Meet The Team

We’re a friendly bunch who also love getting active in our spare time too. Find out more about who we each are and how to reach us.

David Watson

Chief Executive

With over 32 years of experience in the Movement, Activity and Sport sector and a qualified Youth Worker, David became Executive Director of North Yorkshire Sport on July 1st 2006.

Prior to that he worked for Harrogate Borough Council where he gained valuable experience in Facility Management, working and managing both wet and dry sites, and Sports Development. He also worked for eleven years as a part time Physical Education teacher at a local primary school giving him an insight in to the particular needs of education.

David became Chief Executive of North Yorkshire Sport Ltd on April 1st 2014 when the organisation launched as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.

David’s role is to provide strategic leadership, to manage the financial, human and physical resources assigned to the Partnership and to ensure the sustainability and efficiency of the company.

David is a member of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise North Yorkshire Chief Executives group, one of two Voluntary Sector Representatives on the North Yorkshire Council Children and Young People Scrutiny Board as well as being a member of a number of strategic groups within the county representing Movement, Activity and Sport.

He is Chairman of Swim England North East Ltd, a Trustee of Community First Yorkshire and is currently studying for a Professional Doctorate in Sport at Leeds Beckett University.


Katy Rawnsley

Achieve Programme Coordinator (Scarborough)

Katy joined the North Yorkshire Sport team in September 2023 as Programme Coordinator for the Achieve Project (Whitby), funded by Anglo American and The Woodsmith Foundation. Her role is to coordinate exciting activities for the young people to take part in to boost their confidence and give them opportunities they may not have normally been able to access, e.g. a weekly film making club, cooking club and lunchtime yoga club. The young people are also part of a National Literacy Scheme – Whitby Our Whitby (WoW), where they are building their communication and public speaking skills, which is hugely impacting their confidence levels.

Katy is a qualified primary school teacher and her passion for sport and young people have always been her driving force. She has run her own business teaching her own bespoke PE lessons to schools. More recently she qualified as a teen and children’s yoga and mindfulness teacher when she saw the growing need for young people to access mindfulness activities to help them overcome their increasing anxieties. As well as yoga, Katy is a qualified UKA assistant athletics coach and plans to do her coaching later this year. She volunteers on a weekly basis for the Scarborough AC juniors.

Outside work Katy is a keen runner and has competed in all races from fells to marathons. She is also a mum of two daughters.

Mobile: 07843571099



Cheryl Govern

Achieve Programme Coordinator (Scarborough)

Cheryl joined the North Yorkshire Sport team as Programme Coordinator for the Achieve Project funded by Anglo American and The Woodsmith Foundation in June 2023, having previously spent 26 years working at the Stephen Joseph Theatre as Associate Director. Cheryl is also a freelance theatre director, most recently for Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. She also writes plays for children and family audiences and has a particular interest in accessible theatre.

Cheryl is a qualified teacher and still keeps her hand in formal education as Vice Chair of the Governing Body at Gladstone Road Primary School in Scarborough. She also sits on the Board of Trustees for Croydon Youth Theatre Organisation.

Cheryl’s role at North Yorkshire Sport involves creating an exciting programme of activities for 60 young people in Scarborough, one of these being the exciting ‘Meet the Professionals’. These are weekly, fun, practical and informative after school sessions delivered by professionals from wide and varied fields offering the young people the chance to explore anything from Midwifery to DJing.

Outside of work Cheryl is a mummy, loves music, listening and playing, and, although she doesn’t really do anything sporty, she has got stuck in with the Achieve students in all sorts of activities including surfing, wall climbing, skiing, paddle boarding and even going to see football matches!

Mobile: 07903050485


Damien Smith, North Yorkshire Sport

Damien Smith

Director of Operations

Damien’s role at North Yorkshire Sport is Director of Operations which he has held since April 2012.

His role includes overseeing the work of the development team, delivery against the organisations system partner work with Sport England and as the strategic lead for a range of work areas including:

  • Governance and the charities compliance with the UK Code of Sports Governance (Tier 3 organisation)
  • Opening School Facilities
  • Safeguarding & Welfare strategic lead
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion lead – Ensuring that the organisation adopts a robust Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and that all interventions and programmes delivered by NYS include positive action and special measures for disadvantaged groups/individuals who may find it harder to be physically active.

