“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” – Dale Carnegie
Good morning peeps, meditation done.
Quote for the Day:
“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”
I have been fortunate enough to spend my whole adult working life doing what I love. After leaving ballet school I danced full time until my late twenties, when I moved back to my home town of Hassocks in West Sussex.
Growing up I was known for my sporting prowess and was very slim, now my adult life had been spent as a dancer, I was taller and had filled out a lot with muscle. It wasn’t long before I was asked by Fred Weatherall, who had been involved with Hassocks FC when I was a child if I wanted to start playing football again as he was now involved with Burgess Hill FC and my best mate (David Price) Pricey’s two younger brothers John and Keith were also playing for them.
So off to training I went and started playing football again for the first time in 10 years and then in the summer I started playing cricket again for Keymer and Hassocks CC. I was back doing what I really loved even more than dancing so I was really happy.
I have a theory in sport that you only have so many games or matches in your body, so even though I had missed 10 years of the prime age for my sporting career, my lack of games in this period combined with my fitness and flexibility from being a professional dancer meant that I had the body and enthusiasm for sport of a 19 year old, which was the age I had stopped playing in the first place.
I was practicing music, singing and rapping everyday and playing sport but needed to make money as I had virtually retired from dancing. The amazing photographer Warren du Preez contacted me and said he had returned from South Africa and had had an amazing response from the photo’s we had done together for the music group I was in called Masaai with a roman breastplate and Wilber beast horns as props.
He had blown up a couple of the pictures and sold them as photographic pieces of art, which had kick started his photographic career. He had returned to London and was going round the modelling agencies showing his photos and one of them had requested to see me. So off I went to the Kings Road in London and went to see Annette Russell the owner of So Damn Tuff, which was a male modeling agency with some of the strongest looking boys in the business. Scott Maslen best known for his portrayal as DS Phil Hunter in ITV;s The Bill and Jack Branning on the BBC’s flagship soap EastEnders. He also took part in the 2010 series of Strictly Come Dancing and the 2015 series of Celebrity MasterChef.
Wale who is now a movie star in LA under his real name Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje He is best known for his roles as Lock-Nah in The Mummy Returns, Nykwana Wombosi in The Bourne Identity, Mr. Eko on Lost and Simon Adebisi on Oz,. His more recent roles include Malko in the fifth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones
Jimmy J, who is also an actor in LA working under his real name Jimmy Jean-Louis best known for his role as “the Haitian” on the NBC television series Heroes , Nick Love who went on to become a film director and writer, His credits include the films The Football Factory, The Business, Goodbye Charlie Bright, Outlaw, The Sweeney, and a 2009 remake of football hooliganism drama The Firm and Moose Ali Kahn who was the first Asian male super model again now based in California making waves in the music and yoga scene, his brother Chazz, Robbie and Paul Lawrence.
Everyone one had an individual and strong look, it was the prefect agency for me and Annette decide that for marketing purposes I needed to change my name as Steve didn’t sit with my look. I suggested my middle name Kojo that means Monday. In Ghana everybody has day names after the day they were born Kwame etc. I should have been called Kojo Opuni Agyei but my mum thought I would be bullied so I was named Stephen Kojo Opuni Agyei. Opuni was the name of my grand father on my father’s side. Annette didn’t think Kojo was right. I suggested Adj (pronounced Adge like Badge) which is what I had been known as when I was growing up as it was short for Agyei and easier to pronounce.
“I’ve go it Agyei, it is perfect it is unusual and exotic and goes with your exotic look!”
I just thought that’s weird my surname is now my first name and in Ghana Agyei is like Smith so it is not very exotic, but I said,
“Ok, Agyei it is then.”
That was it Agyei the model was born at 28.
My castings were going well and my modelling career was an immediate success, I began with a feature for Giorgio Armani in Italian Max about being the next UK super models and joined a Milan agency Model Plan and started doing advertising campaigns for the Italian market and the agency wanted me to spend a lot of time in Milan.
