Neel Sood – A Passion for Sports Development

It’s the March edition of our blog and we are fortunate to have our Ambassador Neel Sood give us an insight into his passion for sports development and the importance of giving back.

Being a Sports Development Officer, and providing opportunities for other people to become more active and involved in sport, is a career that I find fascinating and very rewarding. Working in the sports industry is probably a career choice that is seldom chosen in the Asian community; but I want to share my experiences on how my passion for sport and my true belief in its virtues, has led to me pursuing this choice of career. I believe that if others have the passion, it’s a great career to be in.

My earliest memory of sport was the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, when I was 5 years old, when I watched the men’s hockey final on old school VHS with my dad; Great Britain beat the then West Germany 3-1, and an obsession was born.  My dad had played hockey since his boyhood, and I promptly joined his club’s junior section, spending almost every Saturday going to watch him play and every Sunday playing myself. Cue years of negotiating with my parents to stay up late to watch any sport that was on TV.

As I grew up, and my interest in hockey grew (I represented the South of England at junior level), other pressures started to grow on me too. As a teen, I was in a similar position to most Asians, under pressure to perform academically. At a time where many drop off the sporting radar, with the blessing of my parents, I kept up with my sports, eventually breaking into the senior first team of my club, and continuing to compete at school and junior level. I feel it was important to do something to break the routine of studying, and would advise the same to others; I’ve been lucky enough in my current role to research that being physically active or playing sport can increase academic attainment and engagement at school.

I continued playing hockey through university and beyond, and continued to enjoy playing. I began to see a new part of sport that I’d not previously thought would be for me – coaching. The more I did, the more I became passionate about giving chances to younger players to play and get involved in hockey;  and this is where my enthusiasm for getting more people active came from. I found, even in the junior section of my hockey club, it was very rewarding to see others being active; something that prompted me to become even more active myself.

After several years of deciding what career choice to go into, I decided that sports development was the career for me. Though it is not as financially rewarding as other careers, I felt that seeing others reach their goals, and being more active, would be the reward I would have from my job, and so it has proved.

My experience in the industry has been entirely in my local area, which is one of the things I love about my current role, it’s putting something back into the area that I grew up in which is worth more than money to me I feel. I currently work at Get Berkshire Active, which is the local County Sports Partnership (the lead strategic body for community sport in the county), so I work entirely at grassroots level.

I have been fortunate to see some excellent sporting stories through the course of my job, but most of all I have been fortunate to have seen some incredible stories of sport changing people’s lives. You may have heard of famous stories of sports stars such as Clint Dempsey, Luol Deng and countless others who have used sports as a way out of unfortunate life situations and have gone on to make it to the top of their profession.

I have seen young people with broken lives and little future, take to sport to give them some focus, and make a success of themselves; either by going on to university when it seems they had lost interest in education, or in some other way. It’s the wider power of sport that I love to see in action, and which gives me great satisfaction in what I do.

If you are similarly passionate about sport, and getting people more active in sport or other activity, for the huge benefits it can bring to people’s lives;  then working in sports development is definitely a career worth thinking about as it is so hugely rewarding.

We would like to Thank Neel Sood for sharing his experience with us and look forward to his continual involvement with the foundation.

Follow Neel Sood on Twitter

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My sporting journey – the passenger’s perspective!

This weekend one of our Future Champions ISHA Chhatwal won the Gillingham Golf tournament against a large number of entrants.  ISHA’s dad and co-founder of BASTF gives us an insight into how he has helped his daughter, a wonderful upcoming talented golfer, develop and flourish.

It has not been like the M25 – long and boring, but more akin to a stretch on the GT road into the Punjab – never straightforward, lots of dips and bumps, but extremely rewarding sights along the way as the journey unfolds.

From the onset my daughter demonstrated a very mature and calm personality. She had natural hand eye coordination and upper body strength – some of the essential instruments for many sports but especially the game of golf.

She excelled at many school sports such as netball and rounders, but it was my biased influence on Isha that steered her towards golf. I knew my passion for a particular sport would ease the burden of early starts and a dwindling bank balance! No offence but I couldn’t see myself getting up in the early hours of the morning to prepare for a ballet competition!

Even with this passion the journey has been arduous. The regimented schedule, daily golf lessons with some upto 2 1/2 hours away and the onus on the parents to set an example i.e losing weight and keeping fit! How can you preach to others if you don’t practise them yourself! But with specified and realistic goals being attained it has all been worth it.

Normally the only Indian child, let alone Indian girl, partaking in the competition, things can be intimidating and often brings attention amongst the existing members! However, I have always instilled in my children that sport is the platform to showcase your talents and breakdown age-old barriers and stereotypes. This philosophy has come true on so many occasions, with other golfers making the effort to congratulate her on an amazing shot or a tournament victory and often a bit of friendly banter at the bar afterwards with a drink bought by them!

I have enjoyed the trips made to tournaments and practice sessions as it has allowed me to spend quality time with the kids, talking and discussing everything golf. Visiting different clubs, learning the etiquettes of the game and be members of a local club has given them self-confidence and opportunities to converse with a variety of people of differing ages.

But it has all come at a price – it’s been very expensive. But then I ask the question – in real terms has it been? Well, you do the maths.

Keeping your children occupied in an activity that challenges them physically as well as mentally as opposed to sitting in front of the television or playing electronic games.

Socialising with like-minded people in a competitive environment as opposed to playing on the streets, unsupervised and prone to a multitude of sins.

Spending quality time and getting to really know your kids – amazing memories, funny moments, some lows but ultimately the best high you can get!

Huge Thanks to Davinder for sharing his thoughts on his journey so far.