Damien’s previous roles have included the Partnership Development Manager for the Harrogate School Sports Partnership which he held for 3 years, Delivery Manager for North Yorkshire Sport from 2007-2009, Senior Sports Development Officer for Harrogate Borough Council and Regional Development Officer for British Triathlon for a number of years. Damien graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2001 with an Honours Degree in Physical Education.

He performs a number of voluntary roles outside of his work including a position as Time to Listen Tutor for NYS/CPSU, Safeguarding & Protecting Children Tutor for UK Coaching and has previously held trustee roles with Harrogate Town FC Community Foundation (Vice Chair), schools and a number of trustee and governor roles in his spare time.

He is a qualified Athletics, Football and Triathlon coach and is a keen golfer, novice runner and enjoys skiing. Damien spends most of his weekends and evenings helping his two children take part in a range of sports clubs and activities.

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George Cull

Director of Development

George joined the North Yorkshire Sport team as Delivery Manager in May 2009, having previously spent over two years working with Lancashire County Sports Partnership in the capacity of Partnership Development Officer.

Prior to that role he had worked for Hyndburn Borough Council and Leisure in Hyndburn Trust as a Sports Development Officer. This post followed Georges graduation from York St Johns in 2002 with a degree in Leisure and Tourism Management, which he had completed after doing a BTEC in Sports Science at Yorkshire Coast College.

Georges role at North Yorkshire Sport involves overseeing the work of the team, leading on work around children and young people, impact management and learning culture. He is also driving North Yorkshire Sports fundraising work around supporting mental health through sport.

Outside of work George has recently completed his first (and only) Ironman Triathlon in July 2021. He has a strong interest in running and cycling (swimming less so) and still plays the occasional game of football.





Sarah Stephenson

Active Communities Manager

Sarah Graduated from Wolverhampton University in 2001 with a combined degree in Sport and Outdoor Education.

Following this she was employed by Middlesbrough Council as a sport Development Officer for 3 years before moving to Tees Valley Sport to work as a coordinator for the National charity StreetGames for a further 3 years.

In 2010 Sarah began a role with Northumbria University as their Student Development Manager where she worked for 4 years on their volunteering and internship programme before taking up the role of Sport Development Manager here at North Yorkshire Sport. More recently Sarah’s role at North Yorkshire Sport has changed and she is now part of our Active Communities Team.

In her spare time Sarah enjoys playing for her local hockey club and out walking in the hills and countryside.

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Lucy Psarias

Active Communities Manager

Having graduated with a BA (Hons.) degree in Sports Science and Management, Lucy began her career in sport working for Leeds City Council on community sports development followed by the role of Community Leisure Officer for City of York Council, predominantly working alongside the voluntary sports club sector assisting with community development.

Lucy joined the North Yorkshire Sport team in January 2008 and currently takes a lead on the School Games programme organising and coordinating the County Level events in addition to managing the Active Lives survey across the region.

In her spare time, Lucy loves being active and enjoying the great outdoors. She regularly attends the gym and enjoys spending time with her family.

Lucy’s working days are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

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Jane Ratcliffe

Active Communities Manager

After graduating from Durham University in 2004 with a degree in Sport in the Community and then from University of Central Lancashire in 2006 with a Masters in Business Management Jane has gained experience in development roles at South Lakeland District Council, Tees Valley Sport and the Amateur Swimming Association.

Jane started at North Yorkshire Sport in October 2013 and work areas have included driving initial work on the Dame Kelly Holmes Get on Track Programmes across the county, supporting a number of National Governing Bodies and leading on the Satellite Club programme. Jane’s current role is supporting the development of ‘People’ (anyone who can help or inspire others to move more and be more active). An example of her work is creating and managing an online learning platform; Yorkshire & Humber Learning Community.

Jane’s normal working days are Tuesday to Thursday. In her free time, Jane spends time with her young family, often exploring and having adventures in their campervan, playing in parks and walking with their 7 year old collie/springer cross dog. She has been a Peer Mentor for Adoption UK and now supports her local school as a committee member for their ‘Friends of’ team.

