Q&A with Sharon Phillips: School Games Organiser of the Year

Posted 10th February 2017

The School Games team were delighted to have the opportunity to sit down with Sharon Phillips this week for a short question and answer session. Sharon, a senior Development Coach for the Youth Sport Trust, recently won the SGO of the Year Award for her work in the London Borough of Havering. In this interview she gives us an insight into what her role entails, how she can offer support to the wider network, and some of the biggest rewards and challenges that accompany the role.

Please tell us a little bit about your role as a Development Coach at the Youth Sport Trust? 

As a senior Development Coach, I currently share the responsibility for the support of London, Hertfordshire and Berkshire Development Coaches with Colin Smith. I also have my own responsibilities as a Development Coach in London. I provide support for new SGOs as well as those experiencing problems and issues with their role that impact on their delivery of the SGO task list. I have generally spent my time helping with approaches to running Change4Life clubs and also how to collect data in line with the ECORYS reporting system. In addition, I provide advice on how to get schools to value the School Games Mark and apply for it, as well as how to get schools to register on the School Games website, which I have often found to be areas of concern for some SGOs –issues which I strive to help with.

What support can you offer?

I generally meet with SGOs who require a little bit of help and support, and share many of the day to day solutions that I have used or come across when talking to other Development Coaches or SGOs. It is a very non-threatening process and I always make it clear that I am there to help them find the best solutions for them. This allows them to do their job, report effectively, and show off the good work they are doing locally.

What is your current role outside of the Development Coach work?

I work as an SGO in Havering and am also the strategic lead for our local buy in, ‘The Havering Sports Collective’. We have another SGO in Havering but we combine all the work that we do to benefit schools across the Borough. Our approach is to keep all schools joined together through PE, sport and physical activity. I have developed relationships locally with Public Health and various Local Authority Departments ensuring that we have a joined up approach and can synchronise agendas where possible. The Havering Sports Collective often acts as a conduit for information going out to schools and shows that as a Borough we all work together.

I have also developed relationships with local sports clubs and they regularly host sports competitions for us, providing an exit route for children into community sport. This also means that we have an additional workforce to help us with the events. Other local partners like the YMCA and SLM Everyone Active, who manage our leisure centres, host PE coordinator meetings and disability events. I have built a health team who actively mentor the C4L Club programme in the Borough and are in the process of delivering a range of healthy days aimed at pupils of different ages to promote aspects of a healthy lifestyle. We have already had funding from Public Health to deliver an after school family healthy lifestyle programme called a Change4Life Challenge Club. My role is to look strategically at how we develop PE, School Sport and Physical Activity across the Borough for the good of all young people. This dovetails very well with the SGO task list. I also manage our website ensuring that we celebrate successes and promote local opportunities.

What has been your greatest success as a Development Coach?

As a Development Coach I don't have any one success but I hope that I have managed to support fellow SGOs in being more confident and able to carry out their roles locally. I am always happy to share systems of data collection or methods of delivering the SGO task list with anyone and hope that I can instil my passion for the role in my colleagues. I enjoy sharing successes and picking up ideas from other people and my message to everyone is that we are all doing this to provide young people with a better and brighter future. It is really important to remember that and have a positive approach. 

What is an average day like for you and what challenges do you have to face?

I honestly don't think that I have an average day any more as there are so many different aspects to my job. For example this week I have had numerous meetings in primary schools, I have delivered workshops at the Hertfordshire PE conference on C4L and the School Games Website, and I have had a primary indoor athletics event and secondary dance competition. In between times I have answered many emails, given some Development Coach support to an SGO and written my autumn Development Coach updates. I have also provided support for my sports coach in terms of her delivering in primary schools. Last week I spent two days in Loughborough and next week I have two SGO London County meetings to support and a catch up meeting with Public Health. My greatest challenge is time management as every week seems to get busier! The more success we have locally with the School Games or primary support the more work it generates, but my greatest pleasure is in the networking opportunities that arise which allow us to join up agendas locally.

What was your reaction to winning the SGO of the Year Award?

I was really touched to receive the SGO of the year award. Most days my job doesn’t really feel like work as I have a huge passion for everything I do. I am well supported in my school and am pleased that they recognise the benefits of the wider SGO role.

What would be your top tip for your fellow SGOs?

I think that my top tip for an SGO is to remember why we are all doing the role. Remember the passion that underlies what we do and don't get bogged down with all the negatives that inevitably occur along the way. My motto is that people buy people first so always be receptive and contactable and make sure that you communicate well. Love what you do and adults and children will buy into it. Hopefully this attitude will help to generate enthusiasm and support locally for the School Games.

What are the most rewarding things about working in a job such as this and why would you encourage others to get involved in school sport in the future?

One of the rewards for me is that I am able to provide so many opportunities for young people to get involved in PE school sport and physical activity. My hope is that I do it in such a way that they all want to continue being physically active as part of a healthy lifestyle. I love to see children being active and happy in a positive environment and never want to turn a single child off through a negative experience. I always promote personal best rather than just winning and encourage teachers to use the School Games values to raise self-esteem. I can't think of a better environment in which to work. My office is constantly changing from a sports field to a tennis court, outdoor centre, or rugby club and I know that I can make a difference to young people’s lives as well as having an amazingly positive time myself.

We would like to thank Sharon very much for her time! 

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