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Paddler Spotlight: Rising Stars of Coventry

For our November Paddler Spotlight, we caught up with Ayaz Maqsood, Chairperson of the Rising Stars Group, and volunteers from Mercia Canoe Club. Together they are leading the way to get their local community paddling. Alongside offering paddlesport sessions, they're creating opportunities for the people of Coventry to earn their Paddlesport Instructor qualification and inspire others to take up the sport.

Rising Stars Group 3

The Rising Stars Group, based in Foleshill, Coventry, has been a cornerstone for the community for the past two decades. In recent years, they have offered a number of paddlesport sessions to those in their community who had no prior paddling experience.

In 2023, seven eager volunteers undertook their Paddlesport Instructor qualification with the help of Mercia Canoe Club, based at the Coventry Canal Basin, and Paddletastic at the Xcel Centre. 

The training involved eight weeks of learning to master canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. The group met every Sunday morning for training at the Canal Basin, to undertake five hours of training with Mercia Canoe Club plus further training every Thursday evening with Paddletastic coaches.

Rising Stars Group 1

It was important to Rising Stars that people from Foleshill became instructors, as this would encourage others from their community to take part. With funding provided by our Stronger Together Fund, the Rising Stars Group embarked on their journey of training to become Paddlesport Instructors.

Ayaz Maqsood, Chairperson at Rising Stars, shares why it was important for them to become qualified.

“Rising Stars has always been about providing sporting and leisure opportunities that people from Foleshill don’t usually get the opportunity to experience. Although the Canal Basin is located at the top of the Foleshill Road and Mercia Canoe Club has been around for decades, there were not enough people from Foleshill, particularly ethnic minorities and women taking part in paddlesports.”

Rising Stars Group 4

The group were overwhelmed with the support provided by the existing paddlesport community in Coventry and were grateful for support from Mercia Canoe Club and Paddletastic.

“It was heartwarming to meet and be supported by the local paddlesport community represented by both Mercia Canoe Club and Paddletastic. We are particularly grateful to Nigel Wooltorton and Paul Smithers from Mercia Canoe Club who gave up 5 hours each Sunday morning over 7 weeks to coach and train the group.”

Rising Stars Group 2

Sarah Ashique from Rising Stars said:

“After our experience in leading with women only swimming, cycling and self-defence/keep fit sessions in Foleshill, we realised women and girls form our community from every ethnic background were more encouraged to take up new sports and interests if they were led and run by women. Rising Stars provides the ideal community platform for women to train and lay on activities for other women.”

Since offering the sessions, Rising Stars have been inundated with individuals and groups wanting to take up paddlesport sessions at the Canal Basin.

Rising Stars 5

Nigel Wooltorton, one of the volunteers from Mercia Canoe Club shared why the club was keen to help.

“We were very pleased to provide our facilities and training for the Rising Stars Group. We had been aware that there were not enough people from our local area taking up paddlesports, particularly from ethnic minorities and specifically women from these communities. Rising Stars provided us with a great opportunity to get greater participation from these groups. I was very impressed with the dedication from the Rising Stars Group and so pleased that they all passed this very tough course.”

Annette Allen from Rising Stars commented: 

“I hadn’t realised how tough the course was going to be, but most of it was fun. The particular fear we all had was practising rescues in Coventry Canal, but after we went into the canal once it was fine, but oh so cold!”

Following on from a brilliant year on the water, a further three members of the group hope to complete their Paddlesport Leader Award in 2024. We wish them all the best!

Want to get involved? Keep up to date on their Instagram @risingstars_cov and Facebook @risingstarsycg. Or feel inspired to give paddling a try? Find your local club here.

We’d love to hear all about your paddling journey, experiences and the great work happening in your community. You could be our next Paddler Spotlight feature! Find out more about the initiative here and share your stories and photos with us via our form here or if you prefer drop us an email at [email protected]