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Garth de Roux

Active Communities Manager

After graduating from the University of Leeds in 2006 Garth worked for Leeds City Council where he discovered an interest in publishing.

Garth then worked as an editor in the publishing industry for 14 years. Always a keen sportsman he developed himself as a coach, first in running then in strength and conditioning. Garth is a volunteer coach at his local running club and is currently working towards gaining his endurance coach qualification.

Garth works across two Active Partnerships: North Yorkshire Sport and Active Humber. His role is supporting the development of the non-traditional workforce such as care home workers, doctor’s surgeries and social prescribers, seeing how they can bring physical activity into their workplace for the staff and their patients and also working with these partners to refer into our existing programs.

In his spare time Garth likes to be off running in the hills. He competes in ultra-marathons. The longest to date being 112 miles on the Cleveland Way.

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Danny Thomas

Youth Engagement Manager

Danny is an experienced Early Help and Family worker, previously working for NYCC Children and Family service, alongside Youth Justice, the Safeguarding Team, Prevent and Health Child Team. Earlier on Danny held the position as Sports Development Coach at Crystal Palace FC, a Targeted Youth Worker and Children’s Young Peoples Officer in London.

Danny joined North Yorkshire sport in July 2021 as a Children and Young People Support Officer, and works on the Active Forest, School Games and Active Lives Projects.

Danny has a passion for mentoring and championing young peoples’ voices and has an unapologetic desire to keep driving positive change in equality and diversity. He continues to coach football at the Harrogate Army foundation College, as Head football Coach for junior soldiers.

Danny dedicates a lot of time to fundraise for charities.



Laura Tiemens

Impact & Improvement Manager

Laura’s role ensures that we understand the impact of our work and continuously improve our efforts to create positive change in the lives of individuals and communities.

You will mostly find her shaping our evaluation processes, analysing data and insight, and ensuring we capture the stories that really bring our work to life.

Laura joined North Yorkshire Sport in 2008. Prior to this she worked in the planning function for a retail logistics company, following her undergraduate Media degree and MBA in Urban Regeneration.

In her spare time Laura loves family time and getting active outdoors – whether on foot, by pedal or paddle! She’s a keen yogi, nature lover and an avid Everton fan.

Laura’s working days are Monday & Wednesday.

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Simon Pierce

Health & Wellbeing Manager

Simon graduated from Swansea Institute of Higher Education with a BA degree in Sport and Recreation Management.

After initially working for the Leeds Mental Health Trust as a Health Support Worker and a Fitness Instructor in the cities psychiatric hospitals, he was employed by the Federation of Disability Sports Organisations (FDSO) to develop a Healthy Living Project. That role changed to focus on Disability Sport Development within North Yorkshire.

Simon was employed by North Yorkshire Sport to continue the disability developed work within the county. His role has evolved to include leading on a variety of age and condition specific physical activity interventions, as well as building relationships with Public Health colleagues.

In his spare time Simon plays golf and keeps fit running, cycling and swimming.

07414 911218


Niall O’Brien

Education Manager

Graduated from Leeds Trinity University as a mature student in 2012 with a FDA in Physical Education, Sport & Physical Activity before qualifying as Forest School Practitioner.

For the past 15 years, Niall has worked as a primary PE specialist and subject leader.

During this period Niall has developed a strong track record in relation to using high quality Physical Education, physical activity and outdoor learning as a tool for whole school improvement. More recently Niall has worked with PGCE students focusing innovative practice, curriculum design and preparation for PE subject specific Ofsted deep dives.

Niall was part of the original co-design team that developed the Creating Active Schools framework and has been operating as CAS locality lead, leading communities of practice through providing direct support to public health teams, school leaders and Primary PGCE students. Through Niall’s CAS work he has designed a range of approaches which have been embedded by a number of schools to reduce inequality through increasing physical activity across the school day.

As a former (very average) Non League Footballer, Niall is still around the game as a volunteer coach, each weekend supporting his children’s grass roots teams. Appointed as a school Governor, Niall was voted in by parents in 2023 and is responsible for overseeing the pupil premium and the PE & Sports Premium funding. Niall enjoys outdoor learning, going for walks with his family and supports Leeds United.

