Life before sailing

When I was in secondary school, I was very passive during lessons. I would silently sit at the back and quietly kill time throughout my lessons without really contributing or engaging in them. I’d keep my self to my self. I guess that was partly due to my difficult and stressful home life.

Initially, I got put into a mandatory after-school club that was randomly selected for you. I was hoping to get something like I normally do where I could stay at the back of the class and remain out the way. Instead, I was picked to go sailing at a local reservoir with my headmaster who was a very keen sailor. I wasn’t initially happy with this outcome but couldn’t do anything to change it. After three to four sessions of it I started to enjoy it but after six weeks, when my time at that club was up, I didn’t know how to keep on sailing.

Where his love of sailing began

Just before the end of that academic year, my headteacher offered me a place on his annual Norfolk broads holiday cruise which he ran via the charity he set up called Enterprise Sailing Trust. They would take about forty inner-city children from various schools sailing on the Norfolk broads on traditional 1940s yachts for a week. This gave me a different outlook on sailing that blew my mind and I got hooked on the beauty of the broads. From then on it would be the one week in the summer holidays that I’d truly look forward to. Year on year I’d attend, growing in skills and confidence a little more each time. As the years passed, I was slowly starting to be seen as a volunteer and young leader rather than another child. Towards the end of my school life, I began to gain confidence in myself and my skills which was a major factor in my success with my GCSEs. It gave me an outlook and a certain charisma which I didn’t necessarily know I had.

Usman and Rockley

After leaving school, I went to college where I completed two years while still volunteering for that trip for that one week in the summer holidays. After leaving college, I reached out to Benn Freeman who I became friends with on the broads trip which he would help organise. I had heard about his new job as centre manager at Rockley’s new centre in Bartley Green. I wanted to volunteer for him so that I had something to do while I figured out what I wanted to do after College and I knew that volunteering would be a great way to improve my sailing skills. I always thought that instructing was a great way to do this. After Rockley’s senior management saw me in action, they decided to make me a paid member of the team. This also meant that they wanted to train me up to RYA Dinghy Instructor level. This helped me to further develop both my skills and confidence. I have continued to work here at Rockley to help myself get better at sailing by teaching and having loads of fun on the water!

A positive initiative for young people

The rebels programme offers children from a similar background to be able to learn a different sport which can help them gain confidence, build resilience and have a different outlook on life and problems. All these skills are transferable to every day life and I believe they play a major role in what I have achieved. Sailing has helped develop me as a person as well as my understanding of other people. I hope to continue to teach and inspire the next generation with my story and hope that it inspires others to take on new challenges. I hope that every child who has a go at sailing will benefit in some way, no matter how small. Sailing can open so many doors and offers so many opportunities as well as allowing you to develop many social skills.


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