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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