Sport is often seen as a hobby, but for some it can also be a way of getting away from it all or improving one’s outlook on life.
This is the attitude of Roddy Slater, a former Scottish international sprinter who has 25 years of experience as a sports coach and mentor.
The 48-year-old shares his time on the athletic track with mentoring young people to try and help them with mental health issues, disabilities and vulnerabilities.
Roddy Slater is Sportsmail’s unsung hero for his youth mentoring work
Slater is a former Scottish sprinter who helps children with mental health and disability issues
He was nominated for a ‘UK Coaching Hero’ award for his work – particularly during the pandemic – and his ability to empower, develop and support vulnerable children through sport.
“A child will be referred to us and we will try to understand their background and thought process,” Slater said. Sportsmail. “Once we understand that we will try to channel their skills to realign and motivate them.
“If you do a plyometric jump (standing jump) on a box, when I first put it there, the kid will jump on it – no problem. When I do it above you can see the change in their faces.
“That’s when my job as a coach comes in and I think, ‘Okay, what are you thinking about now? What is your resistance to making this leap? “.
“And then I talk to them and I guide them and after a few tries they make the jump. I then relate that to the reality of life. There are days in life when you think you can’t do things and you can’t accomplish anything, and you have anxiety hanging over you. But if you keep trying and trying different ways, thinking about the instructions your teachers or parents are giving you, then you can do it. We therefore use the skills of the world of sport to guide them towards real life achievements. ‘
Born in Montreal, Slater helps give affected youth the skills they will need later in life
Slater was born in Montreal, but was an international athlete for Scotland and also did football management, coaching Henley Town FC. “I know I might not look like it, but I’m of Scottish descent,” he jokes, noting his roots in Saint Lucia.
His latest location is Reading, where he started his coaching and mentoring business Raw Mentoring after work at a student referral unit alerted him to a gap in the market for working with vulnerable children in a setting. athletic.
“One of my clients told me – and it touches me and makes me emotional – that I made him a better person and a more competent person,” says Slater. ‘That’s what I’m here for. If I can help someone feel better and do better, that’s my job done.
“I had a daughter who was in danger of being expelled from school. I walked in and met the school and tried to figure out why it was struggling and what anxieties were presenting itself.
“She was a kid who was really anxious and struggled to deal with her emotions before her GCSE year.
“We got to the heart of the matter to give him the opportunity to discuss and understand how to put things into achievable goals. Instead of a whole period of work, we broke it down into a day or an hour of work.
“To say that she stayed in school, that she got all of her GCSEs, that’s my job done. I don’t want a pat on the back, I don’t like the price.
“When it all came to the fore (with the award nomination), I was honored and humbled by it, but I was embarrassed. All I want to do is help the next child and move on. But seeing her pass her exams meant everything to me. She got kicked out of school a year and a half ago! ‘
Slater also helps young people with advice on their schoolwork and general school life.
Although Covid had a profound impact on the sessions, the mentoring was not affected in a major way due to the fact that it is about working with vulnerable children.
“We were able to give them a house to come to every day, a gym to train because they were vulnerable,” Slater adds. “We have seen the pressure on their mental health – their levels of communication and interaction have declined.
“But we gave them a safe place to come with continuity with me and my team – who were excellent. My team has their own life at home, but they came here every day and gave their all for these children.
“Giving them that variety – the stimulus in their minds and bodies – was important. In the evenings I would run Zoom classes for my athletes, rowers, and soccer teams. And then we added Q&A sessions just for the sake of it. get them to socialize and interact We made the rule that each person on the call had to ask the host two questions.
“It attracted them – they had to reflect and deal with their anxieties, while also having to talk to adults and think about what the adult was saying.
Slater says he hopes to develop the mentorship side of the business alongside athletic work
“We did the sessions for six straight weeks with a different guest each week. The difference between the youngsters, even in the second session, was huge. Seeing them being able to talk to the host and chat freely was great.
Slater says next on his list is to develop the mentorship side of the business. “We are starting to attract young people who are going to college or university,” he says.
“We want to expand to give them a home to go to. Much of our job ends at age 16 – I’m very keen that this isn’t the end.
“We want to support you along the way so that you can become valuable members of society. In the past two years, young people have had a whole new experience, so they go to universities without the proper support for them.
“It’s hard to get into this environment where you missed the last four months of your learning and then have to go out and learn on your own.
“They don’t spoon feed you in college. Make young people responsible for each other and that can start to change the scenario of young people in the world today. ‘
Roddy Slater is one of 75 shortlisted coaches for the UK Coaching Hero Awards, out of nearly 500 public nominations. To learn more, visit www.ukcoaching.org.