Determined teenager Antonia Dearden has set herself one objective which is to realise her dream and find a full time role working in sport.
Antonia, who is a second year student on the BTEC in Sport programme at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, lives and breathes football, and she is on course to achieve an excellent grade at Ewood Park.
Her hard work and commitment have opened numerous doors for Antonia for the next step in her life, including four offers in principle from universities across the country or the chance to apply to start working on a full time basis in sport.
Earlier this year, Antonia went on a one week work experience placement at the RAF Brize Norton station in Oxfordshire and in January to shadow their physical trainer and in the summer, she will be a team leader on the Trust’s 2018 NCS programme.
“I love playing football and participating in sport,” admitted Antonia, who plays for Bolton Wanderers U18s. “The BTEC programme has provided opportunities I never thought I would get, for example, playing and training at Blackburn Rovers’ Senior Training Centre and being coached by former professional footballers.
“The BTEC programme is male dominated, but it has never fazed me because I know it has helped get me to where I want to go.
“If it wasn’t for the BTEC programme, I wouldn’t have all these doors open now. I have seen how many opportunities there are for women to get involved in working in both football and sport. There are so many women employed in different roles at Blackburn Rovers and that in itself is an added motivation.”
The road Anotnia has been on so far hasn’t always been straight and narrow, as she has suffered from a variety of muscular injuries due to participating in a wide range of sports on a daily basis throughout her childhood.
Antonia took inspiration from athlete, Dame Jessica Ennis Hill, after reading her book ‘Unbelievable’ following the 2012 Olympics in London.
Hill, like Antonia, had her setbacks through injury, and Antonia admitted her fight and courage motivated her to believe she could achieve anything in life and sport if she put her heart into it.
“I remember watching Jessica win gold at the 2012 Olympics and I wanted to know how she became so successful so I read her book. I remember thinking she has done so well and I should never give up.
“I am happy I have so many different options now. I have been accepted into four universities to study either sports therapy or sports and exercise science. Another option is to explore the opportunity to work for the RAF or do an apprenticeship with Chorley Schools Sport Partnership.
“Blackburn Rovers Community Trust has opened my eyes and I know I can go and achieve whatever I want to do. My mum has always said I am my happiest when I am doing something sport related and she is right!”
Head of secondary and further education David Hayhurst, who teaches Antonia, added: “Antonia is a fantastic role model for young ladies who are looking study and pursue a career in sport. She has taken advantage of all the opportunities offered to her whilst on the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma at Blackburn Rovers Community Trust.
“Despite the course being male dominated she hasn't let this hinder her progression and has embraced training and playing with her male counterparts and often getting the better of them on a football pitch. Antonia embodies the 'this girl can' ethos and I am sure she will have a prosperous and enriched career in sport because of her strong desire and motivation to achieve.”