Meet the Leaders: In Conversation with Nicolette Erevik

Nicolette Erevik is a dynamic leader within the sports and development sector. In partnership with Sports England, she was recruited through Perrett Laver to serve as a board member of the Active Partnership charity Rise.

Alongside her role at Rise, Nicolette is also a Group Treasurer of Newcastle Building Society and a committee member at the Bank of England. A graduate of Nottingham Law School, she was touted as ‘One to Watch’ by the Association of Corporate Treasurers in 2014.

We caught up with Nicolette to talk about her work with Rise, her goal to ensure sport and physical activity is more inclusive and the future of diverse leadership and disability sports.

What was it that drew you to the Perrett Laver and Sport England programme?

I’m always drawn to opportunities which create more diverse and inclusive spaces. In my daytime job, I worked my way through the ranks to become treasurer of a building society. I’m the only female within my peer group and certainly the only disabled women. At Sport England, I couldn’t look past the opportunity to be part of a team which showcases women and development roles at a senior board level. It’s so important that we act as role models so that other people, especially younger people, can see a pathway to climb. It proves that it is possible to break through that glass ceiling which for so long has been a barrier in the workplace.

Did you have any experiences in sport before taking on the role?

I was involved in sport from a very young age. I participated in disability sports competitions such as swimming, rowing and tennis. There are so many benefits of playing sport not just in terms of physical wellbeing, but also from a mental wellbeing perspective. It has led to so many incredible relationships both within and outside of the workplace.

The position at Sport England and Rise came along just as I was looking for a board role to move into. It was a perfect opportunity which I absolutely couldn’t turn down. I also work at a local Building Society in my day job. It might not seem like it, but there is a synergy between my two roles. The Building Society’s purpose is to connect communities with a better financial future, while the aim at Rise is to improve physical and mental wellbeing – both are vital to lead a fit and healthy life within our region.

Can you describe your experiences in the program and your role with Rise so far?

Working at Rise has been a fantastic fit over the past two years. At the start, our main focus was on rebranding and restructuring. Rise came out of two active partnerships in the Northeast, with the mission of making physical activity more accessible to the general public, and particularly those who experience inequalities. As the charity was in its infancy, it was a huge learning curve to be part of those initial conversations. We had to first identify the organisations that we could partner with – such as wider public authorities like the NHS and schools, sport and physical activity providers, and those responsible for green and blue spaces. I joined at a hugely exciting time as the organisation was only beginning its journey, with so much potential in store.

Why do you think we need greater diversity in sport?

First and foremost, a more diverse group of people leads to a more diverse conversation. It allows input from people who experience the world in slightly differently ways, and everyone can bring something different to the table because they naturally have slightly different outlooks. I’m keen to act as a role model and inspiration for the younger generation coming through as I truly believe that diversity and inclusivity in sport is the only way we can be fully representative of the wider community.

How can we make sport more inclusive for people with disabilities?

As a disabled woman, it feels like many people view disability sport through the lens of being a Paralympian. Coverage and visibility focus on major broadcasting moments such as the Paralympics on the television. In order to ensure sport is more inclusive, we must move away from viewing disabled sport through the prism of elite sport. We need to put the spotlight on grass roots sports and initiatives so anyone can be inspired to take up physical activity. It reinforces the message that you don’t need to be an elite sportsperson to be visible, and that sport is accessible and achievable no matter who you are.

Everyone’s voices deserve to be heard. Whether you are female, disabled, or anything else – it’s about bringing all those individual experiences to the conversation.

What role does leadership play in sport?

I’ve had some great managers who have supported me throughout my career. Having the right support mechanisms are essential for anyone looking to break into senior leadership roles. You need plenty of tenacity to break down the barriers and preconceptions which sadly still exist. My board roles experiences have taught me that you can compete on a level playing field and be just as good and capable as everyone else.

Ultimately, leadership brings a sense of purpose which goes hand in hand with authenticity. When you are authentic, people want to be part of that journey with you. It is also about delivering medium and long- term goals rather than just the immediate situation. We need to question what disability in sport already means, but also how we can bring everybody on that journey for the long haul. The role of a sporting leader is synonymous with a role model – the objective is to be present for others to relate to and be inspired by.