Just at this time my dance teacher/mentor the choreographer Charles Augins got in touch with me and said that they were recreating the Trevor Nunn Glyndebourne production of Porgy and Bess, which had been my first professional dance job at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and making it into a film. It was 9 years after the original production, but everybody came back to do it from all over the world.
I did not feel the same way about dancing, I was virtually retired and was back playing sport and had just started a modelling career that was going well. On the one hand it was fulfilling an ambition of mine and probably nearly every dancer in the world to perform as a soloist on the Royal Opera House stage Covent Garden, it really does not get any bigger than that as a dancer. On the other hand my body could still do everything required, but my mind, my heart and desire was not in the same place as a classical dancer, when I did my performances no one else would be able to see the difference, but deep inside I knew and that was what mattered most to me the fact that I knew.
When I finished shooting Porgy and Bess the movie and appearing at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden that was when I was asked to spend the next couple of years touring the world with 2 Unlimited,
All the time I had been dancing with 2 Unlimited, I had been carrying on my modelling career with So Damn Tuff, doing a lot of shows for a company called Production Team and still pursuing my music career.
My schedule was mad and I was always leaving the 2 Unlimited posse in one city and flying to London, Germany or somewhere to go straight into rehearsals for some fashion or trade show. Production Team was a company I had first worked for since I was 19. At the time unless you were on a pop tour it was the best and most well paid job you could have as a dancer. The reason being that they employed taller good-looking dancers that looked like models.
Models get better paid than dancers for some reason, probably linked to the economics of selling clothes, good models sell the clothes they wear, the more clothes the model sells, the more the model gets paid. That is why Kate Moss gets paid so much, whatever clothes Kate Moss wears sell in very large numbers.
I used to love straight shows i.e. straight fashion shows, where you just walk and there is no choreography. I have always loved clothes, especially suits and loved the cuts and the feeling of the expensive threads against my skin, which make you feel like a million dollars and I would act like I had a million dollars when I walked down the catwalk.
Kate Moss is a great actress who metamorphosis’s into the character of her clothes, which is why she is such a great model. I soon got a reputation as a good walker and Annette used to get me to teach the other models at So Damn Tuff eventually after watching so many shows and the best girls walks, I could teach girls how to walk as well.
People think walking on a catwalk is easy, but it’s not, most dancers are terrible, as they want to do too much. Less is more and it takes a lot of self confidence to walk down a long catwalk on your own, with hundreds of people staring at you and then when you get to the end stand still and pose calmly and naturally so the world’s press all get the chance to get that picture, for their magazine, which the designer so craves for, because that picture will sell lots of clothes and then smoothly turn around, maybe take off your jacket to show off the tailored shirt underneath and calmly walk back and off.
Back in Hassocks after the 2 Unlimited adventure was over, it was time to think what I wanted to do next, as I knew my heart was not in dancing anymore and I wanted to go out on top.
My long term girlfriend at the time of 12 years the very beautiful Cheri said why didn’t I teach dance or choreograph, but I said I didn’t think I had the patience to teach other people to dance as it used to frustrate me in rehearsals how long we had to keep going over things when people were slow at picking up.
I had never had a normal job since leaving University all I had ever done was play football, cricket or dance. Cheri said why don’t you do something to do with football, like coaching, football is what you really love.
Cheri was right football had always been my first love, my passion; it was what I had always really wanted to do. My biggest and probably only regret in life was giving up football at 19 to dance. I should probably have carried on playing and gone down the non-league route and seen where that would have taken me.
I do not regret becoming a professional dancer, I just regret not playing football from 19 to 28, which are your peak years as a footballer, I feel like I never fulfilled my full potential in both football and cricket and not fulfilling your full potential in whatever talent you have is one of the biggest crimes a person can commit regarding their own life.
Bearing all this in mind, I looked up and decided to do a 6-week football coaching certificate, with the Sussex FA, which was run by Mike Yaxley, the former Brighton and Hove Albion physiotherapist.
The course was in Eastbourne two evenings a week for 6 weeks with practical sessions at the weekend and I used to take the train from Hassocks which took over an hour each way for the six weeks, so it took up a lot of my time.
