Everyday Heroes: Wendy Russell
Sport-loving Wendy was always an active child, and some thought that she would make a great hockey goalkeeper. However, aged 11, Wendy got run over by a car and then discovered she had arthritis in her hip and was told to not play sport again.
Wendy’s ambition from a young age was to become a PE teacher, and despite her setbacks, she remained as motivated by this as ever due to the positive experiences that she had with her own primary school PE teacher. Wendy feels being a PE teacher has had a positive impact on her coaching and vice versa. ‘I think that grass-roots coaches and teachers are the most important people when it comes to fostering and inspiring people to want to get involved in sport.’
Despite doctors’ warnings, Wendy decided the possibility of not being able to walk at 60 due to engaging in exercise was worth it. Wendy joined a local hockey club, and her love of sport and ambition to help others took over. ‘I knew that this is what I wanted to do, to inspire other people to enjoy sport as much as I do and show people that there is a sport for everyone regardless of your ability!’
Her club at the time didn’t have a junior section so she took on the responsibility of creating one by working with the local secondary and primary schools, passing her Level 2 hockey qualification in the process, setting out to bolster both the club’s and her own personal development. More recently, through her involvement in her current club – Brighton and Hove Hockey Club – she has engaged with local primary school teachers to support and develop their confidence to deliver hockey. Wendy has also created the only deaf hockey club in the country, which involved developing 40 new signs so that she could communicate with her players while coaching. This sign language has now been nationalised so other coaches and teachers can engage with both juniors and adults who have a hearing impairment.
Wendy is passionate and enthusiastic about coaching. ‘I hope that other people out there take up coaching, it is the most enjoyable thing that I do. Every session is different, and you never know, you might enjoy it. As the saying goes, "You never know until you try it."’
When sharing some coaching nuggets that have helped her, Wendy says, ‘Always make mistakes.This is the best type of learning. Don’t settle for "That will do!"’ When talking about grass-roots coaching, she talks about the need to cater to what she terms ‘pay-to-play participants’. ‘Tailor your coaching to the group that it is front of you. I take that from teaching. Engage with your participants, find out what they like, enjoy and why they are there.’
Wendy Russell is a role model for women sports coaches in this country and an inspiration to those wanting to either begin a career or further their career in the industry, although she is rather reluctant to adopt this title. ‘People say that I am an inspirational coach, but to me, I am just doing something I love and always want to do better for my sport and players.’
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