Since 2014, RBC has partnered with UK charity, SportsAid, to help nurture the next generation of elite British athletes.
In 2016, Imani-Lara Lansiquot had ambitions to compete on the world stage as a professional sprinter. But she knew it wouldn’t come easily.
She was making great progress on the track and believed she could contend with the best. There was just one problem – she wasn’t in a financial position to train and compete at an elite level.
It’s an all too common story for young athletes: in the absence of government funding, who supports them on their journey to the top of the podium?
For Lansiquot, SportsAid and RBC were able to not only provide funding but also personal guidance and mentorship from an RBC “buddy” and a network of professional support to help her chase her sprinting ambitions. “I’ll never forget finally being able to go on a major training camp, get physio and train with professional groups for the first time – these are the differences that have such a big impact on your success as an athlete,” she explains.
Imani-Lara (centre) with fellow SportsAid alumni Lutalo Muhammad (left) and Shanice Beckford-Norton (right).
With the right support and access to the best coaching, Lansiquot soon made a name for herself in the sprinting world. “I didn’t have a world ranking at the time, and then a year later I was third in the world and that really changed my career. I’m massively thankful to RBC and SportsAid, because without their partnership I wouldn’t be the athlete I am today.”
Lansiquot is now a key member of Team GB’s athletics team. She’s not only realised her dream of competing at an Olympic Games, but she also took to the podium after winning bronze in the women’s 4×100-metre relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
And did we mention she’s the fourth fastest British woman of all time?
It’s stories like Lansiquot’s that epitomise the ethos of SportsAid – encouraging, enabling and empowering young British athletes to be the country’s next Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and world champions. And it’s working. SportsAid alumni won a staggering 141 medals for Great Britain at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The guiding principle of helping young people succeed is shared by RBC and has been a natural synergy between the two organisations since they partnered in 2014. “It’s been a long-standing commitment at RBC to not just support sport, but young people as a whole,” says Dave Thomas, CEO of RBC Europe. “We recognise the challenges younger generations are now faced with, whether that’s economic, environmental or other societal issues, and we have a responsibility to support young people overcome those challenges. It’s something we are very passionate about.”
Athletes supported by SportsAid are the brightest sporting prospects in their age groups, showing dedication and sacrifice in pursuing their sporting ambitions. But it’s their work off the field, and by their parents and carers, that is often overlooked.
“Our athletes cover 43 miles, on average, under their own steam in training every week,” says Tim Lawler , CEO of SportsAid. “Their families will also spend over £7,000 each year in meeting the costs of their child’s sport, which means without the charity’s support, many of these young prospects would face a tough decision on whether to continue training and competing.”
It’s this funding gap RBC helps bridge. Each year, the organisation supports 50 of the most talented young British athletes with financial assistance, recognition and personal development opportunities to help them fulfil their potential. Each athlete is awarded £1,000 which contributes towards training and competition costs.
To date, RBC has supported more than 470 athletes and raised more than £1 million for SportsAid. This has enabled the organisation to offer enhanced experiences to its athletes and provide extra support for their parents.
For Lawler, the partnership with RBC has felt more like a joint venture. “Ten years is a substantial milestone for a corporate organisation working with a charity, particularly considering the external challenges we’ve all faced because of the pandemic. Despite this, RBC has continued to support us and help us evolve.”
Lawler cites the expansion of its athlete and parent workshop programme as a key example of how RBC’s support has helped it improve the reach and impact of its operations. “We’ve been able to make our athlete and parent workshops more accessible in areas of the country we would normally be unable to reach. We can now engage all our athletes with the specialists they need to enhance their performance, such as sleep therapists, nutritionists and media professionals. They need to really understand these key elements if they’re to reach the top of their fields and have successful careers in sport.”
Perhaps the key to the longevity and success of RBC and SportsAid’s partnership has been the proactive involvement of RBC employees, or “Team RBC,” who have directly fundraised over £340,000 for SportsAid.
“For me it’s the personal ‘skin in the game’ that everyone at RBC shows. So many employees get involved, volunteer and take on challenges,” says Lawler.
Through group challenge events like RBC Ride for the Kids, where employees cycled hundreds of miles to Bruges and Brussels; to local activities such as #BeAGoodSportsAid Day, which saw raffles, fitness classes and cycle challenges throughout RBC’s London office, employees have embraced the spirit of SportsAid to raise funds for the charity.
“There’s no point in us supporting a charity by just writing cheques,” says Thomas. “It’s got to be a cause employees get involved with and can add value to, and SportsAid has been a great example of that. We’re constantly changing how we engage with not only the athletes, but our own colleagues and communities – this helps keep the partnership fresh and gets people excited about it.”
One of the most integral aspects of the partnership is the buddy system, where award recipients are paired with employees who offer mentoring and guidance. Buddies become an impartial and trusted point of contact who follow the progress of the athletes, support them and share important life skills to help them in their future endeavours.
“Competing at an elite level is mentally draining and means, at times, athletes can have a pretty intense relationship with coaches and parents,” explains Lawler. “It’s good for athletes to have another person they can talk to and offer a different perspective.”
SportsAid’s 2023 cohort of athletes supported by RBC.
While the support Lansiquot received from SportsAid and RBC changed her life, there are many aspiring young British athletes set to rise through the national ranks in the coming years. With hopes of international glory, many of them will need the invaluable support SportsAid can offer.
For all those young athletes who dream of success, Lansiquot has some guiding words. “Be absolutely fearless, focus on what you can control, and see failures as part of your learning process. Be open to all kinds of outcomes and trust yourself, because no matter if you win or lose, you learn so much along the way. Remember that if you can see it, you can be it.”
Find out more about SportsAid and the athletes it supports .