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Neil Russell

Active Communities Manager

Neil spent over 20-years working in leisure and sports development in local government as the Leisure and Sports Development Manager at Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton Borough Councils before going in a different direction in 2020. During his time in local government Neil worked across departments to ensure that sport, active leisure, and physical activity were represented in the relevant strategies, unlocking resources for sport, from planning gain, social care and regeneration (to deliver national scale events). Neil also worked closely with the leisure operator Tees Active Limited (TAL) to gain significant capital investment into the leisure facilities within Stockton, and has been a Board member of TAL since 2021.

Passionate about the power within communities to use sport to positively change lives, Neil was more recently involved in the creation of the Active Through Football programme in Stockton-on-Tees, implementation of the Football Foundation PlayZones programme and supporting local sports organisations in the Tees Valley area to become community businesses.

Neil’s role within North Yorkshire Sports is to support the roll-out of both the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (Places, Spaces, People) and the Rural Capital Fund.

In his spare time Neil enjoys spending time with his family, going for long walks with his border collie Elsie, playing golf and occasionally turning out for Guisborough Cricket Club.

07792 030625


Sam Allum

Outdoor Activity Development Officer (NY Coast)

Sam joined North Yorkshire Sport after working in outdoor education for the last 9 years.

He started as an apprentice in the new forest and after a couple of years in Scotland ended up as a senior instructor in North Yorkshire. Whilst working as an instructor Sam has dabbled in most outdoor sports but found his sport in caving and prefers nothing more than a day underground. Unless it’s raining, then he may be found in a local bouldering wall.

Sam’s job at North Yorkshire Sport is to work with The Outdoor Partnership to enhance people’s lives through the outdoors within the borough of Scarborough. Whilst working as an instructor Sam found the most joy in getting people who wouldn’t normally take part in outdoor activities to experience the benefits that they can offer. He is looking forward to increasing this through his new role.

Apart from outdoor activities, Sam enjoys spending time in his shed attempting some DIY, going to gigs, and cooking on the BBQ.


Lucy Playford

Marketing Manager

Lucy enjoys a unique position of working across two Active Partnerships, providing both North Yorkshire Sport and Active Humber with a broad range of marketing support.

As a media graduate Lucy’s most recent experience is working as a freelance social media manager and digital marketer. Previous experience includes in-house and agency PR roles for brands including Orange and in Events Management for a government organisation. Lucy’s role includes planning and creating marketing communications, managing social media, producing digital marketing, event planning and designing marketing materials.

In her free time, Lucy loves getting out and about visiting Yorkshire’s great outdoors with her family.

07398 147559


Jake Haylett

Digital Content Officer

Jake joined North Yorkshire Sport in March 2021 and works across two Active Partnerships, North Yorkshire Sport and Active Humber, and he is responsible for a broad range of marketing support.

His role includes a wide range of content production, from graphic design for print and online use, to video editing as well as working on website and social content. Jake studied Music Technology at The University Of Huddersfield and has been working in the charity sector since 2017 doing social media and content creation as well as teaching digital skills.

Jake enjoys bouldering in his spare time and although he doesn’t do this as frequently as he would like, has completed several hikes around Yorkshire.



Laura Harris

Sport Welfare Manager

Laura is the Sport Welfare Manager for North Yorkshire Sport, a post she has held since January 2024.

Laura graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett) with a degree in Physiotherapy. Following this she worked in education at various schools across Yorkshire for several years before starting work in the voluntary sector as a funding project manager at Your Consortium (now Better Connect). It was here that she developed her education, health, and quality management. Key projects included designing and delivering a Level 7 Award in Business Improvement and Contract Management, designing and implementing North Yorkshire County Council’s Non-Regulated Care Quality Framework, delivered training specialising in Equalities, Safeguarding and ‘making complex things simple’.

Following this role Laura was engaged to support a merger between two charities in Thirsk which was completed successfully, Laura stayed to support the new frontline organisation through COVID 19. Key roles included directly managing the Disabled Childrens and Dementia services as well as being the finance and operations. Development of safeguarding processes was a key part of the work and during this time Laura was welfare officer at a local sports club.

