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Our Ambassadors

Here to help us communicate the many benefits of coaching

Great coaching happens around us every day, in many different settings. Our Coaching Ambassadors use their passion and skills to influence and help others recognise the enormous benefits great coaching has on people’s lives across the UK.

Meet the people who are helping us to raise the profile of great coaching:

Anna Jackson

“The better coaches are the ones who see coaching as a whole package,” says former British wheelchair basketball player, Anna Jackson, “it’s not just about the sport on the court or the pitch; it’s about bigger things.” 

Anna knows only too well what those ‘bigger things’ can entail. From playing and coaching hockey; to disabling leg injuries; to experiencing depression; to falling in love with wheelchair basketball; to playing for Great Britain; to becoming head coach of Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club, Anna’s sporting journey has been quite the rollercoaster.

A passion for coaching and playing hockey developed through school and into her university years, but knee problems, which started as a teenager, brought everything to a halt. Extensive cartilage damage meant several surgeries, and although Anna’s right leg recovered, her left didn’t fare so well. Constant pain and muscle malfunction meant she was unable to stand for any length of time or run anymore.

But then she discovered wheelchair basketball and within six months was called up to compete for Great Britain at the 1998 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Sydney. What followed was a ten year tenure with the British Wheelchair Basketball team – winning 70 caps, several medals and the right to represent ParalympicsGB at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

“I remember my first session, I turned up not knowing anything about basketball, but I got in a chair and just loved it straight away. I didn’t have to worry about my legs, I could just play sport. “I still find it incredible that I was out there competing for Great Britain at the Paralympics. When I see my kit it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The attitude [towards disability sport] in Australia was miles ahead of where we were then. They were filling the stadiums for every game, and as an athlete wherever you went you were getting mobbed for autographs,” said Anna.

Eventually the toll of travelling around the world for competitions, relentless training commitments and a body that was taking longer to recover, influenced Anna’s decision to retire from international wheelchair basketball. Having coached a little whilst playing for Great Britain, she then turned to clubs local to her base in Chester in order to hone her craft.

As head coach of Phoenix, it’s probably the first time I’ve thought ‘right this is what I wanted to do’. It’s about everybody getting involved, everybody enjoying it and performing to the best of their ability

“There are two players at the club whose lives have massively changed in the last 12 months, from not going out much, not doing a lot, really struggling with their mental health, to now going out, training and trying other disability sports. Their confidence, not just on a basketball court, has changed massively, and that’s so satisfying. Sometimes that’s the bit some coaches forget, that you can have that impact off the court.

“It’s just about showing players some belief and helping them through that journey; you can give them the confidence they can take through to anything,” said Anna.

Recently, Anna has been named as the assistant coach to the Wales U19 team and runs a very successful women’s team called Angels of the North. She is also a mental health first aider and is studying at Cheshire College South and West for a Level 1 Award in British Sign Language.

As an ambassador, Anna wants to help shape the future of coaching by getting involved in coach development and tutor roles.

Charm Daley

Charmaine Daley is a Nottingham based Zumba® coach, who has an infectious zest for life. But she wasn’t always this way. Throughout her 30s, Charm was made redundant three times, something she took incredibly personally.

With two young children, Charm and her partner were struggling to pay the bills, and at the same time, she was battling against post-natal depression, actively seeking psychiatric help and using anti-depressants to cope with, as she frankly puts it, ‘hating herself’.

 “I was quite down in the dumps about myself and had put on a lot of weight as well through pregnancy. I had some psychiatric help which was quite a big wow for me because that’s when I realised that it had hit the fan. I’d always been in to dance and then somebody said to me about trying Zumba®.” 

After deliberating for nine months about whether to attend a Zumba® class, Charm threw caution to the wind and went along to a session. At the class, Charm experienced what she calls her ‘light bulb’ moment. As she looked around she saw women of all shapes, sizes and abilities having a great time exercising.

Not only was I happy, but for the first time in a long time I laughed. Proper belly-laughed. I felt like I just found me all over again. There was that part of me that had been dormant for years and I felt like I’d found that piece of me I didn’t know how to retrieve back.

Following the class, Charm went home ‘absolutely buzzing’, and feeling empowered to exercise decided to use the rest of her redundancy money to retrain as a Zumba® instructor, she has now coached Zumba® in Nottingham for the past six years, losing three and a half stone and gaining a renewed sense of confidence and feeling about herself.

“I realised the benefits it had given me, raising my confidence and increasing my self-esteem. I just felt happier about myself. What I wanted to do was go on and inspire other women, who were perhaps in that same place and [say to them that] actually, exercise is relevant and here is your licence to be able to go and do that in a safe place that’s empowering, non-judgemental, warm and welcoming. I just find that what I do is a real privilege because there are so many women who come to my classes that are in a similar place to where I was when I first started and it’s a treat to see them just unfold in front of me. The expressions on their faces it’s almost like they can’t quite believe they are doing what they are doing.”

