Introducing our Learner of the Year 2021 Winner and Finalists

The Sports Leaders Learner of the Year award celebrates the achievements and progress made by learners throughout their Sports Leaders course. Nominations for the Learner of the Year were made earlier this year, with entrants receiving recommendation from their tutors alongside personal entry videos.

From these nominations, our award selection panel chose a number of finalists and our overall national winner.

Our finalists were selected based on their demonstration of going above and beyond what is expected of them to realise their potential, showcasing what their personal development means to them and the steps they have taken to use the skills they have developed for the benefit of their communities in a positive way.

From our finalists, our winner was then selected - read on to find out more.

Here’s the run-down on our winners for 2021: -

Winner: Joyce Npuna, London

In taking on her Sports Leadership course, Joyce, from Barnet in London, knew that she had a number of challenges that she wanted to address and, ultimately, overcome.

Above all else, Joyce felt that communication was an area for development, citing a lack of confidence in her ability to speak in front of people who weren’t friends or family and to manage people who weren’t her age. Despite coming across as confident and outgoing, Joyce would often doubt her capabilities.

Addressing this was likely to help her hugely in the future when working or at university and that in order to achieve her goals she had to believe in herself first.

With all the disruption that learners have had to contend with as a result of the Covid pandemic, this has been a more challenging year than any other. For Joyce, that meant unexpected restrictions to the groups she could demonstrate her leadership skills on, meaning she had to adapt and make the best of the situation – in particular, creating sessions that showed her ability to cater for groups such as young children, while also making the activities suitable for her peers.

Joyce’s tutor, Pat Lardner, has overseen her development throughout the course and has seen her grow as a person in that time. She said: “Joyce has been an outstanding Sports Leader at St James.

“During Covid Joyce took it upon herself to organise a variety of virtual sports challenges for all Primary schools in Barnet. She organised and led a team of 6 of our CSLA students to actively film themselves coaching and delivering challenges which were then posted on the BPSS website and rolled out to Primary schools. Joyce has also coached Annunciation Junior School Netball teams and run extra-curricular clubs for the last 2 years pre-covid.

“She generates enthusiasm, motivation and is exceptional when working with young children.”

The selection panel chose Joyce as this year’s national winner primarily because of her passion and energy for developing her skills and encouraging others, embodying our vision of helping young people to realise their potential, both in their own skills and through inspiring others.

She has become a confident and inspiring leader with an extremely bright future – congratulations Joyce!


Erin Stewart, Glasgow

Through being a Sports Leader, Erin hoped to develop her confidence and her communication skills in order to achieve her ambition of becoming a sports coach and PE teacher in the future. In an effort to overcome her shy and reserved nature, Erin has worked with a variety of different groups of learners, delivering football and netball coaching.

Changing guidelines around the Covid pandemic meant that sessions originally planned for indoors had to be switched to outdoor space and that Erin needed to stay on top of the latest advice from governing bodies to deliver safe, enjoyable sessions. By taking a flexible and thorough approach, Erin was able to overcome this challenge and learn the importance of creating sessions that could be adapted to a variety of situations.

Throughout her course, Erin has steadily increased her confidence as a result of gaining authentic experience of leadership and volunteering. She has learned different ways of engaging a range of learners and putting her skills into practice to inspire others to take part in sport.

Sophia Hussain, London

Taking on a Sports Leadership course was the perfect opportunity for Sophia to experience situations that allowed her to build her skills, especially communication and problem solving. Despite feeling confident in her ability to take on challenges before starting her course, she wanted to encounter more opportunities to practise this ability and adapt spontaneously to changing circumstances.

As it happened, these opportunities came to Sophia as a result of the pandemic, forcing her to adapt her original plans in order to demonstrate her skills. For example, one session she originally planned included a rounders activity, but with outdoor group sport being impossible, the session was switched to Yoga, helping to overcome potential issues with some learners not having the required equipment at home.

With technology becoming more important in the last year than ever before, making adaptations like this and tackling challenges with flexibility can only help Sophia in the future.

Suraiya Sacoor, London

Problem solving was a skill that Suraiya identified as a target area when she started her Sports Leadership course, looking for new ways to act decisively and come up with creative solutions for unexpected challenges. In addition, she pinpointed teamwork as an area for development, whether working individually within a broader group or directly in a cooperative environment.

Putting other learners first, Suraiya’s greatest concern when adapting sessions to meet changing guidelines was ensuring that her peers and participants never suffered or experienced a drop in satisfaction. In switching her planned activities online, Suraiya quickly learned that a positive mindset goes a huge way towards success and being able to handle uncertain circumstances.

Instead of thinking about what couldn’t be done from her original plans, Suraiya developed fun and engaging alternative activities for her participants, ranging from a ‘ball in a bucket’ competition to an online quiz and a series of tasks that replaced the planned hockey session with challenges that tested ball skills and hand-eye coordination using minimal space and equipment.

This year's Learner of the Year Awards were our biggest so far, with more nominations than ever before. From all the applications, our panel of judges selected our finalists and one overall winner - take a look at their videos here to find out what made them the outstanding candidates.

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