I travelled to East London to interview Yasna, who was recently awarded the Jack Petchey Sports Achievement Award after being nominated by her Greenhouse Sports table tennis coach, Helder. Yasna is thirteen years old and has been a part of Helder’s table tennis programme at an East London state school for three years.
Helder’s office at the school has a window facing a room filled with young people playing table tennis on their lunch break. Some play competitively, working on skills and drills. Others play casually, with friends from the programme. As I look around the office, I notice an attendance sheet. Yasna’s name is at the top – she plays table tennis on average around fifteen hours a week.
I ask her why she dedicates so much time to table tennis. Yasna responds, “I feel linked to table tennis. Whenever I play, I forget about the issues that I have and I just enjoy myself.”
Yasna is the number one player in her age group in east London. But this is not the only reason she won the Jack Petchey Award. Yasna mentors the other girls in the programme:
“I coach them in tournaments and help them in training. I like doing it because they are my teammates. Soon enough, we will have to play in teams, so we will have to share strategies and think together how we can win. When we work together, we all learn something from each other and use it.”
The Jack Petchey Award winners receive £250 to spend on something relevant to their sport. Yasna chose to spend all of her award money on new kit for the programme.
Impressed by her generosity, I ask Yasna why she decided to spend the money on others rather than on herself. The answer seems obvious to her: “My coaches have taught me everything I know about table tennis. But it is not just table tennis. If there is a problem outside of table tennis, they are always there to help. They have given me so much that I can never repay them. The money is not even half what I could give them back, because of everything they have done for me. They’re helping me build a career!”
Yasna has been selected for the Greenhouse Sports talent development centre due to her skill and level of commitment. It is clear to see that her coach is proud of her and all that she is achieving. He says:
“Yasna is a very talented girl. Her impact on the programme and the sport is not only because of her playing but also the help she gives us with the other girls. She mentors a lot of our girls so that when we go to tournaments, I do not have to worry because Yasna will be helping. I think Yasna can be great at anything, and I do wish that all her dreams come true because she has been through a lot, and she never gave up. The reason why she has this award is because she never gave up.”
“Table tennis helps me get through the day. When I’m playing it’s just the best feeling. When I wake up, I don’t think ‘ugh, I’m going to school’. I’m just excited that I get to play table tennis.”
Story written by Lily, Greenhouse Sports Marketing & Communications Assistant.