Friday, 25 November 2016

Pause on the Pursuit.

 It's not until we stop, pause and glance back that we realise what is going on and just how many footsteps we have left behind us. Not just those of our own, but those of others lost on this adventure with us. Not until we start do we realise that there isn't a destination but a journey to get lost in and enjoy.

We reflect, we think about what has been achieved, wonder at how we have developed into the people we are and never seem to be able to pin point the exact time things started moving so fast. The lollipop moment which changed the way we think, feel and perceive the world. Or in fact, how the journey happens.. it kind of just does. As the quote goes, 'faith is taking a step without seeing the full stair case.' Maybe that's what it is, numerous small seemingly insignificant moments of encouragement, support, courage, opportunity disguised as a challenge which have provided at times stepping stones to leap from to keep moving forwards.. wherever forwards is.

Commonly described as a catalyst, with the right support, Football Futures has and continues to change lives. For different reasons to different people. The speed in which young people develop is mind blowing. Being in the right environment which allows individuals to believe there are possibilities. To be supported by those a few steps ahead. Making the most of opportunities as they are presented.. being present. Enjoying the now.

Enjoying the now.

Over September/ October I was challenged to stop thinking about what is coming next. Think about the journey up until now, where have I come from, and where am I right now. In-between the opportunities as key top line points, are the people who enabled the opportunity to present itself, and the moments within the opportunity. Nobody remembers the whole thing, the whole trip, event etc. But we remember moments.
What was said, what was felt, what we saw.
What we said, what we made others feel, what we made others see.

I think we're modest, never allowing ourselves to believe we are that powerful to inspire and influence others. Not recognising the small things we do and say can be really big things to other people. We're too busy enjoying ourselves and trying to let other people get lost with us through enthusiasm, reflection and the want for others to develop. 

I've been thinking about the people, the lollipop moments of 3-4 years ago, the many I have had this week and how important they all are. Thought about the shift in thinking from what is the next step/ opportunity to, let's see what happens. The 'hell yeahs' as once described to me.

The points at which we work through the challenges and forget to allow ourselves the enjoyment of letting go. Caring less to almost care more. Enjoying the pitfalls, because they are learning points. Realising that by trusting ourselves, and those around us great strides can be made unknowingly.

Maybe it's good we don't know. But maybe we are missing a whole lot by not recognising the smalls moments which are really big moments.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is, it's good every now and then to just stop. Pause on the pursuit of perfection, nobody really knows the way, but we all remember where we started.

It feels good to be lost in the right direction. I feels good to stop and enjoy the view.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

People are People

'Be excited by the opportunity you have to bring out the best in other people.'
Mark Sampson

What a thought that we are that powerful to be able to bring out the best in others. That our actions and words can inspire others to be better leaders, youth council members.. to be better people.

It has been said to me in recent days, 'It's not the programme, it's the people.' The ones who care about the development of others, the ones who take the time out to listen and support individuals, the ones who want what is best for their peers, the ones who stride with you, the ones who give you something to follow, the ones who nudge you from behind to keep on going. The ones.

People are people. The more we remember that, the more we will adapt who we are and our support to enhance the potential of others. To be that nudge in the back, or the one sprinting to keep up with the ambitions of others.

Something I have done a lot of thinking about over the last season [and beyond], is what makes a good leader? Everyone has their own style, their own comfort. However, it's rather likely that our leadership style interchanges on a regular basis.

Is a leader, someone who creates followers and is apart from the group? Is a leader, someone who leads from within? Takes people on a journey, is a tour guide not a travel agent? Is a leader, someone who has faced challenges, been broken numerous times, but keeps on coming back and trying again? Is a leader, someone who is a little bit different, creative, innovative, someone who does something different or better?

What if a leader, is all of those things? Has experienced the challenges, developed resilience, learnt to take people with them, have found ways to be different?

The 60 Youth Leaders who attended FFA16 are exactly that, their own leader - even more than that - their own person, with their own perceptions of what 'good' and 'great' looks like. They are authentic, but know how to look for the best attributes of others which might work and build into their armoury.. build into it, not become it. As noted last week, lets remember the difference between role models and mirrors.

