October marks Black History Month, a time to reflect and celebrate the work and lives of those from ethnically diverse backgrounds across the world. This month we will also be celebrating those nominated as part of the Sporting Equals Awards – a ceremony dedicated to the contributions of black and ethnic minorities throughout the sporting sector.
Athletics is proud as a sport to be one of the most inclusive, supporting athletes, coaches and volunteers from all backgrounds and abilities.
We recently spoke to Victory Etafo-Ogbah, an aspiring coach and athlete from Cambridge Harriers who has recently completed a Sporting Equals and England Athletics backed programme, Future Female Leaders.
Let’s get to know Victory…
Back to the beginning
First getting a taster of athletics at school, Victory’s talent for sport was outstanding, landing her at her local athletics club through the support of her dad.
“As a child I moved homes a lot and the one thing which allowed me to make friends. My dad signed me up to my local athletics club, Cambridge Harriers where I still train today.
“My transition into joining my club was very smooth and my first ever coach was like a second father and role model to me. When I started competing around age fourteen, I wanted to develop further and moved across to my current coach, Mark Lancaster.”
What makes a good coach?
During your journey as an athlete, you are likely to come across different coaches with a range of different styles. As an aspiring coach, Victory has learned a lot through her relationship with her current personal coach.
“I think it is important to have a solid athlete and coach friendship. My coach, Mark, is a really great listener and as a female growing up in sport having a person you could trust that listened to you was valuable. I would be open with my concerns or challenges especially throughout my teenage years and he would listen. This is something I really like and take on board as I help to coach the younger children at my club. I want to support them with their athletics, but also to help develop them into good people.”
Taking the next step with the Future Female Leaders Programme
Victory’s passion for athletics is infectious and something she really wants to pursue as a career, either as a competing athlete or in the coaching sphere – an aspiration that the Future Female Leaders Programme supported her with. The programme looks to support 35 women from ethnically diverse backgrounds who are passionate about their sport and want to learn from industry experts – an opportunity which Victory jumped at.
“My coach received the information and asked if I would be interested to go along. I said yes because I love to say yes to everything, but I went along and loved it straight away. The course was amazing and the result of getting my coaching licence has enabled me to confidently say that I am a coach, and I can coach properly.
“Being surrounded by females in sport on the programme was a huge benefit for me. We had professional guest speakers that are top in their field and we would not traditionally have access to them. They became great influential role models for me.
“As a female I am mostly surrounded by males who are interested in sport so seeing other females in the sport gave me a real boost. We really supported each other throughout the programme and I made great friends. There is often a stigma that women are shy and quiet but those I met on the programme weren’t and we were able to play and have fun."
Encouraging ethnically diverse communities to get into coaching
Seeing people like yourself whatever background you are from, within any career or venture is important and something which Victory highlighted needs more work in the coaching space.
“A lot of athletes are from minority backgrounds, but there are not loads of minority coaches. Having female coaches and female minority coaches especially will help people like me to continue in the sport because we can see the progression opportunities whether as an athlete or coach.
“I am definitely inspired when I see more female coaches participating as it shows me that I can do it, I an continue to work up the ladder and become more qualified.
“When I was in secondary school at career development days they would always encourage you to look at medicine or law but they never spoke about sport and coaching and if they did this was tailored to the boys. From a young age it is important for girls to see that women can coach, and they do it really well.”
Celebrating Black History Month
Each year, Black History Month is a time for people from all backgrounds to pause, remember and celebrate, something which Victory is very passionate about.
“Black History Month is something to be really proud of, a time when we can see black people in a really positive light which sadly isn’t always the way. It is not just about the history however, it is also about the present day and celebrating people who are doing great things within the black community today.”