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17 September 2020

When I reflect on who has influenced who I am as a person, my dance coaches are always at the top of my list. Around the age of 11 I became really involved in ballet, drawn in by the community of coaches and dancers around me. Every day after school I’d run home to eat before heading to dance, where I was lucky enough to be part of a club where my dance coaches saw the importance of developing us beyond just our dance skills, helping us grow as young people through support and life lessons.

I can confidently say my coaches have helped me develop determination, leadership, and self-confidence, along with an understanding of the importance of physical activity on my mental health. While I always knew I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend dance sessions and lucky to have such incredible coaches, I wasn’t aware of how lucky I was to have chosen an activity where I was represented by my coaches until I started boxing.

When I moved away for university, I decided to try a boxing class where that confidence instilled by my dance coaches was put to the test. My first time in a boxing gym I was uncomfortably aware that I was the only girl there, surrounded by male boxers and male coaches. I knew I wanted to box and my dance coaches gave me the confidence to stick with it, but even with that strong influence I was so close to walking out because I felt like it was silly for me to have imagined myself boxing, let alone competing in the sport.

If you don’t see someone like you achieving something, then you can’t relate, and you feel that it is not attainable.”

I can imagine if that was someone who was trying sport for the first time, they would probably have turned around and walked out. I kept going to the sessions, but it wasn’t until I had a class with a female coach that I had a moment of thinking – hey, that could be me! That coach showed me how just by being there doing what she was doing, she was breaking down barriers to sport by showing young people like me that regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, physical or mental ability, there is a place for you.

Inspired by my coaches, and the impact they have had on my personal development, I have committed to becoming a leader in my communities to help create opportunities for others like myself to experience the positive impact of coaches. I was initially drawn to London Youth when I saw its Champion Girls work, a programme designed specifically to get more women and girls engaged in physical activity, improve their perceptions of sport, and provide female role models to inspire and develop new female leaders in sport.

In my new role as Sports Development Officer at London Youth, I am excited to support youth organisations working across London to continue to provide these opportunities for young people, fostering a new generation of coaches and leaders in their communities where everyone feels seen.

My 2020 #GreatCoachingPledge is:

To continue to increase the representation of women and girls in the coaching world

– Liona Bravo, Sports Development Officer


Find out more about our Sports Development programmes here.