StreetGames Training Academy Case Study: Vanessa Lindo - George Salter Academy, West Bromwich.

Vanessa Lindo is happy to admit she was not a model pupil at school. Far from it. Disruptive, poorly behaved, lacking in focused ambition, she was drifting towards an uncertain future. Now 21, she is a full-time sports coach loved by the participants she trains and mentors. She holds six sports coaching qualifications and - to the initial surprise of many - even takes netball sessions at her old school.

Vanessa was also named StreetGames Young Coach of the Year for 2014 in the annual StreetGames National Awards. For the young woman from West Bromwich, her real reward has been the journey which led to this point. Fighting to keep her emotions in check, she described the long road that she travelled.

“When I was in school I wasn’t the best behaved and I don’t think a lot of people expected me to make it through,” said Vanessa. “So it basically shocked everyone that I am now working at the school that I used to go to. It’s inspiring because I’m mentoring a lot of kids and I always say to them: ‘Don’t think negatively because no matter what you want to achieve, you can achieve it. You’ve just got to stay on the right path to do so.’”

“I always tell them: ‘I used to be like that and trust me, it doesn’t pay off.’ Because of me being in that position before them, I think they understand me a lot.”
Vanessa’s outlook on life changed in 2007. That was when, as a 13-year-old, she attended a StreetGames festival at her school – the George Salter Academy in West Bromwich. She soon became a regular participant at StreetGames sessions where her gift for interacting with and encouraging others was quickly noticed.

Invited to join the Co-operative StreetGames Young Volunteers (CSYV) programme, she blossomed. She attended residentials for the most enthusiastic and capable volunteers and became a StreetGames Young Advisor, helping to shape community sport sessions for others. She has gained coaching and leadership qualifications in netball, basketball, dodgeball, football and multi-skills through the StreetGames Training Academy. Her passion is now her vocation.

In 2012, Vanessa was part of the 2nd cohort of StreetGames Doorstep Sport Coaches delivered by StreetGames Training Academy, supported by Coca-Cola. The course uses innovative approaches to gathering evidence for learners’ portfolios. Group work, professional discussions, photo and video evidence is employed to address the potential literacy barriers encountered by learners in more traditional coach education settings. The course has boosted Vanessa’s growth in confidence, knowledge and skills for her career in coaching and sports leadership.
Ask her what her ambition is for the future and the answer is swift and touching.

“To be honest with you, to do exactly what I’m doing now. Growing up, I always wanted to be a sports coach and I have had the pleasure of leaving sixth form and going straight into a job that I love, and working with kids.

“It’s been a long process but it’s been worth everything. I look at my CV and think: ‘Wow, I’ve achieved a lot.’ When I was at school, I imagined that my list of qualifications was going to be a very short one, so it’s brilliant what I have now.

“When I was a participant, I just enjoyed it for myself. But as soon as I became a volunteer and helped to do some coaching, I could see the difference I made when I was telling the kids stories of what I had done and what I have gained by being a volunteer. It’s about inspiring the kids.

“They will give things a go if I suggest it to them. The girls especially are just netball freaks, so as soon as I introduced something like handball, they all said: ‘No, I don’t want to play this.’
“I said: ‘Just give it a go. You’ll be fine.’ Now if you ask them if they want to go to a handball tournament, they will all say yes straightaway.

“Being enthusiastic about everything helps them a lot as well. I could just say: ‘You can do it if you want to.’ But instead I always say: ‘Come on, girls, let’s give it a try. You’ve got a lot to gain from this. It’s worth it.’

“It felt great to win the StreetGames award. I shed a little tear when I came off stage. I didn’t know I was being nominated until I got shortlisted. It was a bit of a surprise but I was really excited and happy to see that all of my hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. All of the comments from the girls on the video shown on the night were really nice.”

In addition to her paid work as a coach at the George Salter Academy Doorstep Sport Club, Vanessa volunteers at least 10 hour every week to coach at West Bromwich Netball Club.
She also accompanied some of the girls she coaches to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Part of StreetGames’ Give and Go initiative, it gives young people from disadvantaged communities the chance to watch elite level sport live.

Vanessa’s impact on the participants is encapsulated by 14-year-old Ellie, who said: “Vanessa has played such an inspirational role in not only the coaching but the mentoring of all of our players. She has helped to train us into a successful, established team who are now part of the regional league. Her training tactics not only include fitness and skill, but fun and enthusiasm as well as being there as a friend and a shoulder to cry on.”

Rus Smith, formerly extended School, Community and Sports Development Manager of George Salter Academy and now Midlands Tutor at the StreetGames Training Academy, has overseen Vanessa’s journey from participant to valued coach. He added: “Vanessa has changed over the years. She is more considerate now. When she was 14 or 15 she was interested just in herself, but now she thinks about others around her. She identifies with the girls very well and she means a lot to the participants. It’s nice to see.”

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