My last personal post I left off from 2001 when I was coaching in the MLS (Major League Soccer) camps in America. I figure I should probably fill in a few more gaps and try and get things up to as present times as possible, although there may be some back and forth as I recall events and try to get them in a semi logical sequence.
I just about graduated from Staffordshire University in 2002 with a Desmond in Sport & Leisure Management. I thought I wanted to open up my own football coaching school but that idea soon wore off. To be honest my last year or so at University was difficult due to family illness. My Papa was very poorly and had been in and out of hospital falling unconscious as we waited for a liver transplant. Fortunately a compatible donor was found and saved his life. What the doctors did is truly incredible and I will be forever grateful.
I kind of bounced around a couple of roles within the leisure industry but nothing that was really grabbing me. I ended up volunteering in 2003 to help with the (original) Wimbledon Football Club relocation to Milton Keynes. At the time Stadium:MK didn’t exist and the team were located at what was The National Hockey Stadium.
It was a really interesting time with there being a mixture of excitement in the town of MK as well as the anger and uproar from further afield that a football team could be moved from it’s roots and planted in a new area. It was also the first time I crossed paths with players like Jobi McAnuff and Mikele Leigertwood who I ended up working with again years later at Reading…but we will come on to that in my next chapter. Whatever anyone thinks about the clubs move it’s pretty phenomenal what Pete Winkleman managed to get done. Years later I was asked to be part of the team for Stadium:MK to host World Cup games should the bid have been successful. At the time Paul Ince was the manager and together with him and other key people we delivered our presentation. Unfortunately England missed out to Russia but still I was proud to have been involved.
During these early to mid 2000’s I met a guy, fell in love and got married in 2006. We did some amazing travelling together which included spending a good chunk of time in South Africa; countries I went to included Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Botswana and Namibia as well as the cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town. I was fortunate to go on safari to see the Big Five (African elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros) and experience breathtaking scenery, sunsets and sunrises. I also met some incredible people from tribes, schools and other locals in each place. I think Namibia is still the most magnificent place I have ever been to date.
Dune 45 Sossusvlei captured my eyes and heart forever. The Himba tribe in Namibia probably still stands out to me the most. I have included photographs incase you’ve never seen or heard of Dune 45 or the Himba. The tribe were welcoming and despite not speaking the same language we smiled and somehow were able to communicate.
Whilst in Africa I visited some schools and I got to support some children in their classrooms and play games during break times. Life really was simple, it enabled me to appreciate on different levels. It made me question so much about what I wanted to do, what was important to me, how could I help others…
I began thinking more about what I enjoyed doing and how I could integrate that with work and making a difference, which is when I took a role in community development as a Community Mobiliser.
I started to use football and other sports and activities as a way to engage, educate and empower people. I loved it! I would arrange sports events, urban art/graffiti sessions and lots more. I was delighted to have celebrity Chef Raymond Blanc involved in coming to pick some local produce and arrange a cooking demonstration. I applied for funding to help people gain qualifications in coaching and other areas and was even able to get some of them over to the MLS like I had done.
I loved my role, I loved helping people. I worked with vulnerable communities to help them create a more sustainable environment and ideally inspire and motivate them to achieve more. It also involved a short stint trying to help prisoners where I visited the local jail a few times but unfortunately I just couldn’t make headway due to lack of funding, understanding and support.
It was whilst undertaking these projects that the communities I worked with and I were nominated for numerous local and national awards, of which we won quite a few. I was also invited to one of The Queen’s garden party’s at Buckingham Palace to recognise the work I had cultivated in making a difference to people’s lives. It was a real honour and a life highlight looking back. I still have the invitation in a little box of treasured moments I keep.
On the actual day I remember being in a line outside the palace all dressed up with my hat on (as instructed). We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the event. There were marquees serving refreshments, finger sandwiches and cute beautiful cakes – all very traditional and perfectly displayed. There was also a live orchestra playing music during the days proceedings. The Queen stepped out with Prince Charles to meet and greet some of the people invited. I still can’t believe I was there. Love or loath the Royal Family they are an incredible part of British history and tradition, which I find quite fascinating and am honoured and amazed I was invited to attend something so prestigious.
This takes us to around 2009/10, I had somehow reached a point in my life where I wasn’t sure what I wanted anymore and my happily ever after wasn’t to be as my marriage sadly came to an end.
My life just didn’t seem to excite me. I spent about a year continuing to work hard and establish myself whilst trying to figure out what I wanted next. I decided life was just too monotonous for me. I wanted to shake things up and push out of my comfort zone more…so decided I would move to Australia. I am not sure why at the time but equally why not?
I often think to myself; what have you achieved? what have you go to show for yourself? what are you doing with your life? … and actually it’s not as bad as I think. Sometimes the things that make it worthwhile aren’t actually things – it always comes down to the people and the places. I think it’s really important not to compare our lives with others, we each have our good and bad days. If we can find a way to support each other rather than compete or fight against one another we can make a lasting difference.
There was a slight delay in my departure to Australia as my Mum was then diagnosed with breast cancer so I stayed in England until she had completed her treatment and was given the all clear. I have the NHS to thank so much for looking after both of my parents.
I know I still need to bring this blog up to current day as we are still a decade away…but am conscious I don’t want these to be too long and boring for you reading. I appreciate I haven’t gone into huge detail but I aim to dip back in at a later date. Also if anyone has any question or would like more information please get in touch.
The next part of my personal journey will take us to visit my move to Australia and what came after that…but before we go there I have another guest feature lined up.
Thanks for taking time out for me. I hope this latest blog is one you’ve enjoyed. Please continue to engage via the various socials of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Until next time.
Peace and Love.