Girls at the George Salter Academy are as bright as they are talented, but even they can be made to feel unwanted or inadequate by factors outside of their control. Michelle was no different – an enthusiastic girl with a passion for netball, she enrolled in the West Midlands Netball Academy at the age of just 12. Compared to the largely white, middle class and privately educated student body, Michelle, a young girl from a Lower Socioeconomic Group, or ‘LSEG’ background, already felt different. By the time she discovered that her mother would have to pay an additional £150 kit and training fee, she was beginning to feel even more so.

With seven other children at home, this sort of expenditure simply wasn’t an option for the girl’s family. With little other choice, Michelle found herself on the verge of dropping out. Umpires had already banned girls from playing in non-identical kit. Others had made negative comments about young women in plimsoles (rather than more expensive, specialist footwear). A small number had even singled out girls with dreadlocks, citing their ‘dangerous hairstyle’, and instructing them to tuck their hair into clothing during play.

Thankfully, Michelle’s coaches convinced her to stay, with regional funding eventually arriving to support the young girl’s time with the Academy. In the interim, StreetGames’ staff made every effort to address the financial disparity between Michelle and her fellow learners: arranging her transport, funding her kit, attending player support meetings, and travelling all over the UK to be her support system. If nothing else, this episode would showcase just how ill-equipped the region was to support a young person from an LSEG background, and how crucial a sports charity can be in bridging that gap.

Since that time, Michelle has gone from strength to strength, earning a fully-funded scholarship to Bromsgrove Boarding School in Worcestershire. Having first been introduced to community sport through the work of StreetGames, Michelle would also later return the favour, by returning to coach at a local Doorstep Sport club. She also travelled to Australia this past April to spectate at the 21st Commonwealth Games, spending an incredible four weeks in the country to cheer on all of the athletes involved, including England’s gold medal-winning netball team!

It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication, not only of Michelle, but of all those involved in her journey - from policy-makers with the vision to allocate funds for LSEG youth, to the coaches, teammates and project leads that helped her along the way.

Here’s what Michelle herself had to say about her remarkable journey through sport:

"At first, it was really hard - breaking into the performance system, being from a school they don't normally recruit from, but now I'm here on a scholarship and it's just given me a whole new perspective on the world, and on the number of opportunities available through sport.

I've had to become really independent, living away from home, alongside people of different backgrounds, but I've really cherished the experience to mix with new people. Bromsgrove now covers all of my training and transport fees as part of my scholarship - something that has enabled me to keep playing at a high level. Without this kind of support I just wouldn't be able to keep playing".

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