Busy, busy being creative..!

Friday 21 September 2012

Do What You Love - Interview no.3 - Sophie Cooper

The third interview in a series of ten - meeting Bristol people who 'Do What They Love!'

Sophie Cooper - Sports Coach

If, Iike me, you really got into the spirit of the Olympics and the Paralympics, I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading about the very enthusiastic and dedicated Sophie Cooper who is a sports coach...I was totally inspired by what this young lady has achieved so far and it was a real pleasure to meet her at Frenchay Cricket Club recently.

Sophie Cooper - Sports Coach demonstrates how to hold a cricket bat correctly
©Lydia Samuel Photography

Name: Sophie Cooper
Age: 26
Business: Sophie Cooper Sports Coaching
Location: Bristol North, Bristol Central, Bristol South and South Gloucestershire
Website: In Progress. I am developing a LinkedIn page and a twitter page

What do you do?

I am a multi discipline sports coach and qualified youth worker. I create community sports projects for young people, disability groups and children. The main sports I teach are Cricket, Football and Basketball, for which I have taken national qualifications. My work involves creating mutually beneficial partnerships with sports agencies, local authority and members of the community. 

My current clients are Bristol City Council’s Sport & Health Development team, Everyone Active Leisure Centres where I do disability sports, and Gloucestershire Cricket Board. Whilst training to become a professional sports coach I spent one year volunteering with ‘The Catch Youth Club’ at Redcatch Park in Knowle (a deprived ward of Bristol) where I developed a sports programme. 

I have also put my hand to assistant teaching and tutoring roles in Primary and Secondary schools which have encouraged many children to work towards a healthy and active lifestyle.

What do you love most about it? 

It combines an active job with meeting and working with many people representing the diverse community of Bristol. As the Olympics has shown, Sport has the power to bring people together for good and is brilliant for teaching life skills like sportsmanship and teamwork. 

Being freelance allows me to choose projects I find interesting and challenging. I enjoy running a business and I have a wonderful network of colleagues who are supportive and also passionate about their jobs.

Sophie sporting a 'Do What You Love' bag with some of her Frenchay cricket students in the background
©Lydia Samuel Photography

How did you get there?

I developed a personal passion for basketball in 2010 when I found a women’s local league team in my area. My degree in Arts, music and entertainment management, which I studied in Liverpool, wasn’t - I feel -  really relevant back home in Bristol and I was facing unemployment. Joining the women’s team boosted my confidence and helped me to make new friends. 

Shortly afterwards I joined a volunteering course at City of Bristol College which involved a 10 week Sports Leaders course and a NVQ2 in Youth Work. I have contributed over 250 hours to local community projects and placements in 2011 including the Youth Club and an FE College Basketball Team. 

My efforts caught the attention of the local authority and I was asked to join the Street Games coaching team, which led to work with National Sporting Bodies including Street Chance and Street 20 Cricket initiatives.

How long have you been running your business for?

In 2012 I started to take my collection of small part-time coaching roles more seriously and developed a business plan with the help of Outset Bristol. It was a huge boost when I was accepted onto the New Enterprise Allowance Scheme with Job Centre Plus and Brave. 

In May I have been focusing on developing a sustainable income from sports coaching and I have found a niche in disability sport. I now run a successful Visual Impairment Cricket Group and two Learning Disability Cricket groups. 

I have learned many business skills for example dealing with senior and commercial managers, managing finances and tax, maintaining a diary of work and replying to correspondence as well as applying for work and funding. Having had that management element of my degree has definitely helped me in my business.

Sophie demonstrating to her students how to stand when waiting for that red ball!
©Lydia Samuel Photography

 What was the biggest challenge you faced setting up as a Sport Coach?

Having to work and communicate with such a broad range of people. On two levels – getting the work/projects so that can mean talking to the head of the council on one hand and then working with the students themselves. So far I’ve worked with students with learning difficulties, teenagers (being the only girl working with a bunch of 16 years old boys was interesting!) through to Asian women, actually - I think I’ve worked with nearly all parts of the community! So being able to work well with such a range of people and to be able to get them engaged is something I am still learning! But it is very rewarding.