Thrown in at the deep end, our youth leaders have been challenged to think about themselves, what they stand for and believe in, their values, how can they support and influence others? Everyone is a role model, not just to those behind us but to those above and beside us. Trying to support those thoughts is a challenge in itself, an exciting one as the top line says. But we are part of this process to, how can we support the development of others if we aren't sure of who we are? Or have any idea of the process? A journey we all must undertake in order to effectively support others.. no one will ever crack it. We're evolving all of the time. Developing ways of thinking and ways of being. But I don't think we can appropriately support others with ways we wouldn't be prepared to test ourselves.

The challenge in being your own person, leader, light bulb, whatever, is that everyone sees the journey from their own set of eyes. We forget that it is ok to accept someone else's opinion and way of being if we feel that it makes sense and fits with us. We don't have to challenge and revise things and thoughts all of the time.. sometimes an idea just sits nicely. As long as we know why we are accepting thoughts then that is what matters, surely?

More often, we might revise and challenge thoughts to either further our understanding or to accept them on our terms. 'Yeah, I like that point, but it isn't quite relevant - how about looking at it like this..' Shaping ideas and thoughts before internalising them.

Every now and again we will resist thoughts, 'No, I disagree and wont accept that.' Resisting thoughts it ok, you're allowed to disagree, that shows you are sure of thoughts at that moment in time. I wouldn't ever want to dismiss thoughts completely though, maybe come back to them at a later date. Try and understand the view of others, they're a person too. Just because it might not be your way, doesn't mean it is the wrong way.

Being your own leader/ person is always going to require these thoughts of accepting, resisting and revising. Amending thoughts along the way. Knowing that where you are now, is not where you will be in in a month, 5 months or a years time.

Surround yourself with people who understand the journey and want to be a part of yours.

Be excited by the opportunity to develop others, be excited by the opportunity to develop yourself.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Rwanda Revisited

2 years this week since travelling to Rwanda with The FA as a part of the Changing Lives Programme.

2 years since I was threatened to be thrown out of a hotel window, forgot the pin code to the safe, got food poisoning and, jokes aside, had the most amazing experience.

During that week Jacques who looked after us said, going to another country is like getting a degree with the amount you learn.. far more than your set our or expect to. Just like a degree, the learning doesn't always seem useful or make sense straight away. It is over time, reflection and taking a step back which allows dots to be connected.

The more I reflect, the more I see the food poisoning and Rwandan Hospital situation a blessing in disguise. Before flying out I was told to start believing in myself - something I'm still not great at - but that day of not being at the festival but being told of how the leaders I was working with did, took on challenges and let the kids play made and continues to remind me that even when we think we aren't we most certainly are making a difference.

The fact that young leader meant experience, nobody is too old to learn or at a disadvantage because of time passed. But rather the willingness and desire to learn, to use football to make a difference.The fact that people who have lived through the genocide and lost friends and family were and are able to move on and want to make a difference to the lives of others is nothing short of phenomenal. 

Actually, those little things, the moments, those are the big things. Whether it was the awkward valentines lift moment, pillow fights, Cool Runnings in the hotel in London before we left. The realisation of how much people care, how much The FA has invested in me as a person to make a difference to others. That difference might be incredibly small in the eyes of a coach or leader in England, but in a country which has been 'through the mill' of turbulent times, making a difference to 4 people's lives is a tremendous effort and to those 4 people, it is huge. 

A time where adaptability was everything. Oh no we've no kit! Where have all these kids come from? My leaders are still explaining and we started 5 minutes ago! Typical, we come to Africa and bring a flood of rain with us! Sarah can you speak French?, 'oui' - oh no now they think I'm fluent! These things happen. But how we responded was the key. 

Mistakes happened every 2 seconds, But I guess after the greatest storms come the clearest skies. The struggles, the mistakes, the doubts, the 'what am I doings?' turned into, they've got it, changes to games, new ideas, leaders not standing in the middle of the session for it to happen, organisation and progress.

It might not be down to me, but I'd like to think I helped, seeing photos of returning leaders last year and recognising those who I mentored, seeing they had returned to learn more. We all know that it is positive experiences which bring kids back [or parents], but that is the same for all of us. What a rewarding thought.

