For the lifestyle you want

Sarah Collins, Executive Producer at talkSPORT: My Best Life in 10 answers

I always wanted to work in radio. I grew up in a house that always had the radio on. I loved it and still do!

I did my studying in order to pursue my ambitions, went to uni and studied Media & Business Management. It was a big achievement coming from a challenging one-parent family and unsupportive school.

So after many years of trying out various radio stations in Manchester, I eventually wormed my way into the BBC. I started at the bottom – cleaning cars, doing travel reports, then eventually got to produce daily shows.

I felt somewhat out of place at the BBC, so to help me feel included I paid for myself to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism. A fully qualified journo, I thought I’d try my hand at Television. I went over to MUTV the year they won the treble…heaven, not really, as I am a Manchester City Season ticket holder. It killed me – so I went back to radio.

I loved Sport and I love radio – so I went to London for two years to work at BBC Sport on the evening shows and producing live athletics around Europe.

But I missed the North and my dad. I returned to Manchester in 2002 and didn’t leave the Corporation until 2018. In that time, I produced award-winning shows, breakfast shows with Terry Christian, even a show from Coronation Street at 0600 with the late Dianne Oxberry and Eamonn O’Neal.

I went to Champions League finals in Rome/London with MUFC, Las Vegas covering boxer Ricky Hatton and even Nigeria following Bolton Wanderers’ skipper, Jay Jay Okocha.

I was lucky to have a manager who believed in me. John Ryan had the confidence in me to become Head of Sport at BBC Radio Manchester. It ruffled a few feathers. I was the only female Head of Sport (in 43 local BBC stations) for the majority of my time in that role. It was a fantastic job, I worked with a fabulous ambitious, creative team and I empowered many to go on to bigger (national and global) pastures.

Sarah with Dominoes Netball Club

In 2018, the time came for me to leave the BBC. I was headhunted to set up something totally different and everyone knows I like a challenge. With two inspiring Manchester entrepreneurs, James Torkington and Murali Goluguri, we established the Quinton Fortune Football Academy.

It was an ambitious project and within months we hit our targets and opened our own Junior Academy. I was the Managing Director and fully loved my time in building a business from scratch, and sadly, to finish. Covid came just at the wrong time for us, and at the same time another opportunity spiked my interest.

And now I am Executive Producer at talkSPORT, the world’s biggest sport station. I’ve moved once again to the Big Smoke and completed the first year in the midst of a global pandemic.

I also mentor former footballers, Darren Bent and Andy Cole to name a couple, and some brand new fabulous talent too. I am working hands-on with the content-creating teams there, sharing my knowledge and passion. The station is dynamic, ambitious and brave and I am absolutely loving working with a management team that inspire and empower others and especially me.

Watch this space! But in the meantime, download the talkSPORT app and pick a podcast to listen to. My advice is either, the amazing and emotional ’Coming In From The Cold’ series or on the Fight Night podcast platform – listen to ‘Fight Of My Life With Frank Bruno’. Amazing audio and stories.

1. What has been your Best Life Project to date?

Setting up Dominoes Junior Netball Club. Manchester City Council said young girls in East Manchester needed an after school club. So, in 2003 we launched Dominoes Junior Netball Club at Belle Vue Leisure centre with over 40 girls turning up for the first training session. Still going strong now, we have over 150 members. The Head Coach is Lauren Millar who I coached when she was aged 10. Dominoes Juniors caters for girls aged between 6 and 16 years of age with many girls progressing to become members of the senior squad.

Sarah and the Dominoes

2. The unknown … what challenges did you have to overcome?

So many challenges. The running costs in an area like East Manchester were the biggest, ensuring the fees for players is affordable, yet still being able to run a club and pay for the high outgoings along the way. Coaches were (and still are) unpaid volunteers. To pay for coaches to do mandatory courses like First Aid, UKCC L1 & 2 you are looking at hundreds of pounds. Netball Kits and league fees are not cheap either! We had some struggles along the way

3. In hindsight…..what would you do differently?

Not many things I would change in hindsight. My surrounding team were ambitious, proactive and supportive. Along the way we have gained great advice and support from local companies, from Manchester City FC, to Warburtons and LFC player James Milner to name a few! Maybe the only thing I would’ve done different at first was NOT to have the sessions on Friday evenings. But we DID change that to the now current Thursday night sessions.

4. Next steps?

To carry on to the best of our ability.

5. What lifestyle changes has lockdown made you consider?

A lot of changes have been made. The coaches have been offering weekly netball training/fitness sessions online. (we didn’t know if all members had internet/laptops at home). When we were allowed to train, it was Covid safe, in bubbles, temperatures checked etc. We have also recently had a fund raising raffle, funds were needed when we WERE training, as we needed extra courts on extra nights of the weeks that all cost extra money. As well as one ball per player at around £8 each. We still have these challenges and post lots on our Facebook page and Whatsapp groups with the parents

6. Kissing frogs …. is there an unexpected person who has helped you and, if so, how did they do it?

The organisation that has helped the club from its inception has been Manchester City – a few people there over the years but they supported us from day one, getting players on the pitch at a PL game, annually offering raffle prizes and their grants have helped us along the way. The man who is key there right now is Danny Wilson

7. My Inspiration ….who or what inspires you?

So many people inspire me. Billie Jean King for the changes she made in women’s sport, The Pankhursts from Manchester in what they achieved for women. Closer to home, Stacey Copeland for the work she does ‘paving the way’ for women in sport. Yvonne Harrison for assisting the club since its inception and supporting me along the way when challenges were tricky. My coaches who give so much time for free year on year! WHAT inspires me is the fact that we as Mancunian women can empower, support, guide and lead the way for our young female players who are just starting their life journeys. We can educate them on what’s acceptable and what’s not in the fight for equality and to be the best version of themselves.

8. How do you relax or do you struggle to relax?

I relax by spending time surrounded by good people and I am lucky that I am able to sleep ….. a lot!

9. Guilty secret pleasure?

I don’t think I have any secrets, lol, I have lots of pleasures …. My season ticket at MCFC, Prosecco, chocolate, quality times with my best friends and any time spent in a hot tub.

10. Words of wisdom

When I was 12, my teacher told me a ‘quitter never wins and a winner never quits’ one of my favourites. A more recent one when I faced some very hard personal times are: ‘I can and I will, watch me’. I am lucky enough to be in a PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) Whatsapp group with some very strong women – we build each other up when we need it. Surround yourself with strong people and shed any who only take from you.

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