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Future Sport Leader

On February 10th, 2017, I travelled up to ‘Hotel Football”, right outside the Manchester United Stadium, to participate in the ‘Future Sport Leaders’ event. It was organised by the Youth Sports Trust and aimed to bring together members of the BAME community (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Groups) and teach us how to be effective leaders within our schools, local communities and in the future, within sports management and governance.

Only 26 out of 601 board positions within National Sport Bodies are held by BAME individuals, that is only 4% of representatives of sport in our country. That is why projects like these are being set up, so that there is more diversity in sport communities and even more people feel welcomed and inspired to partake and lead physical activities.

The event began with an opening address from Jason Gardener – a Gold Olympic Medallist in the 2004 Olympics who is now a Youth Sport Trust Ambassador and President of UK Athletics. During the day, we also had 2 workshops: one about effective communication and the other about influencing and decision making. My group was led by Natasha Jonas (first female British boxer to enter the Olympics) who shared her story with us: she was hoping to be a professional footballer and attended St Peter’s College in America on a football scholarship for over a year, before having an accident that ended her football career. Tasha returned to England and eventually took up boxing in which she achieved great things and after retiring, she became a sport leader so she could go onto inspiring others. That was her story. She then encouraged us all to share our story with others around us.

I talked to a boy from London who had been involved with a gang and had been stabbed due to being involved with a bad crowd. He was kicked out of school and now attends an offsite school centre. He began getting involved with sport and discovered a love for rugby. Instead of being involved with crime, he chose to spend his time doing something productive and something he was passionate about and he’s now part of a team that often participate in competitions. This was only one of the stories that depicted how sport can change someone’s life. By widening the diversity in sport, we could positively affect even more individuals.

We had a keynote about leadership (drive and motivation) and about influencing that were led by Carl Konadu, who has been involved with many youth sport projects, and Francesca Brown – the CEO of the organisation ‘Goals4Girls’. They both addressed the issue about not having a role model to represent them in sport (in terms of both gender and ethnicity) and how sport changed their life for the better. As a child, Francesca suffered from depression and even attempted to take her own life. She began playing football as a way of escaping her troubles and got into the Manchester City Youth team. She got a scholarship to play football in America yet she had a bad injury that ended that dream. Later on in life, Francesca set up the project ‘Goals4Girls’ that helps girls feel accepted in sport.  Both speakers were inspirational and helped us improve skills that will make us great leaders. They told us about ‘The five essential elements to communication and influencing’ which are: preparation, connection, listening, reaching agreement and checking understanding. We were informed how these skills can be effectively used to motivate others and we practiced them when taking part in the workshops.

At the end of the day, we had to plan our next steps and what we hoped to achieve by next week, in 3 months, in a year and in 5 years. This made us really think about what we could do and how we can influence others. Overall, I think the experience was great and inspirational, that is why I wish to encourage more young people to take part in sport and rather than think of PE as only a compulsory lesson, to enjoy it. Not only does sport boost your physical well-being, it also decreases your stress level and improves your mental health: great for Year 11s facing GCSEs who need a way of relaxing.

However, I can’t do this alone; I believe more people need to get involved in sports, especially those who are willing to be leaders that can inspire and guide others so that everyone can find a sport they enjoy doing, whether it’s rugby, dance, tennis, taekwondo or any other physical activity. Not only is this aimed at people from BAME communities but anyone and everyone, as sport is a wonderful thing and you don’t have to be exhausted and sweaty after every physical activity, as there is something for everyone. It is also very much about improving your mental well-being, which is a topic broadly talked about. If you wish to take part in an activity that school doesn’t offer, ask the PE teachers if you can start a new club. Or, there are many opportunities outside of school so ask around. Please feel free to ask me about organising any new sport events as I’m willing to try out as many new sports as possible!

Marysia Matysik