The more I reflect, the more I know Big John is right.. it's all about people. And it always is. How we move things forwards. Those who I travelled with who are now life long friends, people who spent the week allowing me to make my mistakes and learn from them [never order a Rwandan burger!] people who care, and that is something really special.

The memories make me smile everyday. The thought that I had a positive influence in the life of another is beyond belief. Knowing I was confident and able to deliver an international programme and support the journey of others and my peers - that's beyond words.

Those small things, those moments.. it turns out they were the really big things.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

2015 - Remembering the Peaks

It's been quite a year. I think that's an understatement, one I can only appreciate at a time when I have been able to slow down and reach a stop. 

Up until December 15th, I'd been rolling full steam ahead, picking up power ups and Wumpa Fruit [Google Crash Bandicoot] on the way and hadn't really paused to think and reflect. If you've read the prior post, you'd see I haven't blogged for  few months, and in doing so transported myself into 'The Real World.'  

On December 15th I travelled to Wembley, had a couple of phone calls on the way, joined a meeting with fellow FA National Game Youth Council members, had a couple of hours in a coffee shop and my first experience of Wagamamas - don't worry I hadn't heard of it either. A day of firsts, a day of over coming challenges, a day of celebrating. There are 2 reasons that day was a stand out, firstly, I had time to think and genuinely reflect on the year and the few weeks leading up until then of non-stop travelling, meetings, graduation, conferences and life. A line from a phone call, 'Sarah, you sound tired.' [Cheers SL] Yeah, I was. No 2 ways about it. I guess, I was so wrapped up in everything going on, I didn't get a chance to catch my breathe and see what I was doing. Was that didn't get a chance? Or didn't create a chance?

Point 2, over tea, my first experience of squid and eating a Japanese soup with chop-sticks [you're right, chop-sticks and soup don't work!] Donna McIvor said to me, 'Sarah, you've had quite a year, Youth Council, graduation, your job..' 

I think I've needed someone/ people to bring me back to reality, and those 2 moments were exactly that. 

I guess the pursuit and gaining of employment took over, am I surprised? No. Have I made a mistake in not giving myself enough Sarah time? Yes. Does that worry me? No. I'm new to this full time work malarkey, going to make mistakes and do so on a hourly basis, if not sooner.

It is so easy to fall into the trap of work and being busy, all for what? 

The real challenge hasn't been in my job, Youth Council, moving away as such... but how I have approached it all. I'd be lying if I said the last 6 months have been easy. There have been days where I want to get in my car and drive home, leave Somerset life behind. Days where I sit and worry about, well, everything. Times where I just want to get through the day and keep all emotions in check, that side cant be seen yet. As commonly told, that's ok though, it all proves I'm human.. but that's not the point. 

2015 has been a culmination of everything I've learnt and an expression of the person I am and becoming.. which I am very proud of. The older I get [calm down, still 21] the more I am realising it is the small things which are important. I look back on graduating, National Camp, NGYC, the job and yeah those are great, but it is the gaps between the notes, the walking in between which make those mountain tops so special. The trips to Bath, Loughborough, Doncaster, Salisbury and beyond which have created endless memories. The phone calls and emails holding photos, jokes and I guess a safety net to fall into. But most importantly, the people. Those who take ordinary occasions and make them extraordinary. My family, the Football Futures Family and my colleagues. Those who have made moving to Somerset, working life and life in general easier and enjoyable. 

Moments stored in this jar which I cant wait to open in a few days time to relive the year and the things which have made me smile. I guess you could call them all lollipop moments. 

Smile Moments 2015

So much has gone into the peaks of 2015. I know 2016 will be great, I don't know where the Sarah Nickless Party Bus will go next.. but I know I have the right people travelling with me. 


Saturday, 1 August 2015

Closing Thoughts

Blogging over the last couple of years has been a lot of fun, I am certain that I have achieved what I set out to. I see now as a good time to call it a day and leave things on these thoughts. 

The last 5 seasons have been surreal. Little did I know that October 15th 2010 would be the start of something really special. That 15 minutes of hell, being told to stop playing the game I love was the first of many turning points. Was it a set back, or a change of direction?

To those who have supported the journey in some shape of form, thank you. To the Football Futures Family who have helped me, challenged my thoughts and been amazing companions along the way - you're all heroes. 