Also changing peoples perceptions of Cricket. For a lot of people It’s seen as being upper class, so I’m trying to show It’s for everybody.

And there aren’t many women in my position. I have met quite a few who are involved in the sports – so as development officers, but as far as I know I’m the only woman currently coaching cricket and basketball. Which are seen as being male dominated sports. I’d like to see more women getting involved at this level.

What’s been the highlight so far?

Working with Frenchay Cricket Club as a disability coach. Being able to help others through sport and cricket in particular has been amazing. The benefits of how sport can help people with difficulties is hugely important and shouldn’t be underestimated. If you’ve watched any of the Olympics and the Paralympics you can see that for yourself how it’s changed peoples lives – for the better. ;-)

What’s the Best piece of Advice you’ve been given?

I can’t think of one thing in particular to be honest – but I know my Dad has been very influential as he has always run his own businesses.  And Maggie Hopkins has also been a great influence – Maggie teaches the Level III Youth Worker Qualification at The City of Bristol College. So really I’d like to thank them for their support.

What have you learnt about yourself as a result of setting up your business?

That I’m determined and strong spirited. It’s hard work being self-employed so I’ve discovered I’m very driven. This is something I’m passionate about.

Can you tell me about any success stories from Students?

Yes, I was involved in a three month volunteer placement at the redeveloped Hartcliffe School as part of a programme run by Catch22. I was working with 12-15 year old girls and coaching them during their sports sessions. As a result the girls gained confidence – at that age lots of girls drop out of sport as they feel self-confident – but it really made a difference. Also after I completed the three months the school asked for two more volunteers for the following year. This was brilliant news!

Sophie and I and the end of the interview and photoshoot. Sophie did try to explain the rules of cricket to me! ©Lydia Samuel Photography
If others want to do this I’d say...

Go for it!

What’s next?

To carry on working with the great people at Frenchay Cricket Club, seeing my students develop, – and to get my Level II in Cricket coaching. That’s more technical and also involves the ‘whole’ approach to the sport – so diet, fitness  - it’s a holistic approach. Then I’ll be qualified to hold one-to-one coaching sessions. I’ll be starting that in November and I’m really looking forward to that.

I also want to get more involved with working with elite athletics. It’s a dream of mine to go the Rio Olympics in 2016 and support the team as a coach. That would be AMAZING! And of course to continue to encourage young women into sport and also into coaching.

And – to get back into playing my guitar and singing. I’ve been so focused on setting myself and my business up that I’ve not had much time for anything else – but those are both things I love and want to find time to do again.

Sophie recently took part in a sports art installation at PaintworksA
And her cricket group has recently received 40k worth of funding!

If you'd like to get in touch with Sophie about sports coaching her email address is: sophiecoopers@yahoo.co.uk

Business support in Bristol: 
Outset Bristol: http://www.outsetbristol.co.uk/
BRAVE: http://www.brave.org.uk/

What is The 'Do What You Love' Project..?

After printing this message on my bags I thought - ooh I'd love to find ten local Bristol business people who do what they love, interview them about what they do, why they love it and how they've got there and also 'model' one of my bags / cushions.  

I really wanted to work with a local photographer - so approached Lydia Samuel via Outset to see if she would be interested in collaborating with me. She was! Perfect!

So a call-out was created, posted on facebook and twitter and people started applying! Over thirty people applied, and it was really difficult to choose ten. I spent my time going through each application and selected the ten as I felt their passion really shone through. 

Everyone who applied will be featured though in some way as I think it's important to celebrate everyone who is doing something they love!

These interviews and photographs are the results.

I hope you enjoy reading this series of interviews, and that it will inspire you in some way to pursue your dreams and ‘Do what you Love!’  (that is if you aren’t doing that already! - if you are - do let me know by leaving a comment about what you do and why you love it!). 

Want your own 'Do What You Love Bag?' they are currently on sale at Paper Scissors Stone in Quaker Friars, Bristol until 25 September, or email me directly bagsofloveforbristol@gmail.com. And why not come and say hello on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bags-of-Love-for-Bristol/444261982265482

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