I used to invent football drills, which I used to practice everyday at Adastra Park in Hassocks against the wall of the Men’s Club and the fence of the tennis courts. Throwing the ball against the wall to practice receiving a ball from a throw on, on my chest, thigh, foot and laying it back or turning as if I had a defender on my back.
Against the tennis court fence I would practice beating a defender and crossing with my right foot and left foot from both sides and then I would make a goal and put a cone one yard inside the post and practice finishing. I had bought Ian Wright’s DVD 179 Just done it! Which showed every one of Ian Wright’s record-breaking goals for Arsenal. I studied it religiously and noticed a pattern as to where he put the ball in the corner of the goal from each angle with different parts of each foot.
So I made up drills where I would run forward at full pace with the ball and drive the ball in the space between the cone and the post from the right side, left side and centre. Practicing from each angle right foot inside of the foot, left foot inside of the foot, right side laces, left foot laces, right foot outside of the foot, left side outside of the foot and had to do each one perfectly five times in a row perfectly before moving on. The improvement in my goal scoring was drastic if I got a chance in a game in these situations I knew I was going to score.
Unlike everyone else on the course I wasn’t associated with coaching at a team, so to get my assessment coaching hours in needed to complete my certificate, I wrote to the Sussex FA to do some coaching with them. I was put in touch with Gerry Armstrong the former Northern Ireland international who played for Tottenham Hotspur. He spent the majority of his career in England, as well as having a spell in Spain for RCD Mallorca. He represented the Northern Ireland national football team and won acclaim at the 1982 FIFA World Cup, where he was the highest scoring player from the UK, this included a shock winner against hosts Spain. After leaving Spain he played for Watford, West Bromwich Albion, before eventually signing for Brighton & Hove Albion, where he became a player-coach at Brighton.
He then became Youth Development officer at the Sussex FA, which was why I now found him sitting in my mum’s living room interviewing me for a coaching job. Not only did he use me for all the courses run by the Sussex FA, he asked me to work with him for adidas demonstrating their new boot at the time the Predator. I was very fortunate to get the chance to learn under him as he then he became assistant manager of the Northern Ireland national team, under his former national teammate Bryan Hamilton and as a commentator for Sky Sports La Liga. I learnt so much from him and I was getting paid for the privilege, I could not believe my luck,
I loved it and loved working with the kids, teaching them a sport I loved so much, it was like I had finally found my vocation in life. To this day the thing I like doing most is teaching kids football. On top of learning so much about coaching, technique and tactics from Gerry the best part was his stories about playing with George Best, the off the field stories the most, a young kid turning up at Spurs for training one day with manager Keith Burkinshaw and volleying the ball with either foot each time being able to hit the cross bar, the kid being Glen Hoddle and pre season cross country training and playing with John Barnes under Graham Taylor at Watford.
When I passed my coaching certificate exam I joined the Football Association Coaching Association and through their monthly publication Insight I saw a post requiring a coach needed for Ian Wright Soccer Schools in London for the Summer Ian Wright was my favourite player at the time and something of a hero of mine so I jumped at the chance of working with him and took the train up to London for an interview with Danny Townley and Tony Rodriguez in Oxford Street. I instantly got on with them both and got the job, which I was really excited about.
Through Wrighty’s connections we were sponsored by Nike and had really cool coaches outfits, boots, bags and equipment. PlayStation also sponsored the schools ad provided arcade style PlayStation games for the kids to play in the lunch break. Danny and Tony were young and had some really cutting edge ideas for engaging the kids.
I turned up for my first day’s coaching in Greenwich in my new Nike gear, which really dropped; I particularly loved the three quarter length shorts. I got a really good group of boys, Nathan, Spider and the rest of their Battersea, South London crew. The day started well, the boys were all excited, I had a good group and the banter between, myself and the boys were great. The boys were all loving the PlayStation stations during the breaks, everything was very well organized and when Ian Wright turned up on a Harley Davidson, the boys and also so it must be said the coaches including myself, the excitement generated was off the scale. Wrighty was great with the kids, his enthusiasm is infectious and they loved it when he joined in an impromptu game with them.