I cant ever begin to word how much of an impact Football Futures has had on my life. To say it has changed my life, would be an understatement. The power of the game to develop people is something really special. To now be in a position to support the development of others through the programme which has helped me so much is incredible. 

The pause button has been firmly pressed on blogging, this isn't a stop, but a rest on the way. A time for me to focus on what is important. I'm going to be doing what Miley said, 'Keep on movin', Keep Climbin.' It is all about the climb, the journey, the peaks and troughs which now will become a lot more personal and frequent.. a time which all of these blogged experiences will become my hand book for working life.

Football Futures has inspired me to be me. 



Here goes, the FA National Football Futures Camp 2015, formulated thoughts and reflections. In the immediate thoughts I mentioned how I never thought I'd ever have the opportunities I have done, nor did I think football could provide me with such amazing moments.. and I didn't think that some volunteering thing could become such a pivotal part of my life. To some Football Futures is just a programme, but to many it's an emotional life changing thing that just so happens to encompass a mutual love of football. A programme that brings me to tears far too often, but emotions mean you care right?

The last few months have been a whirlwind. I also have previously said that my NGYC and Football Futures pathway is fragile. I know so. Fragile because my life has changed, hugely, over the last month. Moving to Somerset and starting my first full time role in football is on one hand amazing - the dream is coming alive, on the other hand it is the most scary and nerve racking thing I have ever been through. Many would say that all of my FF (Football Futures) opportunities and events have paid off. I don't see it that way. To me the opportunities have been taken because I wanted to, not because I thought they would lead to an extrinsic reward of a job. This move and life event has ruffled feathers of normality of coaching every week and spending a lot of time towards Youth Council work.. The worrying fragility and uncertain future of my FF involvement is just that worrying. It was these nerves which I took into FFCamp15. Nerves of knowing this might be my last Camp, being uncertain of putting in a NGYC application for the new season and starting to worry about the big move. 

Our last event as the NGYC for the 2014/15 term, it was going to be special no 2 ways about it. As a team we are/ were incredibly passionate about the children and young people within our game. It was and has been so enjoyable to spend time who all share the same vision and goal in moving football into a better position than when found. I have made and built unbelievable friendships and personally developed far beyond measure over the last year and a half. Camp seemed to be a fairytale end to what has been a surreal time with the team. 

It seems irrelevant to give a breakdown of the week - there other posts which have done that from previous years. Camp aims to reward the young leaders who are making a real difference in their counties, but it is a comma not a full stop. A point to reflect on the distance travelled so far, the challenges and successes, and a point to plan and think ahead to what it to come. To inspire and support people as people, helping them to become better citizens, not just developing the football workforce.

It always amazes me the power of football, FF and National Camp. 99 strangers turning up on the Monday and then leaving as friends just a few days later. The 99 journeys which take place, and more than that.. the journeys of staff and Youth Council members. Being a part of that is special. Getting to know people, their journey to camp, motivations and ambitions you cant really word it. Well I cant. 

Before Camp started, we as staff, mentors, NGYC discussed what success looks like, if you can answer that then well done. I cant. It looks different to everyone. Success may have been getting to camp, answering a question in a workshop, presenting in front of a group, making friends, understanding options ahead. Whatever it is/was, our job was to help to make that happen. The word 'journey' gets banded about a lot, but camp is about understanding where you are on your journey, and working out where the next steps will come from. Not comparing yourself to others, but comparing yourself to yourself. Now we're getting a bit deep, but understanding the significance of what you're doing, the challenges ahead and what the overarching success is to look like. It is these meaningful relationships, conversations and moments which make Camp, well, Camp. The memories I hold from 3 years ago are what might seem like insignificant moments to many - but the mentors, NGYC and staff are what make Camp so special, and we cant ever underestimate the power of a spoken word or taking the time to just listen. This is why understanding what success looks like is so important. 

As I said previously, I was and continue to be inspired by the young people within the game. Those who really care and are determined to be a better version of themselves. I watched young leaders last week develop across 4 days, come out of their shells and in many ways I saw parts of myself in others. Those who showed an immense amount of passion and care in what they were doing. Who got as much out of camp as they possibly could. It's really difficult to word the feeling of seeing that and being fortunate enough to be a part in helping other people. I am and ordinary person who has made the most of the opportunities on offer, and it has led to a position of such importance to inspire others to maybe follow in my footsteps, or alongside - we're not creating robots remember.

