Daniel Walters' career takes an entrepreneurial turn
When injury ended his sporting career, British National Taekwondo champion Daniel Walters (BSc Hons Sport and Exercise Science, 2011) channelled his passion for the sport into coaching and teaching. Now the Walters Family School of Taekwondo is inspiring a new generation of young people in South London.
"The club started out as a few classes a week. At first I focused mostly on high-level coaching, but over the last two years I’ve started working more with local youngsters both in schools and at our club. We’re currently teaching up to 200 kids every week.
"I wasn’t sure I’d find it rewarding working at club level, but I love it! Not everyone we see is going to be a champion and that’s OK. Although I still value having a connection to the top-class competitions through people I coach, I really enjoy seeing all levels develop and grow. It means a lot to me that I can see young people benefiting from having taekwondo in their lives (even if it’s not their whole life, as it was for me). And every now and then you see someone with potential who will respond well to coaching.
I’ve always thought of myself as a sportsman, but becoming more entrepreneurial has been really rewarding
LSBU set me apart
"My experience at London South Bank University (LSBU) gave me tools I use every day. As part of LSBU’s sports scholarship programme I was not only a student, I also took part in studies. I got to know the lecturers really well and came away with a good understanding of practical lab testing as well as sports nutrition, the effects of training, biology, anatomy and physiology, assessing progress and results and how to strategise. I also gained great insights into the technical aspects of taekwondo: my dissertation was a bio-mechanical study looking at theories about distancing, movement patterns and dynamic systems in taekwondo game play. I believe these are things that set me apart from other coaches, and also enable me to work in other combat sports as a kicking, distancing and movement specialist.
"Dr Dave Cook [former Senior Lecturer and Course Director for the BSc in Sport and Exercise Science and now coach to the Norwegian national taekwondo team] was the best coach I’ve ever had. I was only competing at regional level when I started at LSBU but the way he worked with me was brilliant. He is forward thinking and scientific in his approach, as I try to be with the people I now coach. At LSBU I was training full-time, competing at international level and studying at the same time. Dr Cook gave me so much support, making sure I was able to keep up with my academic work, maintain a high level of performance in taekwondo and balance my family life. I wouldn’t have made it through my degree or to the top level in my sport without his help.
Changing lives through sport
"It feels great when our club’s youngsters get selected for a sports scholarship to secondary school. I hadn’t realised how satisfying it would feel to know you are making a difference. Knowing that some of the people I coach are bettering their lives and that doors are being opened that otherwise would stay closed is very rewarding for me on a personal level. It’s widely accepted that sport can massively change a young person’s life for the better. This provides me with a wealth of job satisfaction and drives me to continue pursuing my dream of one day securing a purpose-built, fully equipped venue where more young people can get involved in taekwondo.
"My proudest achievement so far? Organising our club’s Summer training camp and tournament in Barbados. In the Summer of 2016 we took 23 people on a trip to Barbados, where we organised a training camp and tournament. The trip was completely self-funded and although it took a lot of planning and organising, it was a great opportunity for our young people to build relationships and make connections across cultures. It also played a role in helping two of our members become British Taekwondo National Champions. I hope this will become an annual event in the future.
"LSBU’s Enterprise Team is helping us take our club to the next level. We are already working towards our Club Mark assessment, which shows the world that we are a respected and recognised provider. The Enterprise Team is helping us with a longer-term project: getting funding for a purpose-built facility where we can hold classes and can also provide space for community use.
"The team has been amazing in helping with planning, pitching and making the numbers work. I’m convinced we can make it happen with their help."
Daniel Walters was inducted into the Academy of Sport Hall of Fame in 2017.