#GreatCoaching is not limited to those who put on a tracksuit and carry a whistle.
A great coach can be the person in a community who brings people together through physical activity or sport. Usha Blackham is one of those people.
Usha works out of the aptly named Aspiring Community Together centre in Fir Vale, where she runs Community Connectors, an organisation that supports people in the local community, aiming to make a positive difference to people’s lives.
“I live in the area and care about the area,” says Usha. “We need more happy, inspired people. If I didn’t go out and do stuff they’d not do anything active in their life.
“I want to change that, and inspire people.”
One of the ways Usha is doing that, and bringing people in the community together, is through walking groups that started in March, and are already having an impact on people’s lives.
Usha had previously led ‘Walking for Purpose’ groups, but when the funding came to an end, she was worried it wouldn’t continue. She approached Safiya Saeed and Kathryn Mudge, who lead on the Active Burngreave initiative for Yorkshire Sport Foundation.
The groups regularly bring together up to 20 women each week, all organised through the use of a WhatsApp group.
“I didn’t want it to die off, so I spoke to Kathryn and asked how you can help.
“Having people like Kathryn and Safiya – those two ladies are always here to support. I said I wanted to secure this group and go a little more out of the box. I put the ideas together, and made it my own.”
The weekly group – usually all women – visit local community landmarks, with people coming from various communities in the area to join the walks. Previous walks have taken the group to allotments and food banks, places they weren’t away of how to get to or make the most of.
Following a visit to the allotment, the group returned in the half-term holidays with their children. Not only are the walks getting the women active, it’s providing a boost to their mental wellbeing and confidence.
There’s lots of new friendships from this group,” explains Usha. “It’s been an eye opener for lots of the women. We’ve now got four volunteers who help me on the planning of where we’re going to go on different weeks, so they’re taking ownership, which is great.
“Before the walks started, a couple of these volunteers were isolated, anxious and had confidence issues. One of the ladies felt she couldn’t talk about it. She was very low, but now she’s the one taking other members out of the group for coffee.
“One of the volunteers is now applying for a job in a school as a lunchtime supervisor. Another has started coming to the group because I’m there, and now she’s applying to work in a nursery.
“Some of these women have personal problems who don’t talk about it. Everyone has their own difficulties. By being there for them, we’ve inspired them.”
“It’s good for me, too. I’m not young anymore, but surely I can keen going a bit longer!
“I like to see people reaching out and doing different things. To see them applying for roles, changing their lifestyle, that’s rewarding for me.”