As organised as the Ian Wright Soccer Schools were, you still had to remember that we were handling a large group of very talented but volatile kids, who were ready to fight and stab each other at the slightest sign of disrespect, or “diss” as it is known in their culture of the street. We’d had to pull a knife off one boy in one coaching session, and were constantly on edge at the prospect of the often-taunted threat of, “My dad’s gonna come and gun you down,” being actually carried out.
Thankfully, we never had to get the police. I always wondered what happened to these boys and a few years later I was extremely upset and disappointed to find out that one of the boys in my group a dark, quiet but strong boy, called Michael who played in goal was in jail serving life for murder. It left me wondering what more I could have done to set him on the right path as a child, but I only had him for 2 weeks of his life.
But it has stuck in my memory and was a major factor in me starting up Kool Kidz Kamp when I came up to Scotland in 2011. Kool Kidz Kamp was set up to provide professional training in dance, drama, sport, art and yoga, giving children aged from 8 up to 16 years of age the chance to express themselves and learn the discipline and dedication needed to perform at the highest level. I believe these practices will provide the foundation and tools to go on to lead a healthy productive life and give them the opportunity to fulfil their potential in whatever they wish to do in life. Kool Kidz Kamp allows children’s dreams turn into reality
Obtaining my FA Coaching Certificate had reawakened my thirst for learning and I decided I wanted to learn about fitness training, so I enrolled on a YMCA course and absolutely loved it my quest for knowledge about everything to do with Health and Fitness was insatiable,
it was similar to when I first started dancing and wanted to be a ballet dancer and would read every book and watch TV every video and program about it, well now it was the same with health and fitness, I was well and truly obsessed. I loved learning about the body and how it worked I had done Human Biology together with English Language and Literature for my A levels on a sports course in Chichester before becoming a dancer and all that knowledge soon came flooding back, on top of all the practical knowledge I had learnt about the muscles and the ability to transform the human body from three years of training and ten years of working as a professional dancer.
This practical and personal knowledge of how my own body actually worked and how I had transformed it from a sportsman’s body to a ballet dancer’s body was worth its weight in gold and meant far more than what I learnt from the text books. For instance Daley Thompson is the best trainer I have ever worked with without doubt,
I have no idea what text book and academic qualifications Daley has for training, but as I said he is without doubt the best trainer I have ever worked with and that is down to everything he has learnt and the knowledge and experienced he gained from becoming arguably the UK’s and possibly the world’s greatest ever all round athlete.
Do not get me wrong I have the utmost respect for sports science, studies and textbooks, but nothing beats actually physically and mentally, having done something. It is the same in yoga, you must do your daily physical practice on your mat everyday before you teach your students, that way you can really describe the internal physical and mental aspect of the actions your asking others to perform. Never giving people something I cannot do myself is a strong ethos of my own teaching and training philosophy and means I am constantly striving to push myself to get better and learn more about anything I am doing or teaching. It is impossible to know everything about the subject you are teaching and so you can never stop learning however much of a master you are, the minute you think you know everything there is to know about a subject is the proof that you know nothing!
Now whilst I am laid up in the Highlands injured and not able to teach and work, which I realised today is the longest time I have ever been injured, I am using the time to learn how to adapt my training to cope with the injury and that my body is older now and cannot train in the same way or recover from injuries as quickly.
I am researching everyday, really learning everything I can about training bodies when they are older and at the same time writing much more everyday trying to improve in this area too.
As I stated at the beginning I have been lucky enough to get paid for what I love doing my whole adult working life, working and learning off so many really talented people and having heaps of fun with them doing it, which brings us to the message for today.
To be really successful you have to love what you do, work really hard and have lots of fun doing it.
Have a marvellous Monday peeps and a wonderful week.
Breathe, Believe and Achieve
Be Happy, Healthy and Wise
Keep on Winning Smiling and Living the Dream