the cost:benefit ratio of both providing and undergoing teaching.
  • John Harrison
    as a learner, I really need two practice nights a week, and general practices tended to be a bit of a waste when it was one go at rounds,Tristan Lockheart

    That's a good example of the inefficiency of the way people develop as ringers compared with many other skilled activities. One way to increase the efficiency, and potentially reducing the participant cost, would be the much more widespread use of simulators. That requires some investment and a culture change, but the payback is considerable in terms of the practice hours that can be provided per trainee hour, per week at a location, and per unit supporting effort.
  • John de Overa
    I couldn't agree more. I run a 1 hour learner's simulator session each week, currently I have 1 person at that session, at a pinch I'd consider 2. My aim is to get them to the stage where they can ring unassisted at regular practices as quickly as possible, rather than having multiple learners sat out and getting bored and the existing ringers spending all their time ringing for them. It seems to have worked well - they were ringing unassisted at the 3rd regular practice they went to, their striking & bell control is pretty good and In the individual sessions we are now at the stage where it's "That wasn't right, what am I doing wrong?" rather than me having to tell them. And that's with a retired learner. I think concentrated training is probably the best way to teach what is primarily a physical skill, and prevent learners getting frustrated with slow progress and giving up.
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