Hannah inspired to go for goal after giving up on sports coach dream

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When Hannah Cunningham got cold feet about leaving home for university, suddenly her entire sporting career got put on the bench.

Despite having spent two years at Oakwell College gaining expertise in sports development, coaching, psychology and nutrition with a level three sporting qualification, without a degree she didn’t feel employers would take her seriously.

Hannah, from Cudworth, said: “In sport you don’t really get much without going to university.  I don’t think people realise just how many qualifications you need to be a coach, and I felt that my college qualification wasn’t enough.

“I kind of gave up on sport because I though without a degree I would never get anywhere with it. I was just lost in choosing what to do.”

It was a big blow for Hannah who had always been someone that excelled at sports since her early teens. She had always looked forward to PE lessons, and even represented her high school in cross country championships.

Despite pursuing a few different roles and work experience opportunities, nothing quite fit, and Hannah spent the next three years since leaving college at 18 relying on unemployment support.

Things started to look up when she heard about a coach club in Athersley last September, which is ran by our Employment and Skills Service. Helen Murphy, the employment and skills coach who leads the club, knew she had hidden potential:

“Hannah was very quiet when she first came along, but she was always enthusiastic about helping others at the club. When we went through her CV I saw she clearly had some great skills to offer when it came to sports, I don’t think she fully realized what she had to offer.”

Helen pointed her towards an assistant coach vacancy for Game On England, our sports for change programme which aims to inspire young people from coalfield communities across Yorkshire and the East Midlands through football.

Hannah said: “I was a bit hesitant at first since it had been three years since I had attempted to coach somebody, but she managed to persuade me to go for it.

“I would never have applied for the role without Helen to be honest, she kept me focused.”

Shortly after a chat with the Game On Development Manager, Kat Clarke, Hannah was offered the job and soon got started coaching girls aged five to eleven at a session in Athersley each week.

“My first session brought back memories from my time in college, and it made me think why did I ever give up on it? I do really enjoy it, especially with younger kids because there’s so much you can do with them. It’s really fun.”

Hannah’s newfound confidence has her already thinking about her next steps for the future; and her time at the sessions has inspired her to taking on a FA level two coaching qualification so she can lead a class independently.

Community football coach, Matthew Foster, said: “It has been a pleasure to work alongside Hannah whilst coaching on Game On sessions; it has been great to see her come out of her shell and develop her confidence and competence when coaching.”

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