My name is Chinasa Ukandu, a sports instructor and coach educator. I am the chair of Youths Sports Initiative (YSI), an NGO whose mission is to create opportunities for children and young people through physical education and community sports. I’m sure if someone had told me when I was 14 that someday, my face would be on the page of an international newspaper I’d have laughed hysterically and thought of a thousand ways why it would never be possible.
Here’s the story of how I went beyond gender limitations and made the world my pitch.
While at 14 most girls were dropping out of sports, my case was different. My love for sports drove me into the arms of the British Council. I was 14 when they came to my school to organize a programme called ‘Dreams and Teams’ where I was selected and trained as one of its young leaders. This was particularly encouraging because it was proof to me that I could be a strong force in sports irrespective of my gender.
I later joined the Community Action through Sports (CATS), also organised by the British Council. Later that year, Queen Elizabeth of England and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh visited Nigeria and I was among a selection of CATS leaders that engaged the Duke in a question-and-answer session at the Union Bank sports complex. In 2005, the International Young Leaders Conference was held in England. Every African country was represented by two or three people, and I was one of the two CATS leaders representing Nigeria. That was my first journey outside Nigeria. I remember I gave an inspiring speech during the programme and later learnt that my photo and parts of my speech appeared in a British Newspaper.
My liaison with the British Council propelled me into the growth and development of community sports in Nigeria. I have acquired vast knowledge, skills and exposure from training I’ve had both within and outside the country from different experts in diverse fields.
Today, I chair an NGO called Youth Sports Initiative (YSI), a youth-focused, youth-led organisation that uses the Nigerian passion for sports to bring together young people to improve their game but more importantly develop leadership skills, citizenship and provide opportunity for the development of peer education/coaching and mentoring that will benefit the young people themselves and their communities as a whole. YSI is also a project partner of the Premier skills project, a British Council initiative. #KnowMoreDoMore
Chinasa is a beneficiary of the Premier Skills Project. Premier Skills uses football to develop a brighter future for young people around the world, drawing upon the global appeal of the Premier League and its expertise in delivering community programmes in the UK, alongside the British Council’s global network and track record of delivery. For more details on the Premier Skills programme and how you can get involved, visit http://bit.ly/2GCAcUv