Tracey Neville MBE explains how she drove English Netball to gold

Tracey Neville

With no time left on the clock, Helen Housby made her shot, the last play of the 2018 Commonwealth Games netball competition. An English team had never appeared in the final, let alone won the gold, until Helen’s shot went in and they beat Australia 52-51.

Tracey Neville MBE, this month’s Motivational Monday speaker, was head coach at the time: “That one goal was something we’d been working towards for 20 years,” she said.

Tracey is from a sporting dynasty: her brothers – Gary and Phil – made names for themselves with Manchester United and England before enjoying long footballing careers. 

What makes Tracey stand out is the incredible journey she led the English netball team on, turning around a downtrodden, underfunded programme to create one of the greatest team triumphs of the last decade.

The motivations that drove Tracey were what she came to share with BigChange audiences this month.

Winning over the players

When Tracey came into the coaching role in 2015, she saw how the consistent success of the Australian and New Zealand teams was in large part due to the professional programmes they ran for their players. 

she said:

“When you’re going against competitors, you can’t cut corners. We needed to step up if we wanted to compete against the top teams.”

Launching a professional programme was a massive commitment that would ask a lot of the coaches and players – requiring them to commit to a full-time training regime, and step away from work and family commitments. 

And while the governing board wanted Tracey to make these decisions quickly, she needed to win her players over and make sure they were committed to her vision. 

Tracey and her team stayed in constant communication with every individual player in the run-up to the launch, listening to their hesitations and giving them all roles and responsibilities to make sure they knew how important they were to the journey. 

she continued:

“Our persistence and the hard work we put in at the start worked out, we had everyone on board and could start moving towards that gold.”

Adapting to be the best leader for everyone

Tracey also needed to take a hard look at her leadership style. 

She brought in two advisors, one focussed on sport coaching and the other a psychologist. 

Tracey Said:

“He specialised in psychopathy, and apparently I’ve got the same mentality. Lucky we’re doing this over Zoom!”

Since she answered to both the sport’s board of directors and her team, Tracey had to learn quickly not to carry the stress of one into the other. 

She said:

“You need to take on board decisions you don’t necessarily agree with, but I couldn’t put any negativity into my team, and relay those feelings to the girls.”

She learnt to add protected time into her week, where coaches and players had a safe space to share ideas with her.

“This meant there was an avenue to direct needy staff members to and a time to coax ideas out of the more independent ones,”

Tracey worked with her staff around the clock during tours and competitions, so building these meetings into her workflow and keeping her behaviour consistent while her team rode the pressures of competition was crucial. 

Learning to love winning

Tracey said:

“We had never made the final, at best it was third or fourth, that was the expectation of our team,”

Tracey continued:

“We began to celebrate success in team meetings, we tried to push the mentality that ‘It’s good to win’ as an entire group, in units and as individuals.”

This began to break down barriers between newer and older members, as everyone’s strengths and achievements were known and celebrated. It also developed a solution-focused team, who used individuals’ strengths tactically. 

Becoming a team at every level

Tracey came into an environment she felt was judgemental. She aimed to create a more collaborative and understanding way of working, which began with clearly understanding the ways in which people worked best. 

Her relentless focus on creating a committed, proud, passionate team who understood and respected each other helped pave the way for gold in 2018. Her strong spirit and free-thinking took her to heights no other England head coach had reached. 

She ended by saying:

“When you go to a job, it’s not about running along with everyone else, it’s about what you can do. I wanted to go in there and change the face of England netball.” 

And she did

Tracey was joined by Ash Razzaq, CEO of community-action charity CATCH. Over the past ten years they’ve been working to create positive spaces and outcomes for children in Leeds. During lockdown, they have operated food banks to help people isolating, shielding or struggling. BigChange audiences helped raise £500 for this cause.

Next month, we will welcome Donna Fraser OBE, a former Team GB Olympian and advocate for diversity and inclusion, who will speak alongside the cancer support charity Macmillan. You can sign up to this Motivational Monday here. We hope to see you then.

“He was never beaten”: John Stiles on World Cup winner Nobby

John Styles

Nobby Stiles wasn’t a man naturally cut out for football. His son John told this month’s Motivational Monday that he was half-blind, stood at 5-foot-5, and was 9 stone wet through. 

Even his name wasn’t right. After meeting Manchester United coach Jimmy Murphy, he was told:

“You can’t be a tough-tackling midfielder with a name like Norbert”.

That’s how we came to know him as Nobby. 

And yet Stiles is one of only three Englishmen to have won both the World Cup and the European Cup.

