Great Britain and England hockey star Emily Defroand recently spent a week on work experience with SportsAid to gain an insight into the charity’s work and its day-to-day operations. Earlier this year, the 24-year-old won bronze at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games with Team England. She is a full-time athlete - funded by the National Lottery – who actively wants to increase her knowledge and understanding of the sports industry as well as potential career paths for the future.
Emily received support from SportsAid as she studied for her A-Levels at Coopers’ Company and Coborn School in Upminster, and also during her time at the University of Birmingham where she obtained a masters in Sports Science. She has looked to help out the charity and support young athletes since then by regularly attending fundraising events. Here, Emily has blogged about her time within the SportsAid offices and what it opened her eyes to....
EMILY DEFROAND – “THE MORE NOISE ABOUT SPORTSAID THE BETTER!”
As a current international hockey player I will always be extremely grateful to SportsAid for their support along my sporting journey. Like many others before and after me, I received a SportsAid award (from Airwave and the Royal Bank of Canada) in 2012, 2015 and 2016. Ultimately, my award helped to relieve the financial burden of playing hockey at a high level whilst balancing my studies at school and university.
Whilst my friends were gaining invaluable work experience and part-time employment in our teenage years, I was mostly found on a hockey pitch or travelling the lengths of the country with England Hockey’s National Age Group squads. Specifically, my award helped cover accommodation, travel and equipment costs (to name a few) and lifting this financial barrier was essential in allowing a greater focus (and motivation) towards my performance on the hockey pitch, not to mention removing the strain on my parents.
As a SportsAid alumna, I thought I understood the charity….supporting young, aspiring athletes in the early years of their sporting journeys – simple! But it wasn’t until my week of work experience with SportsAid, halfway through my ‘summer break’ as a full-time, fully-funded Great Britain Hockey player, that I truly appreciated the tireless work and contagious passion of those ‘behind the scenes’ that makes SportsAid such a success.
As a SportsAid athlete, I received my generous cheque in the post, attended workshops organised alongside the Royal Bank of Canada, and sent regular performance updates to the team via email – easy peasy! However, seeing the charity from the ‘other side' day-to-day truly opened my eyes to working within the charity sector. From my first few hours in the office, it was apparent at how heavily reliant SportsAid is on bigger companies taking the so-called ‘gamble’ in the current economic climate to donate money to their charity.
These partnerships are not easy to achieve, nor quick associations to make, yet the money donated benefits hundreds of athletes – a process I found fascinating. With over 180,000 registered charities in England, SportsAid faces a tough battle on a daily basis competing alongside many charity sector ‘giants’ to raise sufficient funds to support their over-influx of athletes. It is not an understatement to say SportsAid are completely unable to rest on their laurels!
Raising awareness of SportsAid is fundamental. Having the Duchess of Cambridge as Patron is obviously a huge feat, but with most things, unless an individual has been directly influenced by a charity, they are unlikely to have heard of them. From my observations, it is abundantly clear how important the charity’s communications are, whether via SportsAid's social media accounts or events such as the SportsBall and SportsAid Week (which is fast approaching on 24–30 September). Basically the more ‘noise’ about SportsAid the better!
In my opinion, this has been the main cause of stimulation for me - in brainstorming ways I, as a SportsAid alumna, but also other current athletes can try to support and increase the ‘noise’ about SportsAid. Whether it is current athletes showing their appreciation to SportsAid on social media, encouraging close family and friends to help fundraise (cake sales are a wonderful thing!) or even alumni getting involved in the countless events SportsAid are connected with. For instance, former Great Britain Hockey goalkeeper and SportsAid alumna Kirsty Mackay completed the Great North Run to raise money for the charity over the weekend - every little helps!
Ultimately, my time working at SportsAid has given me even more appreciation for the impact they have had on my sporting journeys as well as that of thousands of other athletes. I may be bias but I think it is one of the best charities around and I now have an added incentive and desire to continue to assist, support and most importantly celebrate their work in the future!