Ever since I can remember, sport has always been a big part of my life. From the muddy, wet cross-country fields of Warwickshire to the hockey pitches of Worcestershire and the rowing lakes at Holme Pierrepoint and Strathclyde, sport has played a prominent role in defining who I am and what I care about. I always knew that I wanted to work 'in sport', hence taking PE as an A-Level option on route to studying Sports Science at the University of Birmingham. (Little did I know that I would return nearly 20 years later for my PhD studies!) It was during my time as an undergraduate student that I decided that my career path just had to take me into sports development.
Once I graduated, I turned my attention to finding my dream job. In the days before the internet and email (sadly revealing my age here I am guessing), I keenly awaited the post each Monday and would tear open my weekly mailing from the Institute of Leisure and Amenity Management that included printed adverts for all the available sport and leisure industry jobs. Each week I completed the painstaking task of phoning up and requesting application packs; awaiting their arrival; completing the application forms by hand; before returning it by post before the closing date; then waiting for any response.
I applied for anything and everything vaguely related to my career of choice...and it was tough. Dealing with a mixture of no response, straight rejection and invitation to interview. I remember trekking all over the country for interviews before finally landing my dream role as Assistant Youth Sports Development Officer for Wyre Forest District Council. I was unbelievably excited to be starting my first 'proper' job in sport. I had an awesome boss (thanks Lesley) and loved the buzz of working in a great team. My role was varied and exciting, with a big part of my job developing sports coaching programmes with local schools and clubs. It was absolutely worth the huge effort it had taken to secure it, and it was everything I hoped that my 'dream job' would be. One particular visit to a small primary school in the District during my first few months in the job made a big impression on me and its impact has remained with me to this day.
I remember walking into the hall at this particular school and seeing a wall full of pictures drawn by every child. In the middle of the wall were the words in the image below...
Every picture represented the dreams of each child and had been stuck on the walls just out of reach of the tallest child. A firm, yet subtle message to me that dreams would often not be achieved easily and would require commitment, effort and passion to realise. I instantly fell in love with these words and this image, and this one moment in time became, what I now realise to be, a defining moment not just in terms of my career, but also my life.
This phrase has stuck with me as I have developed, grown and learned. Both personally and professionally this has, throughout the ensuing years, formed a core pillar of my value and belief system. I genuinely and fundamentally believe that great people make amazing things happen, yet sometimes individuals and organisations need a little help in determining what they really want to achieve and how to chase their own dreams. Dreams need active chasing, by the way...it is not always enough just to follow them and hope for the best!
So whether you are a young person unsure about what steps to take beyond school; an individual looking for the next step on your career path; an athlete contemplating your future beyond competition; a corporate executive wondering what life will hold after retirement; a small business or start-up thinking about growing your customer base; or an organisation needing help to define your future vision and strategy...my purpose is to support you to identify, reach for and achieve your dreams. Actively, dynamically and purposefully.
This, then, is what it really means to be a...