Meet Lora Umelue – our award winning Young Leader

December 6, 2017

SportInspired has trained and coached 1000’s of talented young leaders over the years – they are the engine room of our community building endeavours.

Just last month one of our awesome young leaders was selected as the winner of the Panathlon Jack Petchey Outstanding Young Leader Award. Lora Umelue – what a superstar. We caught up with her recently for a chat about her experience.

How did you first get involved in the SI programme and then the festivals?

I was already a Sports Leader at school, having been nominated as a sports leader in Year 8.  In Year 8, I started with smaller things – assisting teachers with clubs, going to events with other students; in Year 9, I became a Health & Wellbeing ambassador; in Years 10 and 11 my involvement became more serious, taking part in bigger events and leading at SI festivals. Ms Duffy told me about the SI programme and I wanted to take part because of the opportunity to work with disabled children.

How did it fit in with what you were doing at school?

I had been a sports leader at school since Year 8. Up until I took part in the SI programme, this involved running an athletics club, officiating at events and warming up children before competitions. I was also a Health & Wellbeing Ambassador: I ran health clubs once a week to talk to other pupils about leading a healthy lifestyle by eating healthily and being more physically active.

It was amazing to amazing to see people who didn’t usually take part in sport, suddenly being encouraged to take part!

Did you have any expectations before starting the SI programme?

I thought it would be harder to lead, as I had never led a session for children with disabilities. But in the training sessions we learned different ways of communicating with people, e.g. using non-verbal communication.

Although I was still nervous on the day, the training really prepared us to work with disabled kids by teaching us about the different disabilities we would come across and how we could lead the kids and communicate with them despite their disabilities.

What did you want to get out of taking part and how did you feel afterwards?

I hoped that I’d be able to learn new skills to use outside of the festival. I wanted to make disabled kids smile and feel included – and it was incredible to see them enjoy the day so much.

I learned a lot of new skills: the importance of body language for example when I was communicating with a deaf child at the festival – he couldn’t hear me and I couldn’t sign, so I had to use body language to let him know he had done really well.

I felt I really grew through the festivals and was really happy about making people smile. I was also really proud of myself because I could lead children with disabilities and make them feel encouraged to take part. I was really inspired by the kids –

willing to take part without hesitation and overcome barriers, and utterly fearless in most situations.

What skills have you taken away with you?

I learned so many skills: how to be enthusiastic and put myself forward, not just stand at the back. How to engage children, and especially disabled children. Problem solving skills: e.g. we had a challenge during our SI training or thinking of activities that disabled children could do, thinking through the barriers and finding opportunity in different sports.

Mostly I learned how important it is to be inclusive of everyone. Working with disabled kids made me realise that disabled people can do just as much as everyone else – it was really inspirational.

What is the main thing you want to remember?

There was a big group picture of the whole group involved in the festival at the end of the day – the children, young leaders and volunteers. It was great to be part of a group of people who want to help, including the corporate volunteers, and be a part of a community aiming to be inspirational and inclusive.

What are you excited about and looking forward to now?

Taking part in the festivals and volunteering at school made me so excited about helping people in the future – and I’m now even more excited after winning the award!  

Taking part in the SI festivals also encouraged me to volunteer more and keep working to help disabled kids.  I’m just starting volunteering now to coach disabled kids in sports, which I’m really excited about. I was a VInspired Ambassador, collecting food for and helping to sort food at a local foodbank. I feel really inspired to carry on working to help other people.

And I’m doing my A-Levels now and want to study medicine at university – carrying on the theme of helping people!


Lora, we think you’re incredible and a true inspiration for all our future Young Leaders.

Carol Duffy, Lora’s PE Teacher, had this to add:

‘Every group, every organisation and every team needs a driving force and Lora is ours! During her time at St Paul’s Academy. Lora supported every fundraising and enterprise initiative and, in a number of cases, was the person behind the concept and organisation of such events.  Lora was a school Health and Well-Being Ambassador and school Sports Leader and through these roles used her extensive knowledge in these areas to selflessly give of her time to assist staff and students in whatever way she could.  If I was to use one phrase to describe Lora it would be ‘Our precious, quiet organiser; our driving force!

Pupils have been incredibly inspired to pursue a career in the sports industry as a result of their Sport Inspired experiences.”


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