John Stiles joined the BigChange team to tell the story of his father, the 1966 England midfielder who died in 2020 with advanced dementia, which his family links to years of heading the ball.

John said: 

“All of us have obstacles in life and my dad had plenty, what he did have going for him was a fantastic sense of humour. He was always enthusiastic, and he was never beaten.” 

Nobby was largely on the bench at United from 1960 to 1963. Five years later, he’d have a World Cup, European Cup and League Title to his name. It all came from not giving up. 

Nobby was so short-sighted that when he forgot his contact lenses for his first under-23 game for England he tried to take out Scottish striker Charlie Cooke but kicked Billy Bremner instead. John recalled:

“After that, whenever they’d play together, they’d kick seven different shades out of each other.”

It was Nobby’s first step towards the 1966 World Cup. He played every minute for England – from media criticism after a crunching tackle against France, the violent game against Argentina (which finished with a chair through the dressing-room window), to the iconic image of him dancing with the Jules Rimet trophy in one hand and his false teeth in the other. 

But there was a greater importance to John’s visit. Nobby passed away while suffering from advanced dementia in October 2020. He was one of many ex-players who suffered brain injuries after a long career in football – an “epidemic of dementia from heading the ball” as John put it.

Since its inception in 2020, John and his family have been ambassadors for Head for Change, a charity pushing for better protection of brain health in sport, and supporting ex-players. 

John was joined by the charity’s co-founder Dr Judith Gates. She said that:

“Players like Nobby formed the foundation of the modern game but didn’t get modern-day compensation.” 

Her own experience of supporting her husband and ex-Middlesbrough player Bill Gates (who suffers with chronic traumatic encephalopathy), motivated her to be part of the solution. 

The instant impact Head for Change has had in setting up support groups, educating, 

and funding groundbreaking research has shown the popularity of the cause. 

Thanks go to the BigChange audience, who raised £1000 for Head for Change, and our speakers John and Judith. You can watch the full discussion here. 

Next month, we welcome former English Netball head coach, Tracey Neville MBE. She guided the women’s national team to Commonwealth Gold in 2018 and will be joined by Leeds community-action charity CATCH. We hope to see you then.

You can register here.

JJ Chalmers recalls his remarkable journey for Motivational Monday

JJ Chalmers Motivational Monday

“One moment I was talking to my friend. The next second I was on the ground in more pain than I’ve ever felt. I’d been blown up. I woke up every morning knowing there was a one in eight chance. That day, I was the one.”

JJ Chalmers has lived an extraordinary life, but much of the story he told for June’s Motivational Monday revolved around a single, terrible moment. One Tuesday afternoon, during routine patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan, he was caught in the blast of an IED. 

It was a pivotal moment. In a second, his active career in the forces was cut short; he was now on a different track – one that would lead to Invictus Games gold, a new career in broadcasting and even a stint on Strictly Come Dancing

However, it wasn’t a smooth or simple transition. JJ’s story is one of constant determination in the face of great odds, but it isn’t a lonely one. 

Far from the caricature of a grizzled military vet, JJ was beaming as he told of the strong support network that helped him face down every challenge: during his service, during his recovery and during his transition into the world of broadcasting. 

This theme – making connections with others to bring out the best in yourself – begins with JJ joining the Royal Marines. 

“I was raised in a house where service was held in high regard. I always wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I wanted to be one of the good guys.

JJ entered basic training:

“They issue you with a lot: boots, hat, a rifle, but more than any of that, they make you realise that you have the attributes of a Royal Marine inside of you. It’s just about bringing that out. They make you cold, wet and miserable. They take you to where you think your limit is and push you further. You quickly learn that hard work and determination can get you much further than you think is possible. It was like a sea change in my head. I realised any challenge which lay ahead of me could be solved with will, cunning and the application of my skills.”

After graduating from training, JJ was sent to serve in Afghanistan. His unit was stationed in ‘the green zone’, a lush, fertile area in the south-east of the country that extends out from the Helmand river. 

It was an area riddled with IEDs:

“They’re designed to kill, and they’re completely indiscriminate. It could be a British soldier, but it’s much more likely to be a civilian.”

JJ’s squad was sent to investigate a suspected bomb-making site, to shut down IED production in the area.

JJ said:

“It would be the most catastrophic place I ever visited”

After the bomb went off JJ recalled that:

“It was absolute pandemonium. We’d been taught to give ourselves first aid, but my right arm was almost gone and the fingers that remained on my left hand were barely hanging on. There was nothing I could do for myself.” 

JJ received first aid from a fellow soldier. He recalls how he was told:

JJ that’s all I can do. I have to deal with the other lads now. Keep shouting, let us know you’re with us.”

