WSA & Acorn – helpling to develop diverse organisations, reflecting the communities we serve.

The WSA & Acorn Executive Search formed a strategic partnership in 2017 to collaborate with WSA members to improve their recruitment, and to focus on strengthening boards with non-exec Directors.

It is imperative that decision-makers from across the Welsh sport & leisure sector are drawn from different backgrounds with different experiences, reflecting the communities we serve.  

The WSA is committed to ensuring that roles are not only presented to minority groups, but that individuals feel comfortable in applying and feel that they can contribute to the sector.

The WSA reached out to Steph Makuvise – Participation Officer at Welsh Triathlon, one of the WSA’s valued members, to share her thoughts on working within the Welsh sport & leisure sector.

How did you get into the job you are currently doing, and did you face any barriers?

Growing up, I was always interested in sport, from playing sport at school to following some of my favourite teams, it seemed like a no brainer when I was choosing what to study at university to study Sport Management at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

During my Postgraduate studies (2017) an internship opportunity came up through the University’s Santander program, a role at Welsh Triathlon to get GO TRI going in Wales. At the time I had no experience of triathlon, other than watching my brother take part in the swim element of a relay some time growing up (circa 2006), but I knew that through everything I had learned through my undergraduate and postgraduate studies as well as my “can do” and “always up for a challenge” spirit I could do the job.

With help form my dissertation supervisor, who also encouraged me to apply at the time, I submitted my application and after a successful interview I was offered the role. As GO TRI intern, I travelled the length and breadth of Wales (with no car, you’d be surprised how well you can do a job using public transport- which is fantastic in Wales) engaging with various stakeholders and promoting GO TRI. When the internship finished, after about 6 months, I was then offered the opportunity to apply for the role of participation officer at Welsh Triathlon, which I did, and this is the role I am currently in now.

You may argue that I was in the right place at the right time, but I think the belief I had in myself and my passion for sport in general gave me all the encouragement I needed to apply for the role and take on the challenge.

Who inspired you?

Growing up in Zimbabwe I played sport all through my schooling years. My brother was also an avid sportsman and our school holidays and afternoons after school would involve us playing cricket, hockey, football, and rugby in the garden for hours on end until it got dark, and we had to go inside for dinner. At one point, after playing cricket in PE, I was even asked to play cricket for the boy’s team at school which was strange at the time being the only girl in the team.

My inspiration for having a career in sport, came from always having the opportunity to take part in sport. Now that I have a career in sport, in Wales, my inspiration is drawn from wanting to give other people opportunities I had and saw as normal growing up. When I started my role and gained an understanding of the sporting landscape not just in Wales but in the UK, I was taken by surprise at the fact that not everyone can access sport as easily as I was able to when growing up. Not everyone gets the chance to be outside and take part in their favourite sport as they face so many barriers on a day-to-day basis.

My passion for sport and for creating new opportunities for people is what drives me and keeps me going not just through my role as participation officer at Welsh Triathlon, but also in the work I do within communities in Cardiff, engaging girls in football. I had the chance to take part in sport growing up, so why can’t others, what can I do to give other people that chance? That is what keeps me going.

Did you feel supported throughout the process?

From applying for the role, to being an intern, to a full-time employee at Welsh Triathlon I have always felt supported. While I may not have role models who look like me and come from a similar background, I drew my inspiration and got an idea of the culture of sport in Wales by learning and engaging with those around me within the organisation and other colleagues in the sporting sector.

I still don’t have role models that look like me, but I know I can be a role model to someone else who dreams of working in sport one day. Quite often I have felt anxious and really nervous going into various spaces and settings out of not knowing how I would be received, thinking “what if someone questions why I am here” or “what if they don’t believe me about where I work”  but my drive, love for what I do and belief in myself gets me through, after all I am the expert and people come to me for advice and help.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

  • If you have a passion for something, go for it, take on that opportunity that will get you a step closer to achieving your goals and doing what you love to do.
  • So, if working in sport is something that interests you get out there and apply for roles that come up. If you don’t take a step forward and be the change you want to see (as cliché as it may sound), then that change is going to take a long time to happen, or it may never happen.
  • Often it is easier to complain about a situation, but if you go out there and do something about it, go for that job, set up that sports club in your community, get yourself on that coaching course you will be a lot better off than where you have started and impact so many people around you.
  • Volunteer, while you may not be getting paid this is the first step to getting a foot in the door, it connects you to so many people, gets your name out there and will most certainly help you as you navigate the sporting landscape and look to apply for roles within it.

All I want to do is inspire the next generation, I want to see more young people from varying backgrounds in years to come taking on roles in sport in Wales and have an impact on their communities. If I can make that happen then I would have achieved what I set out to do.

Diverse organisations are good for business

Diverse organisations are good for business – in all sectors, not just sport and the WSA will continue to provide support services to its members to ensure this happens.

To review the latest sport & leisure vacancies please click the WSA vacancies page. Please also subscribe to the WSA weekly newsletter where vacancies, training & development opportunities are shared.

Alternatively we’d encourage individuals to sign up to the WSA Knowledge Bank where individuals can ‘deposit’ their time as professional volunteers in order to nurture, support and develop a vibrant Welsh sport & leisure sector.

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