A seven-year-old-girl from Wiltshire with muscular dystrophy has been shortlisted as a national ‘coaching hero’, after making her own exercise videos for others with disabilities through lockdown.

From nearly 500 public nominations, Market Lavington’s Carmela Chillery-Watson is one of 75 coaches across the nation to have been shortlisted for the UK Coaching Hero Awards.

The initiative recognises and celebrates the innovations and achievements of coaches who inspired the nation to keep moving during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Carmela was inspired to make a positive change to people’s lives at home during the lockdowns after seeing children’s PE exercises on the TV which she struggled to do due to her condition.

Teaching a fun physio exercise daily online, Carmela was able to help those who could not get to their essential physio sessions, as well as bring some much-needed energy and joy through interactive exercises.

“It feels great to be nominated for my exercise teaching videos," said Carmela.

"The pandemic has been hard, especially without daddy at home in the first lockdown and last lockdown because he was an emergency driver for Covid, and my Muscular Dystrophy disease. I even lost more muscle weakness and had more pain because of none of my therapy sessions were on.

“To help my Muscular Dystrophy I have to do daily physical therapy exercises, and when I watched Joe Wicks PE on TV I couldn't physically do it, so I said to mummy ‘why don't I do this but for people like me who can't get to their physio sessions?’”

As her daughter took it upon herself to raise awareness about the importance of accessibility for all in sport and inspire so many others to get active, Carmela’s mum Lucy is incredibly proud – though not surprised, that her daughter would make such an impressive difference even at her young age.

She said: “I feel overwhelmed that someone has taken the time to nominate her and for her to make the shortlist at such a young age is incredible. Carmela is a very humble little girl that takes everything in her stride and doesn't realise the positive changes to others she has helped to make through the darkest times, despite herself battling daily with pain, discomfort and progressive weakness that comes with her life limiting type of Muscular Dystrophy. She still finds the energy to motivate others and shows anything is possible with a 'Can Do' attitude.

“There aren’t enough words to describe how proud I am. For someone so young battling daily with a progressive disease, even most adults wouldn't take on what she has achieved with such enthusiasm and drive, she's a real superhero.”

Reflecting on the exceptional contribution of individuals like Carmela, UK Coaching Director of Coaching Emma Atkins, said:

“Many congratulations to all our finalists and to the hundreds of other coaches who were nominated. Each of your stories were incredibly inspiring and showed how invaluable you are to your communities.

“The work of great coaches, changes lives. And that is what you’ve done over the past 12 difficult months. You have brought people together through sport and physical activity sessions, whether online or one-to-one, and provided connections and support.”

The vote features as part of UK Coaching Week, which will take place from the 7-13 June, empowering athletes, coaches, organisations, and the public to celebrate great coaching and encouraging coaches to adapt and recover their space within the sport and physical activity sector.

To vote for your UK Coaching Hero and to find out more about the campaign, visit ukcoaching.org/coachingweek.