He continues:

“I knew the helicopter would take 25 minutes and I knew there was a 98% chance of survival if I got on it. So I had to grin and bear it. I’d never known pain like it but I knew I needed to get on and getting on was all I could do.”

Despite not knowing the full extent of his injuries, JJ was relieved to be going home. He was put into an induced coma and transferred to the trauma unit of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. 

“You put broken men and women in at one end, and hopefully get superheroes out the other. I needed to start again like a child. I was physically broken, and in a tough place mentally. Those demons start speaking to you at that point. When they did, I realised I had two choices. Giving up and feeling sorry for myself, laying in the hospital bed and accepting I had a miserable existence. Or I could do what I was told and listen to the doctors, nurses and physios who were putting me back together.”

JJ returned to that moment in Afghanistan

“When I was lying there, I heard ‘I’ve done all I can for you, I need to go for the others’.”

But there weren’t any others in the beds around me. 

“Two of our friends and our Afghan interpreter had died in the blast. They were snuffed out in an instant. That’s when I knew I didn’t have a choice. They weren’t given one, why should I be? The only option was to move forward and get better.”

As he went through recovery, JJ regained his independence. He started cycling with the use of a recumbent bicycle, saying.

“I re-learnt the benefits of exercise. I felt a reason to push myself again. But there was a huge part missing, the part the Marines gave me, sharing that experience with a team”.

In 2014, JJ took part in the first Invictus Games. He captained the men’s trike team, in a race that would prove pivotal in his recovery. He says:

“I was there for gold, or so I thought. It was an individual race but we could work together to position better. After 40 minutes all three of us were well placed for the sprint finish, but when it came time to leave the others I couldn’t do it. We’d worked as a team in that race and at every point during our recovery. Why did I deserve gold any more than them? We could only come through and finish together. We crossed the finish line hand-in-hand. I knew then that I wasn’t alone. That I could achieve anything with the help of others.”

That image of JJ and his teammates, crossing together, defined the first Invictus Games. All three were awarded gold and JJ was later interviewed by Jonathan Edwards. 

“I knew on the Monday after, I didn’t want to be an athlete,”

he says:

“When I spoke to Jonathan, I said ‘The next time we talk, I want to be sat in your chair. How do I do that?’”

That marked the start of a broadcasting career that’s gone from strength to strength. JJ was a presenter at the Rio Paralympics, got involved in the D-Day Memorial coverage and had just wrapped up broadcasting from the Leeds triathlon the day before his talk. 

JJ finished with some advice for listeners about staying positive post-pandemic:

“My recovery will never be complete. But my support network looks after me. When you’re at the end of a pointy spear, it’s the people behind you that power you. Whether you’re going onto the battlefield, onto the bike, or on air.”

He continued:

“I encourage people to take little victories and learn from little slip-ups. In the last year I was able to look at the circumstances imposed on us and wonder ‘How do I make the best of these?’”

He finished by saying:

“Keep on going. Keep on smiling. We’ll all get there together.”

JJ was joined by Trevor Fudger from Help for Heroes, the charity providing lifelong recovery support to service personnel who have been wounded or injured in the line of duty. He mentioned how the work they do can send an ex service person down a new path where they still get meaning and purpose outside of service. Thanks to our donors, the BigChange network raised £630 for their cause.

Next month, we’ll hear from John Stiles, the former professional footballer, son of 1966 World Cup-winner Nobby Stiles and campaigner raising awareness of dementia in football. Our charity partner will be Head for Change, for whom John is an ambassador. We hope to see you again then.

Footballer Clarke Carlisle tells us ‘It’s OK to talk’ on Motivational Monday

Clarke & Carrie its ok to talk

“For 21 years, I’ve been living with depression. For 15 of those, I didn’t even know,” said former professional footballer Clarke Carlisle at the start of this month’s Motivational Monday. 

Clarke is a former top-level footballer, straight-A GCSE student, defender for England Under-21s, and chairman of the Professional Footballers Association. He is also a survivor of five suicide attempts – and he has devoted his post-playing years to helping others thrive and avoid the darkness that at times enveloped him.

His story is one of transforming your life by having the courage to ask for help. 

Two pieces of advice for people who think they’re suffering – or think they know someone who is – shone through. 

Clarke Said:

“Do you think about your thinking? Thoughts aren’t facts, they’re intrusive, they come in, and then it’s up to you how you connect with it. And think about if you need to share it. Men aren’t great communicators, but for 15 years my actions were screaming for support, before judging someone’s behaviours, think ‘is there something this person needs help with and can I help?” 

