Alum wins Outstanding Contribution award in sport – “I’ve been able to have an impact on the lives of probably thousands of people over my career”
When Healthy Communities Coach, Jackie Wood, was recognised by Active Sussex as having made an Outstanding Contribution to Sport & Physical Activity, she knew she wanted to share this news with all the organisations that had shaped her long and successful career in sport and PE. As a former student of the East Sussex College of Higher Education (which later became the University of Brighton), she came to visit to tell us all about it.
Jackie grew up in “deepest darkest” South Wales with a real passion for sport. One of Jackie’s early memories was an international rugby match she attended in Cardiff at ten years old with her grandmother and she knew from this day that she wanted to be a woman in sport. Jackie’s early interest in watching rugby and playing netball led her to apply to attend the East Sussex College of Higher Education in Eastbourne – which many students still called ‘Chelsea’.
The Chelsea College of Physical Education began its history as one of the founding Physical Education colleges for women and moved from its home in London, via Wales during the second world war, to Eastbourne in the late 1940s. The college became co-educational in the late 1970s with more and more men joining the ranks of outstanding female staff and students. Jackie studied in Eastbourne from 1977 to 1980, when the college had just begun opening its courses to men.
“Coming to Chelsea was a revelation” said Jackie who embarked on a three-year BA in Human Movement and Human Biology (an early forerunner of today’s Sport Science course of study) with twelve other students. Jackie says, “I was so interested in what sport does to the body and I was able to study this with lessons in anatomy and kinesiology”. One of the first things she noticed in her new home on the Sunshine Coast was that “people didn’t carry around umbrellas all the time like they did back in Wales”! Jackie made life-long friends with the girls with whom she shared accommodation.
As well as science, Jackie took part in dance, PE and sport with students on the Physical Education course “in our maroon tracksuit uniform”. Attaining and demonstrating a specific level of competence in these areas was required for Jackie to pass her own BA.
After successfully completing her course at Chelsea, Jackie had a long and successful career in Sport Coaching as well as playing rugby for Hove and Lewes. She is a level 2 coach in netball, rugby and badminton and has worked with many agencies promoting sport and physical activity in the Sussex area including the County Sports Partnership with the University of Brighton, Brighton & Hove City Council, Eastbourne and Wealden YMCA, East Sussex County Council and Lewes District Council. Jackie is now a Healthy Communities Coach for Freedom Leisure and works to remove the barriers to physical activity that some people experience.
Jackie is an advocate for the benefit of sport and physical education in all communities and works with target groups to enable them to become more active and have better access to sport. “Anyone who feels challenged to walk through the doors of a leisure centre, that is who we want to work with”. Jackie coaches boccia with disabled adults and older people and coaches badminton with an organisation called Sport in Mind, focussed on those facing mental health challenges. ‘Walking netball with older people and Back to Netball sessions for those returning to sport are also offered. Jackie is also proud to work with the organisation Trans Can Sport.
When Jackie was presented with the award for her Outstanding Contribution to Sport and Physical Education in Sussex’, she knew she wanted to share the achievement with all those she had previously worked with over the last thirty-plus years, including the University of Brighton. Sharing her achievement was important to Jackie, “not because I want to brag, but because if it had not been for me coming to Chelsea, so much wouldn’t have happened. I’ve been able to have an impact on the lives of probably thousands of people over my career, and that’s because I came to this college”.