Award-winning young teacher Kate Roberts tells us how being crowned Young Coach of the Year was a total surprise and why she looks forward to going to work every day
After graduating from the University of Birmingham, Yorkshire born Kate Roberts saw no reason to leave the city and began her teaching career at George Salter School in West Bromwich four years ago. Of Birmingham Kate said: “It’s a great city. There’s so much going on and if you’re into sport Birmingham is brilliant. I fell in love with the school too.” George Salter School is in a deprived area and Kate and the rest of the team face the challenges that come with that every day, but through sport the pupils and local teenagers are getting engaged and active. Kate works in the Community Department and part of that role is to run the Street Games programme which offers eight sessions of sport per week to all local teenagers. Kate said: “It’s an unthreatening informal environment and crucially all of the sessions are either free or cost £1.” The Friday evening football session is particularly good. “Teenagers who would normally be hanging around the school on a Friday night are now playing sport instead.” There’s an average of 20 youngsters per session, so 150-plus teens per week are benefitting from the scheme. The youngsters can come and take part for 10 minutes or a whole session. It’s very flexible. Kate said: “Some of the youngsters who have come to Street Games have had little or no direction. Many then go on to volunteer and realise that the younger kids look up to them. They learn to communicate and how to be organised.” Fifteen of the volunteers have gone on to study for coaching qualifications that enable them to go on and forge a career.
Quite often kids come along for the social element and then develop a love of a sport. There have been some talented teens among the participants too. “The aim wasn’t to find superstars of tomorrow, but we have uncovered some very able youngsters who’ve gone on to talent academies and regional performance.” Netball is Kate’s big thing and as well as Street Games, she started West Bromwich Netball Club with a friend which has become the most successful regional club in the West Midlands with the U14 and U16 teams coming second in the national finals in Newcastle making them the best state school in the country. Kate knocks on doors waking up the youngsters for training at the weekend and always travels with a boot full of sports gear she no longer needs to pass on to the team. The young people and fellow coaches nominated Kate behind her back for the Young Coach of the Year award, so it was a lovely surprise. Kate was chosen from nearly 1,000 nominations, but she’s quick to deflect the limelight. “The award is for the whole programme. It’s for everyone. This isn’t a job to me – I just love it. Watching the kids progressing is satisfying and rewarding.” Jane Ashworth OBE, CEO of StreetGames, said: “This shows the amazing impact Kate has had on the lives of young people in West Bromwich. Kate has worked tirelessly to bring sport into the community at the right time, to the right place, for the right price and in the right style.” If the kids didn’t have this focus where would they be? Kate said: “Realistically many of them would be facing unemployment with no direction.”