Clarke stressed the importance of talking about mental health and breaking down stigmas – drawing on his personal experience of burying your depression. 

His issues in facing up to his mental health started with a stoic, disciplinarian father and a mother with a stiff upper lip,

“What goes on behind this front door stays behind this front door,”

Clarke recalls them saying. 

As a member of an interracial family in 70s Britain, he was told early and often that,

“You have to be better than everyone else, to be seen as equal to everyone else.” 

He took this advice to heart, leaving school as a straight-A student and landing a spot in the Blackpool first-team at 16. 

A poor debut left him questioning if he was good enough, but scoring a 91st-minute winner in his first home match suggested he was.  

After several successful seasons, multiple man-of-the-match awards, and a call up for the England Under-21’s, a serious injury put him out for the season and left his footballing future at risk. That’s when the depression crept in. 

A lack of awareness about depression meant Clarke tackled the symptoms of his illness instead of the real issue. Even after the first of his five suicide attempts.

“My depression would manifest in crazy outbursts, binging and dangerous behaviour. At first I thought it was the drink, so I went to rehab. Afterwards, I was still staying in bed for 2-3 days, dodging work and family. I thought I was an idiot who couldn’t make responsible decisions.” 

That wasn’t true. Clarke became Chair of the PFA in 2010, became the first footballer to appear on Question Time, and commentated on the 2014 World Cup Finals. 

“Despite that every two or three months I was exploding into these behaviours. Anytime I felt my career was threatened, or my identity was questioned, my brain automatically connected it to that first suicide attempt. These behaviours were the uneducated mind trying to cope by oblivion and avoidance.”

Throughout his successful career, Clarke was often caught up by these dark thoughts. “It became my truth,” he said. “Because I didn’t share it with anyone it went round and round my head.”

Clarke was diagnosed with recurring, complex depressive disorder. This was the first step in understanding his illness and starting to heal. His wife Carrie joined Clarke to talk about how mental health affects the whole family, and about their shared recovery journey. 

“Clarke had been in that pit of despair for 20 years,” Carrie said:

“He’d climb out occasionally but it would suck him back in because he didn’t change his behaviours, change his beliefs, and he didn’t get professional guidance.” 

In 2017, Clarke went into psychiatric care. Carrie remembers how,

“it took him only 23 days, resting, eating, being diagnosed by professionals and treated properly for him to be well enough to come home”.

Understanding his illness, speaking out about his problems and finding help from the right professionals all helped Clarke’s recovery. He urged anyone who felt similar to do the same. 

His message couldn’t come at a more pressing time. He said:

“Not all depression is trauma-based,” he said. “We’re only just learning about how it can be passed through genes, but it can even come about after a period of sustained stress and pressure. How long is that period? Six weeks. And we’ve spent the last 15 months in a pandemic.”

Clarke and Carrie were joined by Leon McQuade from Andy’s Man Club, a mental-health charity dedicated to getting men talking about their problems. He cited the terrible statistic that every two hours a man takes his life in the UK, but said how change is coming as more men speak up honestly about their experiences. 

The charity runs 50 clubs across the UK, creating safe, attentive spaces for men to open up about their struggles. Its awareness campaign epitomises the biggest takeaway from this month’s Motivational Monday – ‘It’s OK to talk’. 

Next month we’ll be joined by the TV presenter and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers. Our charity partner will be Help for Heroes, of which JJ is a patron. we hope you can join us then, you can register here: http://bigchan.ge/MM-JJ-Chalmers.

‘We can always choose our attitude, whatever the challenge’

Hannah Cockroft Brings Motivational Gold to Motivational Monday

Five-time Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockcroft MBE tells BigChange Motivational Monday audience about pushing beyond notions of disability

Soon after Hannah Cockcroft was born, doctors said her parents shouldn’t expect her to walk, talk, or ever live independently.

Hannah, 28, is now a five-time Paralympic gold medalist. As a sprint wheelchair racer, she is world record holder in her category for the 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m and 1,500m.

On her journey from her Halifax home to the world stage “Choices over challenge” has been Hannah’s mantra.

Speaking to BigChange’s Motivational Monday audience, she showed how when faced with a challenge, we always have a choice about our attitude and about how to deal with it.

That ethos has led to great achievements on and off the track. “I get asked a lot what’s the achievement I’m most proud of,” said Hannah,

“People presume I’m going to say the MBE or my Paralympic medals. But actually it’s my independence, because it’s a thing my parents never expected.”

Her worldview switched during a visit to her Secondary School from the GB wheelchair basketball team.

