Jodie Coupland is proof that a hard start in life does not have to define you.
Brought up in the care system and excluded from many secondary schools, she ended up in a behavioural school at 16.
Her headteacher had grave concerns about the path she was heading down. The Dame Kelly Holmes’ ‘Get on Track’ programme was a ‘last chance’ for Jodie but it turned out to be just the beginning …
“I was the cheeky one to start – always trying to push the boundaries, because that’s all I knew” remembers Jodie, now 19. “Today, I want to see how far I can push myself!”
Jodie, who graduated from the programme, now volunteers as a Multi-Sport Mentor for them.
She explains: “I give up my time to help people like me who don’t always get a chance.”
She helps encourage new participants and is somebody they can relate to.
Jodie was invited to a conference in London, where she shared a stage with Dame Kelly herself. As a guest speaker, she did her hometown of Bridgend proud, telling over 300 people her story.
Jodie tells us: “I don’t know what I’d be doing or where I’d be without these supportive people in my life.”
She says their belief in her, helped her turn her life around.
“It was the first time in my life where somebody didn’t kick me out or tell me I’d never achieve anything” she says. “Instead they would say ‘Jo – you can be what you want to be, and we’ll be here to help.”
Jodie now works part-time at a local leisure provider, but still managed over 350 hours of volunteering last year.
She reflects on her journey: “At first, I thought it was just one of those courses that you get chucked on because you’re one of the naughty ones, but they got me in to sport and actually gave me responsibility to lead sessions.”
Now, all her efforts are in giving back.
“What I’ve been given, I want to give back twice as much back,” she says. “When I see the new recruits with a sparkle in their eye, it reminds me how much I wanted to change.”
She now jumps out of bed and is ready hours before she needs to leave the house.
“I’ve faced a lot of personal challenges, but they have made me a stronger person,” she explains.
Volunteering in sport has given her life meaning, or as she puts it herself:
“I can be somebody. I want the best for everyone – and myself.”