We introduced a new section in March as a way of highlighting the ordinary people in our communities who live extraordinary lives or have extraordinary stories from the past. We are very excited to now publish our first interview from when Alison sat down with Anna Jackson on Friday 1st June 2018.
From playing and coaching hockey; to disabling leg injuries; to experiencing depression; to falling in love with wheelchair basketball; to playing for Great Britain; to becoming head coach of Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club, Anna’s sporting journey has been quite the rollercoaster.
Read on to learn more about Anna.
AL: There are a lot of people out there living extraordinary lives without others knowing them or their stories. Do you agree that you belong in this category?
AJ: Yes, through winning awards and being asked to give interviews, I’ve gained validation from others. I have in the past been tough on myself and doubted myself so I’ve talked about team successes rather than promoting my own achievements. Now, I feel there is a responsibility towards those children who look up to me, so I have worked more on my confidence and acknowledging my talents and achievements.
AL: How would you describe yourself personally and professionally?
AJ: Personally, I’m a quiet, shy person who gives herself to others rather than taking from them. I’m more confident and feel more comfortable in knowing who I am now. Throughout my personal and professional personas, I would say I am conscientious and very aware of my responsibilities towards others. In my professional role as a coach, I seek to see the whole person which allows me to help them build up their skills. As I’ve spent a lot of time working on myself and my beliefs, I can use that experience and the skills I have developed to coach and motivate those who are questioning their abilities, identity and self-belief. Nowadays, my personal and professional personas are much closer than they have ever been which reflects the time I have taken to do the necessary work on myself.
AL: What’s a typical day for you, if there is one?
AJ: There are similar elements throughout each day such as getting up early and checking my emails, I may have a school visit where I talk to pupils about wheelchair basketball, there may be household chores to do and then I will exercise. When I say exercise, that means that as well as the usual physical exercise, I’ve also learnt to dedicate time to what I call ‘my head time’. This means allowing time to be quiet and reflect so it could be whilst walking my dog and watching him play or listening to music or birdsong.
The way I look at my days when planning is to decide whether it is a ‘be at my best day’ such as when I am presenting at schools, a rest day or a prep day when I will be planning and getting ready for coaching sessions.
When I’m involved in wheelchair basketball sessions on a Saturday at Ellesmere Port Sports Village, I can be working with anyone from 5 to 60 years old and I’ll be wanting to make sure I can involve everyone so that they feel part of what is happening. Even if people can’t take an active part in the session, I’ll make sure I chat with them or ask them to complete some tasks for me. We have such an amazing family of players and supporters here.
Then there are aspects to my day which aren’t typical at all. Like this afternoon, when Chris Matheson, Labour MP for the City of Chester will present me with my ‘Points of Light award’ from the Prime Minister. The award is in recognition of my voluntary work which I am extremely proud of.
AL: Out of all your achievements, what are you most proud of?
AJ: That would be playing wheelchair basketball for Great Britain. It wasn’t something I set out to do as I had wanted to play hockey for Wales. However, due to problems with my knees I then got into wheelchair basketball and played at international level. One amazing memory which will stay with me is of attending the opening ceremony at Sydney Paralympics. I also achieved a successful sporting career whilst still working full time and travelling to tournaments.
Away from sports, I am proud of my stable home life with my partner and our 11 years together.
AL: What are you currently involved in?
AJ: Club coaching which I do voluntarily at Ellesmere Port Sports Village. I’m developing a programme which will mentor the athletes off court as well as on so they can work on the whole person not just the sports person. I’ve seen first-hand how this can benefit the person as a whole through building confidence and self-belief. There is great value in being coached in the right way.
AL: What makes you want to get involved?
AJ: When I look back on my life, there are many times people have invested in me and helped me get to where I am today. Now I want to give back and that can be done through both voluntary and paid work. The fact that I’m now receiving awards for what I’m doing shows how we can make a difference to other people by just getting involved and wanting to have a positive impact.
AL: Which areas are important to you?
AJ: Inclusion in life not just in sport so that people can be up-skilled to allow them to fight for their rights in the right way.
Mental Health Awareness, so that people know what they need and how to get it.
Sport and physical activity as there are many little things people can do to be more active such as taking the stairs instead of the lift and walking further if their legs are good.
Mentoring as I want to encourage others to be the best version of themselves whatever that looks like for them as we are all individuals. I also enjoy making a difference to others.
AL: Who and what inspires you?
AJ: Coaches who have coached me have greatly inspired me and they have had a massive impact on the way I now coach others. I’m also inspired to do more as I can see the benefit for myself in everything I do as well as the benefits it brings for others. There is definitely a feel good factor about making a difference to others and I encourage myself by thinking about how many will have been reached by a session. It’s great to know someone is achieving something because of something I’ve helped them do or understand about themselves through the coaching and mentoring.
AL: Can you imagine a time when you don’t get involved?
AJ: No, I already find it difficult to just turn up and participate as I like to challenge myself and others to be the best version or ourselves.
AL: If you had your life over what would you change?
AJ: Well, I wouldn’t change the fact that my legs fell to bits as all these things wouldn’t have happened in my life. I would be more open and comfortable about who I was and accept my identity. I’d tell myself that ‘bad things will happen and you’ll be unsure of things, but they will all turn out in the end. Be comfortable with who you are, your values and stand up for them.’
AL: You talk openly about Mental Health and your awareness of your own Mental Health, what advice would you share with those struggling in their lives?
AJ: I’d advise them to talk about it and ask for help. Unfortunately, the waiting list can be long but talk to your GP and your family to get whatever help is needed. Don’t feel ashamed as it’s not a weakness and give yourself permission to feel whatever you feel. There is some amazing work being done so you can always pick up the phone and talk about it and get advice and help.
AL: Now that our readers know of some of your work, where can people find you?
AJ: My website is believeitcoaching.co.uk and I can also be found on Twitter @ALJ2372. I can be reached either way for motivational speaking, mentoring, life coaching, wheelchair basketball coaching, tutoring and school visits.
Please let us know if you enjoyed this 1st interview for our new section. If you would like to nominate someone for this section, please feel free to do so by getting in touch below or through our twitter @AlisonGorge23.