“I will always remember that day. They were able to do everything in these chairs. These guys really changed my mind about what it meant to be a wheelchair user.

“It was the day a whole new world was opened up to me.” After years doing homework during PE lessons, or keeping score, Hannah discovered “sport was for me”.

After trying basketball, wheelchair rugby (“I liked the aggression”) and tennis (“I had no hand-eye coordination at all!”), Hannah found her passion in track sprinting.

By 17, she was a GB athlete and a world-record holder.

“That was where I came up against the obstacle of classification. You get a number that means when you line up on the start line you’re racing against people with a similar disability to you.”

“It started a big challenge, because people started to argue I wasn’t racing a fair race.”

“That was the first time I’d ever been bullied. When you are surrounded by people like you, disabled people, that’s the last place you expect the word bullying to crop up. But I was told to put my head in a bonfire because it’d make the world a better place.”

Her first reaction was to ask her coach to send her home. But she chose a different way, and went on to become one of the UK’s greatest athletes.

Hannah’s inspiring story shows that, although we can’t always choose the challenge that faces us, we can always choose how we meet it.

Watch the full video here:

Hannah was joined by Daniel Gray, Chairman of Physcap, a Leeds-based charity, working to improve quality of life for children with physical and mental disabilities across Yorkshire.

Daniel spoke of the tremendous work the charity does for children, and echoed Hannah’s message of giving every child with a disability hope, will to achieve and determination that nothing will beat them.

As BigChange’s charity partner of the month, Physcap will receive the £1,250 raised so far to further its incredible cause.

Next month, we’re excited to welcome Janet Street-Porter, the journalist and broadcaster. Our charity partner is Homeless Street Angels, who provide assistance and resources for the homeless in Leeds.

You can join our event here: https://webinar.ringcentral.com/webinar/register/7216149348162/WN_fhkHeHcZRX-3UpIpwcgq4A

We hope to see you then.

Kevin Sinfield MBE tackles leadership and Motor Neurone Disease

Kevin Sinfield MBE tackles leadership and Motor Neurone Disease

February 2021 – Kevin Sinfield MBE revealed the caring heart inside a man of iron, as he told February’s Motivational Monday that raising more than £2.5m for Motor Neurone Disease (MND) was a bigger achievement than leading Leeds Rhinos to seven Super League championships.

Continue reading “Kevin Sinfield MBE tackles leadership and Motor Neurone Disease”

CEO’s Blog – Why I love Mondays

BigChange Why I love Mondays lady on public transport

Mondays get a bad rep but here at BigChange they are everyone’s favourite day of the week.

That’s because of our regular “Motivational Monday” initiative. Once a month, we invite someone exceptional from the world of sport or business (or anywhere really, as long as they are inspiring) to come in and talk to the team, share their stories and give advice.

Last week, we had Sharron Davies MBE in the office. She represented Great Britain in the Olympics and won a silver medal for the nation. She told us about how arduous training was – getting up at 5am and eating just a single meal each day to stay lean – and how hard it was to survive as an athlete in the old days, before sponsorships deals and TV contracts. It was just fascinating to hear her story.

Last month, we had Mr Motivator, the legend from GMTV morning television. He revealed that he’d been homeless for a time but managed to turn his life around. Other noteworthy speakers have been: Kevin Keegan OBE, football star and manager; Gerald Ratner former CEO of jewellery chain Rateners; Olympic gold medallist Sally Gunnell, the model turned entrepreneur Caprice; the racing driver Nick Hamilton; John McCarthy, who was taken hostage while reporting the crisis in Lebanon; and Mike Newman, who broke the land speed record despite being blind, and has founded the charity Speed of Sight. These are just a handful of the incredible people that have come into the office and chatted to the team. These are small sessions. We can ask questions and have a coffee together – it’s really an amazing thing to do.

We set aside a significant budget to get these people to come in and talk to us but it’s money well spent. Not only do these stories inspire the existing team, it’s also one of the reasons we successfully hire so many great new people. These Monday Motivations also pick me up when I’m feeling tired out or low. I’ve learned something valuable from every single person that’s come and given a talk. Sometimes it’s just a reminder of the importance of tenacity. Other times, I get more practical help: Mr Motivator gave me a few tips on how to sit and stand that help my posture, and I follow that advice every day.

At BigChange, we want to change the perception of Mondays. That’s why we make it possible for people to meet their icons at Monday Motivation. It shouldn’t be a drag to go to work; it should be a joy.

What are you doing to make Mondays better for your people? Let me know in the comments below.

Martin Port
Founder & CEO