Ignite Sport > News and Blogs > Badminton champion Gail Emms inspires Ignite team at annual conference

Ignite Sport UK staff were treated to an inspirational talk from World Championship badminton gold medallist Gail Emms MBE at our annual staff conference.  

The five-times World Championship, European Championship and Commonwealth Games winner discussed her own journey in sport and how quality coaching plays an essential role in inspiring and developing the next generation of team leaders and athletes.   

Gail’s talk formed part of our annual two-day company conference at The Bristol Hotel, based on the city's riverside.  

Team building activities were hosted alongside Continuing Professional Development (CPD) delivered by Yasmin Strong of Grace and Gravity and Natwest Mentor. Activities included a ‘Yoga for Children’ training session and a People Management Skills course.  

Our CEO Justin Merritt, Director of Operations Louise Merritt and General Manager Hannah Bladen also provided their own sessions to help develop team cohesion ahead of a new academic year of sports-based programme delivery.  

The event concluded with team building activities delivered at Wildplace Project at Bristol Zoo. Teams competed against each other in a race to find hidden words in clues placed around the zoo whilst taking selfies with bears and giraffes.  

The afternoon also included axe throwing, fire lighting, high ropes and the ended with some of the team taking the ‘Leap of Faith’.   

Louise Merritt, Director of Operations at Ignite Sport UK, said: “After spending much of the last 18-months closely adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, it was great to spend time with our excellent colleagues, away from the workplace, to listen to inspiring talks and have some team-based fun.   

“We’re very thankful to Yasmin of Grace and Gravity and Karen at Natwest Mentor Training for their input during the two days and would like to thank The Bristol Hotel and The Cosy Club for their hospitality too.   

“It was great for the team to meet and listen to Gail Emms. Gail’s journey through sport is packed with success, but she also honestly touched on the ups and downs she experienced as a professional athlete and how her mum was her hero and inspiration throughout.   

“Her talk was extremely motivating and enjoyable to listen to. Gail really underlined the value of our work and how Ignite Sport UK employees, whatever their role in the company, play a vital role in inspiring sport participation in people of all ages, genders, backgrounds and abilities.”   

Students’ return to schools across the UK last week marked the beginning of a new academic year of programme delivery for our team.   

Coaches were active in a number of Oxfordshire primary schools, delivering physical education sessions and after-school club activities to approximately 2,000 children.  Our Velocity education programme returned for a new year too as did our community football at Oxford City FC.  

Our apprenticeship team was also busy enrolling new apprentices onto programmes and providing the required 20% training so people can learn or develop their existing skillsets while gaining valuable on-the-job learning experiences.   

Louise added: “September is always a busy time of year for our team, and we are really thankful for their outstanding efforts to support the provision of sport in Oxfordshire and nationally.   

“We’re also pleased to welcome a number of new colleagues to the team including Sorcha Murphy, our new Business Development Manager, Ellen Hopkins and James Gilmore, new additions to our coaching team and Ross Jenkins who joined us on a permanent basis with Velocity Football.”  

Based in Wallingford, Grace and Gravity offers a tranquil space for yoga and wellbeing via a friendly and relaxing environment.  They offer bespoke training for teachers and instructors and were a perfect match to educate our primary school coaching team.  

Ignite Sport UK partner Natwest Mentor is a HR specialist that provides businesses with digital tools, expert advice, training and up-to-date information on employment law and development.   



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