As part of our ongoing series, we have interviewed members of the European Athletics Young Leaders Youth Team. They were all nominated by their federations to take part in the most recent Young Leaders Forum in Amsterdam, held in conjunction with the 2016 European Athletics Championships, and all are recognised as potential leaders of our sport in years to come.
The European Athletics Young Leaders Community is a platform for active young and ambitious people who are interested in developing work and life skills, getting involved in community service and making new friends.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello, I am Lijana Kaziow and am English - the irony with a name like mine! I guess you could say I am continental in my roots.
I have been involved in athletics for 20 years, encompassing a number of aspects and roles: administrator, coach, committee member, consultant, deliverer, educator, event organiser and manager, mentor, official, project developer and implementer, teacher, team manager, strategy and governance, volunteer and previously an athlete.
How did you become involved with the European Athletics Young Leaders Community?
I was first introduced to the Athletics Community via some friends that attended Helsinki in 2012. It was only when - as a thank you for my input into various things over the years - I was put forward to be a participant at the 2014 forum in Zurich did it begin to resonate what the community really is all about.
In October 2014, following the Zurich Forum, I started being further involved via the Future Group - a team that plans towards the next forum activities.
Since Amsterdam 2016, this has been called the Youth Team of which I now coordinate. The official role is called the European Athletics Young Leaders Community Coordinator - a mouthful at that!
What is your favourite thing about athletics?
There is something for everyone, it is wholly inclusive in this aspect.
Who is your athletics hero and why?
My heroes are the volunteers that act as the pillars of our sport. Without them, athletics would not be as we see it today. They are integral to the past, present and future of our sport. So thank you for your time and making athletics your sport for life.
Which areas of the sport are you particularly interested in?
Although I am very much a jack of all trades (master of none), I do have some refined interests, such as governance albeit on the political side which is evident through my roles on various councils and committees. I am interested in coaching and the development of youth and their pathway to achieving their best in whatever they want to do, as well as mentoring other coaches.
I'm also interested in kaizen approaches - looking at different areas of the sport and supporting others to continuously improve in their operations for the long term benefit of the sport.
If you could change one aspect of the sport, what would you change and why?
Perceptions of young people and what they are capable of achieving. To accurately represent the sport, we need people from all backgrounds to have a method in which to share their voice, be that through boards, commissions, committees, panels and groups of another pathway.
This means including young people too - they are after all, a large proportion of the sport.
Where do you see yourself within the sport in ten years’ time?
As athletics is not the only sport that I am actively involved in, I’m not sure where opportunities will take me over the next ten years. So speaking honestly, unfortunately I’m not sure I see myself being that involved in athletics. Too much red tape within my own federation over the years has dwindled my motivations and as such I have moved independently to fulfil common goals. I feel my experiences and knowledge could be better used by other sports federations and bodies.
To this end, I am relishing the opportunity to work at British Blind Sport with a number of aspiring young leaders with visual impairments. I hope to still maintain a connection to sport and the athletics family I have developed along the way, as it is a constant in my life that I cannot live totally without.
What has been your highlight of Young Leaders so far?
My highlight was being involved in the facilitation of the 2016 Forum in Amsterdam. I was honoured to be asked to introduce Lord Sebastian Coe to the participants, “a man who needs little introduction”. It was a joy to see so many young leaders actively engaged in the different forum aspects, especially when it came to my own workshop.