University Graduate Hopes to Get More People into Sport Through New Role

Evelyn Roberts web
Evelyn Roberts

Evelyn Roberts, who studied Sports Coaching Science with Disability Sport, has been appointed as the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Surrey Football Association after switching careers from PE teaching. Evelyn, who has cerebral palsy, came to wheelchair basketball by chance herself having not been engaged in sport.

“I was very disengaged in sport when I was younger,” said the 24-year-old, from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. “This is why I focus on how as an organisation we can reach all people. I’ll hopefully be making an impact and that’s massive because I really got engaged in sport by potluck.”

Aged 12, everything changed for Evelyn after a visitor to her school assessing her needs suggested she try wheelchair basketball. From there, Evelyn never looked back. “I didn’t know these things existed,” she said. Evelyn, whose disability affects her lower body mobility, went to her first GB training camp at 16, was selected onto the GB programme at 18, and, after Rio, was selected for the under 25 GB wheelchair basketball programme.  Now she wants to give others the same opportunities.

“I’ve been advocating for equality, diversity and inclusion across the board, which is why I wanted to go into PE because I wanted to target an audience disengaged with PE,” she said “But I realised I could only reach the students that I teach, so I wanted to do this on a much larger scale. I also realised that other groups wider than people with disabilities were experiencing difficulties. For me it was about expanding that message and a progression in sport, which was quite appealing. Surrey FA is responsible for developing all grassroots football across 20 leagues, including Disability leagues, 700 clubs, 4,000 teams and over 60,000 players. And that’s not to mention, 3,000 coaches and over 1,000 officials and a huge network of volunteers across Surrey.”

Evelyn chose the University of Worcester because it was one of the only universities that offered such a dedicated disability sport degree. She combined her studies at the University with training with the GB senior squad, then based at the University of Worcester Arena.

“The specialist course was why I came,” she said. “It definitely helps to have a specialist degree. I think the best thing about the degree that I did was the fact that anybody looking at my CV can see it was disability specific, which definitely helps me, with the opportunities I got. That paired with my lived experience and general passion, I think helps. At the point of starting the degree I didn’t have much awareness of invisible or mental impairments so it was good to learn from that perspective, but also the University had quite good links with futsal and blind football, so that helped in creating links and seeing what was out there.”