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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A Catch up with Baljit Rihal, BASTF Ambassador

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In a “twitter-style” interview, BASTF Ambassador Baljit Rihal takes time-out to answer some questions, giving us an insight into what’s keeping him on his toes.

While people are jetting away this August on Summer holidays for a break, this is not the case for you.  How busy have you been?
Lots of projects going on. Primarily focusing on AFA preparations. Media interviews lined up – radio, tv, print..There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
How are preparations coming along for the AFA2013 event?
All on schedule. Nominations are being looked at and a shortlist will be revealed soon. We are working hard to reach out to Asians In Football across the country.
How will this year’s event differ from last year?
Bigger venue. More sponsors and supporters. More professional clubs have taken an interest. The AFA team has expanded with the addition of a marketing and event management team. It will be a more professional and polished event. We will also have the Barclays Premiership trophy on display..(with a dash of entertainment thrown in too)..
You have organised tournaments around the country ahead of AFA2013, how have these been received?
It’s been a resounding success and far exceeding expectations for our first AFA Trophy. Over 200 teams competed at regional Goals Centres. There has been a good buzz about the event over the summer and we are glad we attracted a wide range of teams.
The AFA Trophy finals take place on 18th August, what are you hoping for from the day?
It’s one week away.. I just hope teams come along; compete and enjoy the occasion. BritAsia TV will be filming the event and some scouts will be present on the day to see if they can spot some unearthed talent. All are welcome to attend the event, it will be a chance to see some good football and also meet some great people.
Can you give us an insight into what 2014 holds for you and team post AFA2013? 
Where do I start? Projects include The Asian Cricket Awards, The British Asian 11, Star TV India, another Football development centre. I will also be developing my football agency to a higher level working with established agents. I will be heading another initiative to get the Asians In Football cause to a greater platform…

A Big Thanks to Baljit from the BASTF team.

Asian Women in Grass Roots Football: Manjit Uppal

I love new challenges and am always keen to meet or read about inspirational people. I love working with young people, as well as supporting them, I feel I learn a lot from them….

Mother of two Manjit Uppal talks about her experiences in football, how it all began and how the importance of family support has helped her in supporting youth in sport.

I am a 43-year-old mum of two boys aged 18 and 12. I have been married for 22 years to my wonderful husband.

I have worked as a learning Mentor at a local Birmingham School for the last 8 years with predominantly Asian and Afro-Caribbean students. I work full-time alongside a dedicated team of Mentors.

I have always enjoyed sports, whether it’s watching or playing. I also run regularly, having taken part in the Birmingham half marathon most years.

I joined a martial arts class, to support my sons and 9 years on, I have gained my black belt. I love football and have followed Liverpool FC for as long as I can remember, I have two brothers who eat and sleep the sport. Continue reading