Wendy Jackson, who lives in Finham, is marking the 25-year landmark of working for charitable sports organisation Coventry Sports Foundation.
The 44-year-old joined the organisation in 1990 after being accepted onto its Youth Training Scheme and has worked in various positions before becoming a senior manager at the charity 15 years ago.
As community development manager, Wendy is responsible for creating and developing sports and leisure activities which engage communities and increase participation. She works across all three Coventry Sports Foundation-managed sites including the Xcel Leisure Centre, in Mitchell Avenue, Centre AT7, in Bell Green Road, and The Alan Higgs Centre, in Allard Way.
She also works at Coventry Sports and Leisure Centre and Moat House Leisure and Neighbourhood Centre, as part of Coventry Sports Foundation providing a management consultancy service to Coventry Sports Trust.
Wendy, who has three children and two grandchildren, said her career had been a family affair with her children and grandchildren also growing up taking part in activities.
“I joined Coventry Sports Foundation straight out of college aged just 19. I knew that I wanted to do something involving sports but was huge Aston Villa fan and didn’t want to miss any of the matches,” she said.
“While working as a sports and leisure trainee I became much more involved in coaching and even had a stint running the football league at the centre.
“But I have a real passion and enthusiasm for the work that we do engaging children and families that maybe can’t afford to take part in sport and leisure or don’t have access to it.
“Sport and leisure delivery has changed considerably over the last decade. Before we would run everything in the leisure centres and now it’s about getting out there into the community to make sure we break down any barriers to participation.
“One of the greatest successes has been the expansion of the swimming programme. Ten years ago we had around 200 children taking part and now we have more than 3,000 taking part at the Xcel Leisure Centre and the new swimming pool at Centre AT7.
“It does make me realise just how long I have worked for the organisation when I see people who I taught to swim enrolling their children onto the swim programme – but it’s nice to see that different generations still love and value the centres.
“When the Foundation started it didn’t have any involvement with schools in the city and now we work with 85 on various projects both within the school environment and at the leisure centres.
“The most challenging aspect is always access to funding. As part of my role I try to keep everything low cost or free so that it remains accessible, but some years there is more funding available for young people in sport and others it’s a struggle.
“We are always looking for activities that are different and unique as well as providing the traditional sports. It’s about engaging as many people as we can in sport and leisure – and even now I get the same excitement seeing children overcome whatever barriers to participation they have.”
Paul Breed, chief executive of Coventry Sports Foundation, congratulated Wendy and praised her commitment and dedication to improving sports and leisure in the city.
He said: “It has been a real pleasure working with Wendy over the years. She is a huge asset to the Foundation and works tirelessly to ensure that people of all ages and backgrounds are able to access activities.
“She has overseen fantastic programmes both out in the community engaging minority groups and also within the leisure centres and schools in the city.”