I thought a week would be enough to construct actual thoughts about Camp, but I'm not so sure. 

Camp this year has brought home how important FF is. And yes, I know, I keep banging on about it. I made the decision to present during the closing ceremony of camp, maybe a silly move as I have cried throughout the previous 2, but I decided that was a challenge I wanted to put ahead of myself. Many people wouldn't know that I nearly didn't speak. Moments before I was due to stand up and open the closing, I found myself crying and shaking sat by the tea and coffee. The moment really got to me. I've spoken so many times before and got to a point where I actually quite enjoy it.. but closing Camp seemed a step too far. When something mean so much, emotions and the moment gets magnified by like a billion. Camp and FF is that important to me, that I let my emotions take full control - the chimp wasn't being tamed if you like. 

If Camp is about the small wins, then that was certainly mine. The cape was certainly on, and if anything else it proved to me how amazing my FF Family is. It would have been easy for the guys to go on and deliver the closing without me, but they didn't. Huge thanks to Adam, Kieren and Luke for sitting with me, giving me time to compose myself and backing me to deliver what I did. It is moments like that which make you realise what and who is important - to me making me realise how much FF and the NGYC mean and how much I want it all to remain a part of what I do. Somehow, not sure how. 

Camp maybe over, but the memories and friendships will last a lifetime. It's as much about those running it, as it is the for the young leaders. The structure of Camp may change and evolve, but the great thing is it always brings in new people. It is difficult to word the feelings, emotions and reflections.. maybe I over estimated my ability to do so.. but sometimes we need to remember what it is all about.

As Kirsty Whitton rightly said at the start of the week, although talking about Camp, I think this sums up the entire essence of Football Futures:

'It's how much of an impact you can have on a person, as a person.'

Powerful stuff.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Immediate Thoughts - #FFCamp15

The last 6 days have been amazing - so amazing that I cannot word nor begin to explain. Nor am I going to. Well aware of my reflective capabilities, I'm going to sit on my thoughts for the next week or so and pull them together when I can catch my breathe. 

Not wanting to leave the blog on a blank slate, I'll attempt to drop my immediate thoughts, hopefully they will make sense or offer some suggestion of what I mean. 

In the pre-camp blog I said I went into the week with a different kind of nerves. An apprehension of not knowing where my National Game Youth Council or Football Futures path leads. Nerves of wanting to better last year, knowing that the little things were going to be the difference. 

I've always said the event and destination isn't always the important part, but the people you are travelling and working with. This week has allowed me to build some amazing friendships, strengthen ones which are already there and work with 99 outstanding young people who have truly inspired me. 

There have been many 'smile moments' and I'm glad that people have taken on board the idea of lollipop moments. Small random moments of significance to you, not to the world but to the individual. Some people might not realise they are creating them, but lollipop moments are all around us - we need to start recognising them and celebrating them. 

Entering the week I didn't set any goals, but my thoughts were around quality not quantity. Could I have a handful of meaningful impacts / relationships over numerous insignificant ones? I'd like to think I've achieved that. How do I know they've been meaningful? I don't know, the messages I've received today have blown me away and might be proof - but it's in what comes next. Do those people go and make a bigger difference? 

I'm flitting between thoughts and ideas, rolling through Camp Blues and to be honest don't really know where I'm going with this. Never did I think I'd get the privilege of this journey, neither did I think it would take over my life and emotions. How wrong could I be? 

This week I've felt like the richest person in the world. Rich on life, the exhilarating moments it has given me. The opportunity to meet and spend time with people and then see them progress. See them eager and determined to learn, to want to do more and be more.

Before the emotions take over, again, I'm going to leave it here, well until I can formulate actually relevant and structured thoughts and feelings..

I'm exceptionally proud to be a Football Futures Ambassador, to be associated with something which actively changes people's lives through the most amazing vehicle of football. Leadership isn't something we should work towards, but something we should embrace. Football Futures changes the lives of the people who understand the importance of being a better person, and striving to develop themselves and others. 

You don't have to change the world, to change the world; there are 6 billions perceptions of the world, and if you can change one person's view, then you have done just that.