Volunteer Des Smith, one of the founders and Chair of Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club, has been honoured with the 2023 BBC Sports Personality Unsung Hero award.
Des, 70, has been the “driving force” behind Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club since 1986 and was recognised for his work with the local community, championing the Windrush generation and his commitment to equity and diversity around encouragement and participation in grassroots sports.
England fast bowler James Anderson and 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion Dame Denise Lewis presented Des with his award at the 70th edition of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards ceremony tonight, (19 Dec).
The Unsung Hero award recognises the volunteers in sport making a difference in their communities.
In his nomination, Des was described as committed to helping others.
The avid cricketer said sports helped him integrate and learn about other cultures when he emigrated to the UK in 1966.
When the Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club was founded in 1965, it was for children from the West Indies to offer them an opportunity to socialise and play.
“From the beginning this club has really provided a life-line and a safe environment and that’s why this club is so important to so many black kids.
“We grew up together, we faced the challenges together and that togetherness has kept us going and it’s still there today.”
Des has been at the heart of the club’s journey to where it is now – seeing the community hub rise from providing a safe haven for a handful of young people to now supporting five cricket teams, eight junior football sides, while also catering for netball and hockey teams.
The ACE Programme is also delivered from the Sheffield Caribbean in partnership with the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation. ACE has achieved success in London, Birmingham, and Bristol amongst others and provides tailored environments for the development of cricketers from Black communities.
ACE incorporates talent spotting within schools, providing elite academy access and scholarships, as well as grassroots cricket initiatives. The programme currently works with four schools in Sheffield and has engaged with more than 200 young people each week. A big milestone in the city is that it has one of the highest number of girls taking part in ACE across the country, with more than 15, but this is just the beginning as there are aims to engage with more schools and cities across Yorkshire for the future.
The Ecclesfield-based club, where Des is chairman, produced former England cricketer Devon Malcolm.
Des says sport helped him integrate and learn about other cultures when he emigrated to the UK from Jamaica as a 13-year-old in 1966.
He now strives to improve race relations and understanding through the club, educating people in Sheffield about the importance of the Windrush generation.
Devon said: “Des is 100 per cent an unsung hero. He’s one of those guys who puts in all the hard work but he just sees that as part of life and giving back. He’s always finding a way to enable people, to enlighten people.”
More content to follow…