Amina is a single mother of seven children. She has shared her story with UK Coaching so that coaches and national governing bodies of sport can start to think differently about people who are managing on low-incomes and want to access sport and physical activity.
“Esau is my youngest child of 7 and is good at gymnastics. He started doing this in an after-school club and after a couple of months the coach said, ‘he’s too good for here, take him to a sports centre’ which I did.
"The cost for this was a lot. I got 20% discount with a council discount card and I got no shopping that week but I managed to pay for the term’s fees by putting aside a bit of money each week.
"A few months later I was asked to take him to a sports centre at 8.30 on a Sunday morning. He didn’t do too badly and when the day was done I was shocked to find he had come third. I didn’t even know it was a competition! Wow, my son was doing really well at gymnastics! Then his coach told me he needs to go to a bigger club; ‘he needs more than we have for him here’.
"So off she sends us - I’m just thinking, wow one class, now he needs to go to two classes and now he needs leotards. One class was £30 a month, then 2 classes £40 plus. Leotard was £32, shorts £20. Insurance was £60 a year at first, then went up to £100 a year when he started training for competitions. Once he reached the Elite level it went up to £72 a month for 12 hours a week and a whole new set of leotards and shorts and every new competition required a new set of leotards and shorts. The newer club is on the other side of town. I travelled with Esau on the bus after school but had to get a taxi home as it was late - £31 a week in taxi fares and £15 a week for a weekly rider on the bus. It was bad enough when I was told he needed an extra class and what the cost would be; I sat down and cried. How am I going to do that? Then thank God because the bus fares had been lowered and the savings of the bus fare would pay for the extra class.
"My life went out the window. No new clothes, didn’t go out, shopping went down. I had to make things stretch. Lucky for me, I know how to get 3 meals out of one chicken; a roast, fried rice and soup. My other children didn’t get anything and that created a lot of sibling rivalry and stress. My older daughter was also good at gymnastics but at the time we had no spare money to pay for her to develop so she missed out completely. I used the time waiting for Esau at gymnastics to study and get a qualification.
"Then the tumbling competitions were happening up and down the country so I had to find money for rail travel and hotels. I had to juggle my money around; I had to make big sacrifices. We had a jar on the side in the kitchen ‘Esau’s gym fund’ that friends and relatives could put money into to help pay for everything. It didn’t collect much but every little helped. Esau had a competition I just didn’t have the money for it. In the end my friend paid for the whole lot – the travel, the hotel and the entrance fee. I don’t know how I would have done it without them. When we were eating out after the competition I couldn’t afford a dessert for Esau. I asked him if he wanted one; he said no but the manager must have clocked what was going on and he brought us one over for free.
"Then there are the awards ceremonies which are expensive evenings! I like that gymnastics teaches respect, manners and pride but I had to pay for a three-piece suit for Esau as he had to represent his country and you must look well-presented because people look down on you. It was £60-£80 just for the tickets!”
Read more about Amina’s story ‘Life Beyond Your Session’, which was featured in issue 49 of Coaching Edge and includes some top tips for coaches on how to be more inclusive of those from low income backgrounds. In addition, check out our 'Spotlight on...' understanding more about engaging low-socio economic groups through coaching.
Liz Burkinshaw, Development Lead Officer - Participation, UK Coaching