Nike Future Leaders impress football star

By Sported |  26th July 2021

In May, Rishan Walker and Nimrah Chaudhry, two of the young people taking part in the Sported and Nike Future Leaders in Sport programme, got the chance to catch up with Sported ambassador and Tottenham Hotspur and England defender, Eric Dier. The two inspirational future leaders had been selected to benefit from a 12-month package of tailored support, mentoring and personal development opportunities, to help develop and launch their own Sport for Change project.  


The pair met the footballer in Tottenham last Thursday and enjoyed hearing about how each other’s programmes had been developing and the role of sport in young peoples’ lives, not least the powerful impact it can have in improving mental health.  Eric said how impressed he was to hear from Rishan and Nimrah, who exuded passion for harnessing the power of sport to promote equality, diversity and inclusion in their local communities.

Rishan’s project combines dance with mental health support for young women and girls, providing them with the tools they need for better health.

“I knew what I wanted to do but I had to learn how to express it in a way that someone else is going to understand – so, I’ve learnt a lot, even though the Coronavirus has been a bit annoying. It’s been difficult juggling different things because I’ve just finished uni and trying to find places where I could meet the girls I support because they come from all over the place. Mental health is a bigger thing now after lockdown and that has been the focus of my project – I want my group to be more than just a dance group. I hear so many stories about different things affecting people’s mental health; there’s a lot to cover– as time goes on, I’ll be able to tackle different things.”

Nimrah’s project has been providing young people with disabilities an opportunity to access all kinds of different sports so they are able to get involved with sport and physical activity regularly.

“I wanted to create a project for disabled children or SEN children because there wasn’t that much for them out there. When there’s sports day, the sports that they have are relay running, egg and spoon race – they’re not tailored for those with disabilities. In my school, I work with people with disabilities and I want to put something out there that works for them. People with disabilities are now in mainstream schools a lot, but they don’t always provide well for them. People say they have a higher rate of obesity but there’s nothing for them to help keep them fit – we need to make sure there is something fun that they can take part in, that will help to keep them fit and happy. So, that’s what I want to do! Sport provides a fun relaxed environment so is very powerful to help and make changes in different ways and in different people’s lives.”

In terms of what they need to help them make a big difference in the areas they are working on, Nimrah explained to Eric that she thinks it is all about profile.

“I think we need people to talk about these issues – so people care and support them. People don’t think about it.  It’s about getting the word out there. Once you start building the profile of the issue then you can see how the money can follow, you need people to know and understand the social issues we are trying to address. People try to alter what is already there to suit disabled people, but they need to be changed completely. If you don’t have a disability or know someone with one, you are not likely to understand that.”

The impact of the pandemic on disabled people is thought to have been far greater than on those without a disability. It is also thought that those with a disability are less likely to come back to their sports groups; many have been supported less throughout the lockdowns, they are more nervous about old environments and readjusting to practical things is much harder for those with disabilities. Whilst lots of groups are reopening, not everyone is coming back in the way they were before, as the risks and concerns are not equally the same for all. More vulnerable parts of the community are least likely to come back quickly. So, Sported is keen at the moment that we do all we can to bring people back into sport and the clubs they used to benefit from.

The Nike Future Leaders have been receiving ongoing mentoring throughout the project as well as attending regular workshops that build their knowledge in particular areas such as business planning, fundraising and governance.

Getting the chance to discuss their work and plans for the future with Eric Dier was definitely an inspiring moment in their programme for Rishan and Nimrah, and one that they will remember for some time.

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