It may sound overly simple, and it is – I appreciate the issue of racial inequality in all walks of life is incredibly complex – but one way to help people is just to say 'yes' a bit more.
Saying 'yes' to people, regardless of their race, gives people opportunities to show what they’re capable of.
I lived in Bristol until I was 11, when we moved to Tanzania for five years. In 2012 we returned to Bristol, I was in my teens, naïve and thought that if I can’t play football, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
But with the help of others who had a better understanding of it all and who said 'yes', I understood that life wasn’t just football.
It wasn’t a smooth journey to get to that point, though. Equality is about support, opportunities, chances and listening to what people have to say – which hasn’t always been what I’ve experienced.
Barriers to progress
When I was in college I didn’t get the support I felt I needed. After coming back from Africa, my twin brother and I went to a college and the learning aspect was fine. But when it came to sport and PE and opportunities and chances and yesses – we didn’t get any of those.
I was focused on football at the time and I’d go to a trial for the college team and we didn’t get the opportunities others did.
Saying 'yes' to people, regardless of their race, gives people opportunities to show what they’re capable of
I don’t harbour any ill will towards anyone who got in ahead of me and my brother, but there would be guys who would join months after us and they were automatically given the chance to progress and show what they could do.
I’m not envious of others’ ability, some people are better, but we didn’t even get a chance.
The way we were spoken to, looking down their noses at us, the kissing of the teeth, the air of disapproval, the body language when addressing us, was all very negative.
I did ask for opportunities and they would just say 'come to the next session, come to the next session' – but there would be no progress despite the effort we put in.
A chance to shine
But I love sport so much, I didn’t want to use those experiences as a negative and to start hating it.
So, in the summer of 2014 my brother and I went to Hillfields Youth Centre in Bristol, were introduced to the staff and became part time workers there.
As we were a bit older, we started coaching the youths. We spoke to them, listened to them, heard what they said and offered support and coaching in any way we could, at whatever level it was.
I enjoyed it all, coaching, listening, meeting new people. The kids were showing off and it was great to see – I wanted to encourage that enthusiasm for physical activity.
That same summer I met Greg Streete, at the time he was the captain of the Bristol Flyers basketball team. He was doing basketball coaching at Hillfields and before I knew it, he thought he saw something in me – even though I’d always been focused on football
I love sport so much, I didn’t want to use those experiences as a negative and to start hating it
I thought he was insane, I didn’t have any skills! But he convinced me to keep trying and told me to come along to a couple of other open sessions he was running.
He said I didn’t have to pay anything, said that if I needed help with transport then the centre could help provide it and so he made it hard for me to say 'no'.
He even said that if I changed colleges, to one where he coached, I could bring my work so I didn’t have to start again.
He was so positive and before I knew it, the basketball community in Bristol just opened up to me.
Going to City Academy gave me so many more opportunities. The academic side of things was still good, and in terms of the actual sport, I was all in. I got opportunities, not only to join the team but to play in games.
That might seem like something little but I never got that in football, I never got that in the previous college, or academies, or clubs I tried to join.
I thrived on that and I brought that energy and motivation back to the youth centre and wanted to volunteer and do more for them.
University and Coach Core
University may not have worked out for me. I seemed to do OK with the academic side of things, but the pressures of the student life in general really got to me.
It built up so much depression in me and I eventually found that uni wasn’t doing me any good, I was in a dark place.
But even during that time I’d still found basketball to be a great release for me, and my tutor had highlighted that I seemed to enjoy coaching and teaching – passing on knowledge.
That stuck with me and when I left uni, I went back to Bristol and was looking around for jobs – looking everywhere – my friend eventually found an advert for Coach Core that sounded perfect for me.
Right from the introduction session it felt right.
My mentor, David Smith, made it such an easy and supportive transition for me to become a part of Coach Core.
He helped me a lot and regardless of everything else, he made sure we all got an equal opportunity – it was a really positive experience for me.
I don’t have a single negative thing to say about Coach Core, they gave everyone a chance and I’m now an assistant manager for Shine – a job I got straight after completing my apprenticeship because I was on placement there – because of their desire to give everyone a chance.
That’s why we need more things like Coach Core, why we need Sport England to continue to support things like this that allow people the opportunity to find out that there’s more to life than hearing 'no'.
Shine employs qualified coaches to deliver sport and physical activity sessions at state, private and special schools across the south west. And Coach Core is an apprenticeship scheme giving young people aged 16-24 the chance to become the next generation of inspirational coaches.