Quinton "Q" Shillingford

Q is a former national boxing champion; served his country as a member of the Royal Navy; is a current Great Britain Performance Coach and England Boxing Talent Development Coach, and, as anyone who knows him will happily testify, can talk for England too. To those whose lives he has transformed, he is also a national treasure.

His boxing academy - which is a community enterprise - continues to grow year on year, running seven days a week and catering for every ability level and all age groups (from six to 62).

Wherever Q is working, and whoever he is working with from one day to the next, the profound and varied benefits of boxing are always clearly discernible.

"Luckily sport steered me away from the street and the street didn’t get hold of me like it did some of my friends, but I also learned that everyone has a lovely kid in them,’ adds Q.

The first thing he does with those who haven’t been as lucky as he has been in discovering a positive role model and a love of sport is to put himself in that person’s shoes. He says he understands the mindset of individuals who feel shunned by their own communities and in desperate need of a second chance in life.

"Say someone has gone to prison for robbery. The whole street where they live knows that they robbed a house and has served a jail sentence. So no one trusts them when they get out. They can’t get a job because the area they live is so small everyone knows their story. People will be talking behind their back.

"Ex-prisoners can come into our gym and they are not judged, whatever they have done. We’ve had ex-inmates on a probation course who have worked their way through the awards and tutor courses so that they have no reason to sit at home and get frustrated, no reason to roam the streets with their old street gang – they can come here."

Having operated on both sides of the ropes, Q has seen the tremendous impact boxing has on people’s lives, and compares boxing coaches to youth workers.

The way we keep kids off the street is unreal. We’ve got some real hard to reach kids in our gym. I was the same. I see a lot of kids and I think 'I know exactly where you’re coming from'. I know for a fact that sport can change lives because it’s changed my life.

"Coaching is a passion and has given me the platform to have an enjoyable career and to make a difference to the people in the community with similar backgrounds to myself."

Q has produced champions in the ring, but an even longer line of champions out of the ring by helping those he has coached lead successful lives they can be proud of.

Wendy Russell

Wendy started playing football at primary school when she was 11 and was advised she would make a great hockey goalkeeper.

“But then I got run over by a car, had some time out, then got told I had arthritis in my hip, and the doctors told me I wasn’t allowed to play sport again.”

“Even at that age, I wanted to be a PE teacher so that was gutting to hear.”

Wendy didn’t play any more sport during her early teenage years, and it looked like the recommendation of the medical professionals had won the day.

But proving people wrong is Wendy’s speciality, and throughout her hiatus, she would regularly rekindle memories of matches and remember the fun she had in her PE lessons at primary school with her favourite teacher, Mrs Chisholm.

“Mrs Chisholm was a brilliant teacher,’ says Wendy, ‘So I had a very good experience at a young age, which spurred me on to want to become a PE teacher. 

I think that grassroots coaches and teachers are the most important people when it comes to fostering and inspiring people to want to get involved in sport, and keep a smile on their faces when taking part.

“I was contemplating what other careers I might want to get into but I didn’t feel anywhere near as passionate about them compared to being a PE teacher, and it was still in the back of my mind.

“When I got to choose my A levels, I chose PE and joined my local hockey team. 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. 

“I set up a deaf hockey club, to create that safe environment so young people feel nurtured and can build their focus, confidence and self-esteem. From my past experience with other coaches, I know they feel very daunted about joining a non-disabled club. My club provides them with that stepping stone.

“It isn’t surprising deaf people don’t feel comfortable going out into hearing clubs as even able-bodied people, when they turn up as novices, are generally quite nervous. Young people are very good at understanding and accepting other people, but they don’t necessarily know how to interact with someone who is deaf.

“I researched what was out there and was shocked that, firstly, there was no other provision for people deaf or hard of hearing to play hockey and, secondly, how limited sporting opportunities in general are for them. They can do either football or cricket, but, basically, you are expected to go along to a normal hearing club, and they will provide for you.”

The fledgling club she set up continues to grow steadily and has caught the attention of disability charities nationwide. The publicity she received escalated after she devised 40 of her own unique set of sign language signs specific to hockey.

Currently, Wendy is looking to get disability awareness training into all level one and two coaching courses – regardless of the sport – so that every coach feels comfortable and supported when they coach someone who has a disability. And more importantly, so that participants have the support to enable them to take part in physical activity and sport.

Pioneer, workhorse, motivator, altruistic and driven, Wendy Russell is a role model for coaches in this country and an inspiration to those wanting to either begin a career or further their career in the industry.

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