Laura has been a keen sports person her whole life competing for county and North of England in several sports including Hockey, Netball and Rugby Union. She is a horse rider, a cyclist, a runner (more accurately probably a shuffler), a badminton player and enjoys hiking, Standup Paddle Boarding and wild swimming. In her spare time she volunteers at Open Country helping people with disabilities to access and enjoy the countryside.

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Karen Wood

Finance Manager

Karen Wood has worked as the finance manager at North Yorkshire Sport since Oct 2018.

Karen manages finance and payroll , produce quarterly reports for the board and prepares the statutory year end accounts.

Karen loves running with her dog and has taken part in Canicross several times in Dalby Forest.

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Julie Somerville

Business and HR Manager

Julie became the Business and HR Officer in April 2023.

Julie is a qualified primary school teacher and so understands how integral regular movement is to a child’s development and overall ability to learn, which is one of the reasons she enjoys being part of an organisation which promotes this. Prior to taking time out to raise her family, Julie also worked as a PA and HR contact in the private sector.

In her spare time, Julie enjoys spending time with her family, going on walks, running, baking and reading.

Julie’s normal working days are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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Aubrey Smith

Admin Assistant

Aubrey joined the North Yorkshire Sport team as an Admin Assistant.

He comes from a 30 year career in North Yorkshire Police where he served across the county in various roles, rising through the ranks from Police Constable up to Superintendent.

He retired in 2015 and has since worked for Harrogate Borough Council as an emergency planner and the Duchy Hospital in patient administration. He also works as a witness care officer at the military court at Catterick Garrison, looking after vulnerable victims and witnesses, whilst they give evidence.

He has a love of sport, in particular football and rugby, and can be seen regularly watching Coventry City FC, Harrogate Town FC and Harrogate Rugby Club.

He plays 5-a-side football, walking football, touch rugby and has a passion for walking and running (on the odd occasion!)

Aubrey’s chosen charity is Prostate Cancer UK and he has taken part in The March For Men with sports presenter Jeff Stelling on four occasions now as well as signing up to other events for the charity.



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Kelly Swale

Finance Officer

Kelly joined the North Yorkshire Sport team in February 2012.

Prior to this she worked at the Harrogate Convention Centre and took on various roles including Marketing Assistant, Box Office Assistant and Team Administrator.

Her part-time role involves various financial duties which help to manage the finances of the organisation by keeping track of its income and expenditure. She is responsible for the day-to-day management of our financial transactions and procedures.

When Kelly isn’t working, she enjoys nothing more than spending time with her family and out walking with their dog.

Her working days are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

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Amy Snook

Active Communities Manager (Maternity Leave)

Amy joined North Yorkshire Sport in May 2015 and has taken part in a variety of projects over the years. She currently takes a lead on the Holiday Activities Fund project which coordinates a holiday programme offer combining provision of healthy food and enriching activities to children in receipt of Free School Meals.

After graduating from Northumbria University in 2013 with a degree in Business and Marketing, Amy started her career in sport development by coaching a wide variety of sports in Primary Schools in the North East, alongside delivering children’s camps at Northumbria University. She completed a ‘Masters in Sport International Management’ whilst working as a development officer at Northumbria University.

In her spare time, Amy loves being active and enjoying the great outdoors. She enjoys discovering new walks, playing golf spending time with her family.

Amy’s working days are Tuesday and Wednesday.

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Jody Ivel

Youth Engagement Manager

Jody joined North Yorkshire Sport in May 2018 as a Sport Development Manager and currently takes a lead on Youth Engagement particularly the Achieve programme and Get on Track using activity to tackle inequalities and supporting young people experiencing disadvantage.

Jody graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a Masters in Sport and Exercise Psychology after completing a degree at Northumbria University in Psychology with Sport and Exercise Science. Starting a career in Sport Development she went on to work for England Netball as a Netball Development officer covering the North Yorkshire County.

Jody is a keen netball player and Coach and holds her A award Netball Umpiring Qualification.



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