Author: Clare Nasir
We talk long jump, Taekwondo and snooker. The all encompassing, transformative power of participating in sport…. it’s a no brainer.
Joanne Kennedy-Reardon had introvert tendencies as a child. Whether it was reciting a poem in front of her class or taking part in the school play she would prefer to opt out. However during her teens she discovered a natural flair on the sports field. She found herself competing at an increasingly high level. It was during this time she sensed a steady rise in her inner confidence.
Joanne trained everyday and rapidly reached county level. She recalls her early success,
“You have three attempts at the long jump. The focus is intense, with increasing pressure on jump number two and then on three, especially when the first two are ‘no jumps’. This is where I learned perseverance and resilience. Gathering all the mental discipline I could muster in order to push my boundaries to win — for me and my team. Every action counts.”
Joanne won the Cheshire Athletic Championships in long jump for five consecutive years, but she was an all rounder, excelling in sprinting as well. Perhaps her most challenging moment was having to pose for the local papers when she won AAA five star award.
“I trained at club level during the 1980’s, and despite support from my coaches it was a time when there was no defined elite pathway and no financial support, especially for girls and women.”
However looking back at her early achievements she now knows it played a crucial role in laying the foundations for her successes in finance and business.
“Participation in sport is not just about competition, it teaches morality, integrity and ambition. The more you invest in training the greater the rewards. It’s empowering and this inevitably seeps into other parts of your life.”
After university Joanne took her first professional exams and despite some early disappointments she passed all her accounting exams (CIMA) and then Internal Audit exams (IIA) with first time passes.
“This was my earlier athletics training coming into play; get out of the wet sand (as often it was) dust yourself off and start again with confidence and 100% effort.”
Joanne is now a chartered director and has spent the past fifteen years driving solar energy at Amplio Energy Group. This involved social responsibility, sustainability of resources and the impact of business activity on the environment. A forerunner to what most businesses today are focusing on.
In fact, Joanne’s ongoing professional rise reflects a pattern of success with those who participate in sport during school years and go on to big careers as adults. There is a lot of evidence suggesting a positive relationship between sport and physical activity on the one hand and professional and academic achievement on the other, particularly with girls and women.
In a published paper on the socio-economic benefits of women in playing sport, a study involving a thousand women business executives, showed an important correlation between sport and business success. Another similar report highlighted a link between motor skills and cognitive and behavioural development for both boys and girls.
A longitudinal study of students in the US showed that girls exposed to a significant amount of physical education (defined as 70–300 minutes/week) had better academic results than those that did the least exercise (0–35 minutes/ week).
Physical exercise is increasingly recognised as an important component in the neuroscience related field, having favourable effects on brain function. Fresh evidence (2020) of an association between cardiorespiratory fitness and brain health, particularly in grey matter and total brain volume —these are regions of the brain involved with cognitive decline and aging.
We are all aging; it’s hard not to take action on such regenerative information.
Joanne’s interest in sport remains central to her life. Much of her spare time nowadays is dedicated to her Non Executive Director role for the Taekwondo Organisation Limited, TOL, an umbrella body for Taekwondo in England.
“For me it’s a natural partnering of my experience of athletics training and competition combined with a leadership role. We know the importance of sport and young peoples’ mental and social development. Taekwondo does just that, and so much more, it’s a brilliant basis for personal and professional life.”
The South Korean martial art has 60 million practitioners in 184 countries. In the UK membership ranges from 3 to 84 years old. The name translates as ‘the way of the foot and the fist’, however it’s not an aggressive sport, it focuses more on self defensive.
There are a number of Taekwondo bodies in the UK, these include the British Taekwondo Council and British Taekwondo, all who aspire to the same philosophy. Health benefits extend from increased stamina and strength to improved concentration, focus and reduced stress.
The Taekwondo five guiding principles, or tenets, are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control and indomitable spirit and form the foundation of the practice.
The GB Taekwondo performance pathway team central philosophy is…
‘… to cultivate a positive and nurturing environment which supports athletes with all aspects of their development and performance on and off the matt via a systematically individualised approach which is embraced by all coaches and coaching support staff’
Grand Master Kenny Walton, “It takes about 40 years to become a Taekwondo Grand Master, but the benefits of this discipline kick in within weeks. From the start students are exposed to the wisdom and teachings from dedicated trainers. This positive influence has purpose and stays with them into adulthood and is passed through generations. It’s about being a champion of yourself.”
Joanne’s career in finance is not a conventional one. She is Chief Financial Officer at ReGen Future Capital. The Group invests in renewable energy and subscribes to the workings of a circular economic model. Riccardo Segat, Founder and CEO, talks openly about their business loop; that allows cash to flow from profit to regeneration projects.
“We follow a triple bottom line business model; people, planet and profit.”
Fifty percent of dividends are re-invested in regeneration and restoration programmes, to scale, across the world, from reforestation to local outreach projects. For example ReGen Group are supporting a ten year — one billion mangroves planting initiative in Myanmar driven by Dr Bremley Lyngdoh, ReGen Director of Partnerships.
Joanne’s commitment to supporting the development of young people is an integral part of the work at ReGen Future Capital.
In 2019 she hired Ben Slade, he was formally the youngest headteacher in the UK — with an exemplary record and the brainchild and CEO of Skillforce, that championed heroes in schools.
He now heads up the ReGen Future People arm of the ReGen group.
“Hiring Ben fulfils a significant part of the ReGen remit. He’s creating an innovative platform that fuels long term social engagement and awareness projects. We know the impacts of such work can be far reaching and the ripples propagate into decades of transformative societal change.”
Sport gives us faith to live another day. It has the enormous ability to empower, building the skills and confidence that help all of us cope with life’s challenges.
The theme of United Nations International Youth Day 2020, Youth Engagement for Global Action, seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes.
Joanne concludes, “We stand alongside the UN’s concerted effort to engage young people. I am forever thankful for the support and coaching I received in my early years.
“My son, Daniel Kennedy Reardon, is following a similar sporting pathway focussing on club-level hockey, and maybe he’s picked up some of his winning prowess from his paternal grandfather, Ray Reardon, six times snooker world champion.
In the words of Daniel’s hockey team captain at NSHC and NHS primary care manager, Thomas Cruxton,
“My involvements in sports, whether that be Taekwondo from an early age, or more recently in hockey, have taught me a number of things that translate into general life and also my work life.
It’s teamwork, achievement, motivation and discipline.
It’s a simple perspective; each day I will be a better version of myself than yesterday.
By doing this I will always be improving, and surely that’s all we can expect from ourselves? I’m sure all ages can benefit from this way of thinking.”
It’s time to pay it forward, for a better future for all.