When he first began his work coaching football to children and young adults more than 10 years ago, Andrew Palmer had no idea how many lives he would go on to affect positively through sport. His recent nomination and selection to be a Torchbearer for the London 2112 Olympics is testament to the impact that his work has had in and around Nottinghamshire.
Andrew was born in and grew up in Nottingham and is proud to say that he has overcome challenges such as coming from a single parent headed household. Although he grew up in an inner city area, he has never been involved in crime or taken drugs and believes it is important to set an example to young people and provide them with a positive role model. He feels that his work in sports has enabled him to positively impact the lives of young people and provide them with a positive role model. In Andrew’s words, “this is particularly relevant to young black males, many of whom struggle with issues similar to those I experienced growing up in Nottingham. Many of the youth today believe that their problems cannot be overcome.” Many young people have been helped by Andrew to channel their energies into sports, experience success and find a diversion from crime and violence on the streets. His work and achievements have included coaching and scouting for Leicester City FC and becoming the first black coach and manager in voluntary role for the Nottingham City Schools Football Association in their 117 year history. There he coached all age groups starting from u11s up to the u15s culminating in playing the English Schools Football Association (E.S.F.A) Cup. He was been responsible for guiding players to winning numerous trophies and cup finals and led a team to a cup final at the Nottingham Forest F.C Academy and also at Meadow Lane home of Notts County F.C. As a result of his work, Andrew was invited by the Nottingham City Schools Football Association as part of the committee and coaching staff to take the Nottingham under 14s team on a trip to Karlsruhe Germany and to serve on he Nottingham City Schools FA Management Committee. This is something of which Andrew is especially proud, given the fact that he was the first black man to achieve this in their 123 year history. Andrew also became the first black manager of the Nottinghamshire Football Association Youth u18sand was also on the committee. As well as this Andrew also has a degree in Design management and successfully has worked for himself as a graphic Designer.
As a Black Belt First Dan in Martial Arts Kung Fu and Karate, with 10 years of weapons training and a member of the United Kingdom Martial Arts Federation and United Kingdom All Styles Karate Organisation World Wu Shu Association Andrew understands that participation and success in sports can have significant positive impacts on the overall well being of individuals. He believes that the Olympics offers a great opportunity or us all to increase our awareness of the value of sports, be inspired and encourage more sports in the UK. Andrew delivered and coached The F.A After Schools Development program to children aged between five and eleven for 2 years in numerous primary schools in Nottingham and wants to see more sports encouraged at a younger age to boys and girls.
Although he has successfully scouted and mentored youngsters that have gone on to play in Youth Academies and sign professional contracts, he believes that the main aims of taking part in any sport should be having fun and developing skills. Andrew has previously taught teenagers with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties to achieve qualifications in Developing Health and Fitness and believes that the part sports have to play in a healthy body and mind cannot be overstated. This is particularly relevant given the high rates of mental health issues, obesity and diabetes affecting young people today.
In a time when many young people may turn to celebrities for inspiration and role models, it is important for young people to hear the stories of the ‘real people’ who understand their experiences and can help them in realistic ways to improve their life prospects and achieve great things themselves. Through his work as a football coach, learning mentor, tutor and youth worker Andrew has been confronted with many disillusioned young people who feel that their only hopes in life are to become rich or famous. This is something that he would like to see changed and feels that is important for adults to send the right messages to young people about what constitutes success and what leads to happiness in life. Andrew’s personal motto “believe and you will achieve” is something he would like to pass on to other people young and old.