Dave Hembrough, founder and head coach of Hallam Barbell Weightlifting Club was hailed a ‘pioneer in his field’ during the prestigious annual awards ceremony broadcast live on BBC1 last night (20 Dec) in recognition for his work with the local community and his commitment to diversity around encouragement and participation in weightlifting and resistance training.
The majority of Dave’s work has involved working with women of all ages and abilities with a focus on improving mental and physical wellbeing as well as working with children from deprived areas, BAME groups and those with disabilities who often feel alienated from extra-curricular sport.
Dave was one of the first to realise the benefits of strength and conditioning for older people for their physical health and the ability to lead healthy, independent lives. Combining resistance training with mindfulness he created his MindfullySTRONG programme, which is particularly popular with participants who are new to physical activity and are daunted by the prospect of training in a conventional gym.
Upon winning his award, Dave Hembrough, who is part of the University’s Academy of Sport and Physical Activity and its Sport and Human Performance Research Team, said: “'Winning the national BBC unsung hero award is an amazing achievement that I'm humbled by. It represents recognition for all the hours of hard work, conversations, coaching and thinking that goes on behind delivering a community club programme. This goes for myself but also all those who, like me, are driven to make a difference in people's lives through sport.
“Sheffield Hallam has been invaluable in the support given to me as a staff member. The University students have been involved as participants and volunteers within the programmes from the start and continue to have significant influence. The University's expert staff have been sounding boards for my ideas and the University's facilities have been essential in building our club programme.
“With an ambition to transform lives and to apply knowledge both Sheffield Hallam University and Hallam Barbell Weightlifting Club are on the same journey and intrinsically linked. There is much still to do and many opportunities to lift people and communities up through strength training and physical activity. I look forward to the next steps.”
Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, Professor Sir Chris Husbands, said: “This is fabulous news. Dave has made a tremendous contribution. He is a fantastic role model for our students, a pioneer in his sport who consistently demonstrates the power of community engagement to transform lives. He richly deserves this national recognition of the positive impact he has on so many lives.”
After being pronounced winner of BBC Yorkshire’s Unsung Hero award live on BBC Look North earlier this month, Dave was sent through to the national shortlist. A judging panel made up of some of the region’s key sporting figures hailed him as a ‘pioneer in his sport’.
Yorkshire region panel judge Sally Hurst, a Great Britain para-cyclist and BBC Look North reporter, said: “Dave doesn’t just sit and wait for people to come and join in – he actively encourages them to have a go. And the benefits are clear – not just for physical health but confidence and self-esteem too.
“Many of the people who nominated Dave spoke about his generosity in mentoring them outside of sport during Covid and using sport as a vehicle to push for positive change in their lives more broadly. He is volunteering his own expertise and enthusiasm to make a real difference to people’s lives in a truly inclusive way.”
Whilst sacrificing his own time to deliver opportunities for people regardless of ability, gender, age or background, Dave also plays an important role in developing other fellow coaches and officials.
During lockdown, Dave personally delivered strength and conditioning equipment to people’s houses so that they could continue to exercise during the most difficult times of the pandemic.
He also used his social media presence to set up his Covid Coach Mentoring Programme in which he provided ‘selfless’ and much-needed support and guidance to trainee strength and conditioning coaches across the UK.
Mohamed Nur, a mentee who benefited from Dave’s mentoring programme, said: “Dave started a Covid mentoring programme to help those who maybe struggling to find employment in their fields.
"He reached out to me via Twitter to help me maximise my potential. Just when the world was draining my energy, Dave put a battery in my back."