Inspirational sporting and coaching achievement was celebrated at West Nottinghamshire College’s inaugural Sports Personality of the Year (SPOTY) Awards.
Dedication, motivation and the power to inspire others were just some of the qualities on display as individuals and teams took to the stage to collect prestigious accolades.
More than 80 guests including staff, students and sponsors filled the college’s fine-dining restaurant Refined to see 17 awards handed out in categories ranging from player of the year across football, basketball and rugby, to student, coach, team and volunteer of the year.
The evening’s big winner – the college’s Sports Personality of the Year – was A-level biology, chemistry and psychology student Sarah Maqbool for being the driving force behind the college’s first-ever equestrian society.
The 20-year-old, from Nottingham, formed the society – called WNC Equestrian – alongside classmates last year, and it sees weekly, subsidised horse-riding lessons taking place at Fairview Farm Equestrian Centre, in Ravenshead, which are available to fellow students.
Society president Sarah’s goal was to “break down the barrier between loving a particular sport yet being unable to afford to do it.”
She said: “If you’re really interested in a sport, especially one as amazing as horse-riding, I firmly believe that one of the worst obstacles to have is financial difficulty or not being able to afford the lessons.
“My main aim was to encourage participation from people of all backgrounds and bring a bit of the ‘equestrian spirit’ to West Notts. I just want students to know that if they’re interested in horse-riding, the option is open to them and there’s a place they can go and develop as a rider.”
As well as taking part in many fundraising activities at college, Sarah recently became one of only 70 females in the UK to become a Sport England ‘This Girl Can’ ambassador. The role is designed to encourage other females to participate in physical activity and to help them overcome the fear of judgement, which often stops women and girls from joining in with sport or exercise.
Describing the SPOTY accolade as “an unbelievable honour,” Sarah added: “I’d set my hopes on the equestrian society winning the team award and never imagined for a moment that I’d win the overall award.
“This truly is a collective effort, but on a personal level, I’ve sacrificed quite a lot to get the society up-and-running and balance it with my studies. But it’s all worth it when you see the students develop their riding skills and gain confidence, with a smile on their face.”
Fahd Saleh, a Syrian refugee who is studying an NVQ Level 2 Activity Leadership qualification at the college after being re-settled in Mansfield, was named Inspiration of the Year.
The 32-year-old hopes to become a football coach in the UK after enjoying a successful career as a professional goalkeeper in his homeland, before he and his family were forced to flee due to the conflict and humanitarian crises.
Although the married father-of-two was unable to attend the ceremony, he was presented with his trophy by tutor Rachael Evans the following day.
Fahd said: “I’m very happy to win this award. I’d like to thank my tutors and my friends in class because when I first came to the college, I didn’t speak very good English – my first language is Arabic – but they’ve helped me a lot. I feel very proud.”
Sport Student of the Year was Melanie Atkins, for excelling on the Level 2 Diploma in Health and Fitness and Exercise Instruction, where she has 100% attendance and is the only female on the course, as well as being her class’s learner representative.
She is also studying an additional, voluntary module in sports massage to further develop her skills, and impressed on her work placement at Oak Tree Leisure Centre, Mansfield, which led to her securing a part-time job there.
The 18-year-old, from Forest Town, Mansfield, said: “Being the only female in my group was hard to begin with, because I felt so nervous. But everyone treats me as one of them, so I’ve settled in well. Winning this award came as a real surprise and I really appreciate it.”
Volunteer of the Year was Oliver Hughes, 18, for his efforts in engaging local children in the Change for Life exercise programme, which sees him visiting various schools as part of his NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Supporting the Delivery of PE and School Sports qualification.
Oliver, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, said: “It was a challenge to begin with but now I feel very confident in how I work with the children. Seeing them having fun and knowing the impact I can make really inspires me to go out there and do more for them.”
Coach of the Year was Dan Richards – head coach at top-flight basketball outfit Mansfield Giants, who trains the college team as part of his link-up with West Notts’ recently-formed Academy of Sport.
He said: “To hear my name read out was a total shock; I really wasn’t expecting it at all. It’s great to be part of the basketball academy and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of players. They’ve been so committed and are putting down great foundations for the future.”
Guest speaker was computer science student and para swimmer Ben Foulston, who is no stranger to awards success after being named Junior Disabled Sports Person of the Year at the Nottinghamshire Sports Awards earlier this year. The 16-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, talked about his dedication to the sport and how it has changed his life.
Awards organiser, college sport maker Robert Pearce, said: “There’s been a tremendous amount of sporting achievement across the entire college this academic year, so this was a fitting way of sharing and celebrating people’s success.
“There were a lot of very surprised people stepping up to receive their awards but we’ve seen genuine pride on their faces at reaching their personal goals.”
Sponsors of the awards were Mansfield Town FC Football in the Community, Anytime Fitness, Mansfield Giants, Express Coaching Services, England Rugby Colleges (part of the RFU), Fairview Farm Equestrian, Sherwood Colliery FC Ability Counts, Adrenalin Jungle, Archon Combine, Sabre Sports, and Debdale Park Sports and Recreational Club.
The full list of winners is:
•Team West Notts Football Academy – Players’ Player of the Year: Ryan Clarke, 19 (BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport and Exercise Sciences)
•Team West Notts Football Academy – Coach’s Player of the Year: Tommy Platt, 19 (BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport: Development Coaching and Fitness)
•Women’s Football – Players’ Player of the Year: Harriet Hill, 16 (Level 2 Diploma for Entry to the Uniformed Service)
•Women’s Football – Coach’s Player of the Year: Gemma Wilcock, 18 (BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sport: Development Coaching and Fitness)
•Team West Notts Basketball Academy – Players’ Player of the Year: Blake Street, 16 (BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sport and Exercise Sciences)
•Team West Notts Basketball Academy – Coach’s Player of the Year: Ben Morrison, 18 (BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport and Exercise Sciences)
•Team West Notts Rugby Union – Players’ Player of the Year: Jake Mallinder, 16 (BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sport and Exercise Sciences)
•Team West Notts Rugby Union – Coach’s Player of the Year: Kyle Allen, 17 (BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Sport and Exercise Sciences)
•West Notts Active Equestrian – Most Improved Rider (Beginner): Amy Walters, 17 (A-level geography, maths and physics)
•West Notts Active Equestrian – Most Improved Rider (Intermediate): Jade Dawson-Jones, 17 (A-level biology, chemistry and geography)
•Ability Counts Football – Shining Light Award: Callum Mackay, 17 (AIM Extended Certificate)
•Coach of the Year: Dan Richards (college basketball academy coach)
•Sports Team of the Year: Team West Notts Basketball
•Sport Student of the Year: Melanie Atkins, 18 (Level 2 Diploma in Health and Fitness and Exercise Instruction)
•Sport Volunteer of the Year: Oliver Hughes, 18 (NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Supporting the Delivery of Physical Education and School Sport)
•Inspiration of the Year: Fahd Saleh, 32 (NVQ Level 2 Certificate in Activity Leadership)
•Sport Personality of the Year: Sarah Maqbool, 20 (A-level biology, chemistry and psychology)
Pictured is the college’s sports personality of the year Sarah Maqbool (centre) receiving her award from college sport maker Robert Pearce, flanked by fellow award-winners.