Meet the Team: Kerry Knight
The effervescent Kerry is like our very own strong female knight riding into our workplace with her abundant energy, determined spirit and her magic wand. Kerry's role is brand new for Team OTC and what an exciting prospect it is! With all her experience Kerry gets to change the lives of vulnerable young people, how rewarding, how vital and we couldn't wish for a more valued member of the team. Changing the lives of young people through windsurfing and empowering young people to take a different path! Wow! We can't wait! What an exciting journey we are about to go on! Hold on it's going to be emotional, joyful and life-changing ride!
By Emma Nicholson
I started off asking Kerry when did she start working at The OTC? What is her background, before she came to The OTC? Kerry said: "I started working at The OTC in November 2022. I worked overseas for 12 years mainly for Neilson Active Holidays. I was lucky enough to be manager of several destinations both in ski and beach club resorts. I met my husband whilst working for Neilson and we decided after 12 years overseas to settle in Weymouth. "I worked for SailLaser which was the onsite sailing school at the Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) for several years. I have exciting memories of the build up to the 2012 Olympics and delivering sailing sessions to children throughout the games. "Following my time by the water, I headed into the school environment and worked in a local primary school as Pastoral and Safeguarding Lead. I had the pleasure of working with some wonderful children and their families."
Why did Kerry decide to come and work at The OTC? Her role is a brand new role within Team OTC, what a wonderful opportunity! Kerry said: "My job at the OTC is to manage the Windsurf School Projects. In 2021/22 the school I worked in were incredibly lucky to be supported by The OTC to run windsurfing sessions supporting children’s SEMH (social, emotional and mental health).
"The children had just emerged from the Covid 19 pandemic and evidence suggested that some children and young person’s mental health and wellbeing had been substantially impacted by the pandemic. Some children found it difficult to settle back into education, there was an increase in children with anxiety who struggled to manage their behaviour.
"Groups of children negatively impacted by the pandemic and it’s long term effects, were identified by the school and discussions were held around what could be offered to these children and young people to help them to develop confidence and resilience as well as supporting their emotional and mental health. And so, our windsurfing group was born.
"Our weekly sessions focused on developing confidence and resilience as well as supporting their emotional and mental health. The impact that the sessions had on the children was phenomenal. It was a such an honour to work with the inspiring OTC Team and watch the children’s skills grow each week. All of the children who took part learnt to Windsurf and several of them are now members of our OTC Team 15 club which allows children to continue their Windsurf journey in an inclusive and friendly environment. "I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to build on the success of the school project and joined the OTC Team in November 2022. It is our aim to invite more children to experience the all round benefits that windsurfing offers. We are also excited to partner with other providers to offer alternative education outside of the classroom and spend time with us on the water."
What do you like the most about working at The OTC? Kerry said: "There are several things I like about working at the The OTC. First of all I work with a group of talented, hard working and dedicated individuals. Everyone is full of energy and absolutely focused on providing the best service in whatever job role they fulfil. "I thoroughly enjoy working from a desk with a sea view and being able to step out of the door and breathe in sea air. "The job role also allows me to continue my work with local children which is where my heart lies. From now on though, the teaching environment will be slightly different to what I’ve been used to."
What watersports do you like doing in your spare time? Kerry said: "When I worked for Neilson Active Holidays, I was very much involved in watersports but, when I returned to the UK I suppose “Mum duties” got in the way a bit. When my son turned eight, he had his first ever windsurf lesson and never looked back.
"My husband and son are both Windsurf and Wing enthusiasts and spend all of their spare time at The OTC. I felt that I needed to join them so in 2018 I refreshed my rusty windsurfing skills and got back on the water. Last summer I learnt to Wing and this coming summer it is my absolute goal to crack the foil and sustain flight." Describe your typical working day? Kerry said: "At the moment, I am spending a lot of time planning for the spring. I am working on some new partnerships to provide learning to children and young people outside of the classroom. We will continue to build on the success of our SEMH project from 21/22 and will be working with lots of local children.
"In addition, we are hoping to provide holiday clubs for children who are in receipt of free school meals and offer them not only a hot meal but, enriched activities at our centre."
What are some of your best memories of your time working at The OTC, so far? Kerry said: "I haven’t been here that long, but I can honestly say that I’ve been made to feel very welcome. Everyday I learn something new and I suppose without sounding too corny, I have a good memory from every day so far. If I could recall a moment from last summer, I have a lasting memory of a session whereby Olympian Emma Wilson asked one of the children to name her new Olympic IQ board. He named it after himself, such a proud moment for him that I doubt he will ever forget." Your role is incredibly inspirational, it must be an amazing feeling to know you are making such a difference to the lives of vulnerable young people? Kerry said: "Thinking back through my career, every job I have done has had an element of helping people. Whether that be running a hotel in Greece, a ski operation in the Alps or working with children and their families in a school.
"Working with vulnerable children will always be where my passion lies. It has taught me over the years that every child is very different, they all have different needs, ways of communicating and will always find a way to make you laugh (and sometimes cry). I’ve become a good negotiator, very patient and most importantly totally dedicated to ensuring that they have the best opportunities to thrive in life. "I cannot wait to help more children and young people improve their mental health and wellbeing by spending time with us here on the water."
You are a champion of getting young people to become inspired by windsurfing, why do you think it is important to get young people into the sport? Kerry said: "Not only does windsurfing benefit children’s social, emotional and mental health, but it's great exercise, can make you stronger, help to relieve anxiety and also encourage new friendships.
"At the OTC we encourage all of our young participants to continue their journey with us by joining Team 15, which is our windsurfing club for children and young people. "We are proud to say that several of our Team Riders were all Team 15 members, some are now also employed as instructors. There has been a lot of discussion around the growing sense of loneliness and inadequacy fostered by social media in young people today, and its impact on mental health. Whilst there is a place for such hobbies, I am also a firm believer in children experiencing the outdoors and sport.
"Many of our local children and their families are not aware at all of the watersports facilities that are on offer here on their doorstep. From speaking to parents they also feel nervous around such activities, which are not familiar to them like football and rugby etc. Parents can also be nervous around their children taking part in water activities, especially where children are not strong swimmers. Parents have to put a lot of trust into us to take care of their youngsters whilst on the water. I am all for getting parents involved as much as possible, inviting them along to observe some of the sessions and also take part in end of course celebrations. Of course, there is always the opportunity for parents to learn a new sport as well!"
What does your future hold? What are your ambitions? Kerry said: "I am looking forward to a welcoming more children to our sessions throughout 2023. I can’t wait for the weather to warm up, the nights to become lighter and water a little warmer. I have great memories of lots of little smiling faces on the water last year. The conversations about windsurfing, the excitement each week as the next session comes around. I can’t wait to see where this project can take us and how we can further benefit the children in our local area." Who inspires you? Kerry said: "My son Finn (aged 14). He had his first windsurf lesson aged eight and has never looked back. He is a OTC Team Rider (Wingsurf) and is absolutely dedicated to the sport. No matter what the temperature or the season, if the wind is blowing he will be out on the water giving it his all."