Hello my name is Steve Lovell, I am 24 and this is my story.
I did a BTEC Level 3 Sports Coaching, Development & Fitness at South Essex College and I'm about to finish the final year of my sports degree at Southend University. I came to South Essex College in 2008 with no qualifications, having attended St Christopher’s School for my secondary education. I have Asperger’s syndrome and dyspraxia, and wasn't sure whether I should have taken up a course in life skills or choose the sports course that I really fancied.
People doubted that I would cope with the pressure but I managed to complete the first year. It was then discussed whether I should leave then with a sense of achievement or to return for the second year course, when I could have found it too stressful and lose confidence in my abilities.
I decided to give it a try and achieved a distinction. By now, my Asperger’s was beginning to help me as I was totally absorbed in the course and had to make sure that I was prepared and on time for all my assignments.
Once again, when I had passed the second year, there was confusion as to whether the course was getting too tough for my abilities for the third and fourth years, but by then I was living and breathing sport. I was desperate to play football and made four attempts at breaking into the College football team in four years but all ended in failure, however on a positive note, I went on to achieve my qualification of triple * distinction in BTEC Level 3 Sports Coaching, Development and Fitness.
One of my proudest moments was when I achieved Sports Student of the year, and was then encouraged to go on to university which was something I'd never thought of in my dreams. However, not everyone was sure I would cope without my level 2 English & maths and so I was given all the support needed to help me pass. I failed in my first attempt at English by one mark and felt gutted! But I was luckier with my maths when after three months of sleepless nights, I managed to pass. For my second attempt at my English exam, I knew time was running out and was under a lot of pressure. On the day that the Olympic torch came to Basildon, I was sitting my English exam there. While waiting for the results, the examiner walked past and casually mentioned I had passed, which gave way to a lot of erupted screaming and crying (my mother, not me).
Onwards to Southend University, which proved to be more of a challenge and made me think about quitting but decided to stick it out to Christmas. During this time, I'll be eternally grateful to my then tutor, David Blainey, who with much persuasion (remember I’d had four failed trials) got me to join the Uni football team. I had no idea of the success and achievement it would bring as I went from being terrified to actually enjoying being in goal. Thanks to Dave and the team's encouragement, I couldn't believe when at the end of the year after saving two penalties in the last two games to help win us the league, I was made player of the year which I'll remember for the rest of my life. That wasn't bad for someone with weak hands, tremors and no experience of eleven-a-side football! Although we never reached those heights again, I was made captain on several occasions.
Thanks in no little way to the football, by the time it got to Christmas, I seemed to have settled into uni life. I finished my first and second years and I'm now about to finish my final year at university after what I believe to be a record seven years at Southend, from BTEC level 1 at 17 years old to a Bsc (hons) Sports Studies degree (hopefully) at 24 years old.
I'm currently a voluntary football coach at Great Wakering Colts, where I've been working for four years and now looking to do a master’s degree in strength and conditioning in the near future.
I would encourage anyone with a dream to go for it. I hardly left my bedroom when I started at College and preferred food to exercise but now I run in fun runs of eight miles and more, swim, play football up to three times a week (when not injured) and enjoy going out at the weekend.
Going to Southend college and university totally changed my life.