As a teenager, I would have loved to have skipped school and bunked off to the races. Sadly I wasn’t resourceful enough to enact a workable plan.
But for the past few years, the Racing To School charitable programme has been helping tens of thousands of pupils to break free of the classroom and experience a day at the races. Of course they haven’t been allowed to bet because the teachers come too – which wasn’t part of my school-age dream. They also have to carry out proper school work, finding practical ways to apply the subjects they’re taught as part of the National Curriculum.
Next Tuesday, at Kelso races, we’re assisting a mass break-out for about 150 kids to take part in a new project which we’re calling Racing To Work. The intention is to unveil to the teenagers the opportunities that exist for a career, not just in racing, but involving any pastime about which students feel passionate.
Prior to taking my O’ Levels, I didn’t want to be a racecourse manager, I wanted to be a jockey. I had no idea that I’d have to starve, drive thousands of miles, get up early every day, risk breaking my bones and that I probably wouldn’t be good enough anyway. It wasn’t until I was 16 that I discovered that there could be other careers that would allow me to remain close to the sport that I loved.
For every child that wants to be a rock star (if children want to be rock stars anymore), there will be a hundred that can work in studios, concert venues and offices in roles ranging from sound engineers and electricians to booking agents and public relations. Only a lucky few will make the right sort of noise, at the right moment, to make a living by playing music, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get a lot of satisfaction from being involved.
And for every child that wishes they could be a professional sportsman, there will be a hundred that can get a lot of fun by working in organisations that are necessary to the staging of sport – whether they be tradesman, caterers, managers or accountants. The good thing is that students don’t even need a lot of Brainpower (the name of this weekend’s selection at Haydock), just a bit of imagination.
The students attending Kelso races will participate in activities involving horse care, riding-simulators called equisizers, hospitality and social media as well as watching a bit of racing.
Career satisfaction is not all about working hours, pensions and employee benefits – despite what you might read in the media regarding racing’s current staff crisis. There is a lot to be said for working in an environment that you enjoy – that holds your attention, attracts like-minded colleagues, has moments of fun and much longer periods of contentment.
A career in racing can offer all of that. And it’s never boring.