BBC Unsung Hero: Judo coach Dave Dunsford wins London award

BBC London’s Sports Unsung Hero award has been won by Dave Dunsford, a judo coach from Sidcup who has been a volunteer for the last thirty years.

The 51-year-old runs United Judo Club in Sidcup with his wife Louise and they have been running a judo club in the local area for the last 20 years with United Judo Sidcup has been based in the purpose built dojo in Sidcup for the last eight years. United Judo also has clubs in the Dartford, Kent and Bexley.

In addition, Dave is a member of the London area committee for the British Judo Association and he referees nationally. He has also volunteered at the Olympic Games and the Paralympics.

On average, he volunteers between 15-20 hours a week every week which is a huge commitment as he has his own family to also consider, together with his “paid jobs” as a driving instructor and black cab driver.

Upon winning the regional award, Dave said: “I am in total shock to be awarded it as the winner of the London regional area. I can’t believe it. This means I am off to the main awards for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, where all 20 regional winners will then choose one overall winner.

“I’m lucky enough to coach and teach a sport that I have grown up with and loved for years and I do the sport because of the youngsters and the reaction from them.

“We do get youngsters coming along who may be bullied at school or a little bit withdrawn and judo gives you good social skills, confidence and helps you interact with your peers.

“My job is to just nurture them. When they get to a certain level, I pass them over to someone more experienced to get to the best level they can get.”

A community figure

Dunsford, a fourth Dan, who has also been responsible for managing the Bexley judo team for the annual London Youth Games for the past decade, runs sessions on two days a week.

In addition to running the club twice a week, he is active in promoting judo, from diverse activities such as demonstrations at school fetes to taster sessions at both the Olympic Park and organised a session ahead of the Commonwealth baton relay and at the Tate Modern. He also runs charity fund raising nights and events for the BJA, as both coach, referee and examiner, all in his own time, to promote judo.

Dunsford used to work as a London cab driver but became a driving instructor in order to spend more time with his family and coaching judo.

He took up judo at the age of nine and qualified as a coach 10 years later.

He was inspired to take up the sport to protect himself after being mugged and now he gives advice to vulnerable youngsters too.  He also takes judo into secondary schools and referral units.

 “I trained hard to get qualified and now I am privileged to be able to work with these youngsters,” he added.

“It is my passion and has saved me in rough times. In happier times it has given me so much back.”


Georgina Summers, who nominated Dave for the Get Inspired Award after he helped her son to gain confidence in life through the sport, said:

“Some children are understandably nervous when they come to the club for the first time, but to see them within that first session, smiling, laughing, having fun and immediately asking when they can come again is a testament to Dave’s coaching skills and the professional and welcoming club that he runs.

“There is just something about Dave. He and his wife work tirelessly to promote judo at the club. He takes the same time and care if he is coaching a group of first time five year olds, a senior class of black belts or a ladies only taster session of “older” mums.

“His ability to take a session (on many occasions of very mixed ability) and ensure that everyone learns, enjoys, has fun and wants to come back again is something that stands out in a big way. He is a natural teacher and a great person and he truly deserves to be recognised for all the hard work that he puts in out of his own time.”

Jay Summers, 12, said: “I started judo when I was six as I had a problem with the school bully, I was very nervous and did not really know what to expect. Dave made me feel welcome and a part of the club from the very first minute. I have now been doing judo for half my life! I have made good friends at the club and even competed in the London Youth Games. We train and learn technical skills but also have fun and play judo games. We have regular gradings and I am really looking forward to getting my next belt. This is all thanks to Dave, he is great. I hope he can win the award or at least get recognition for all that he does for all of us.”

Watch BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Dunsford will now go forward for the national award along with the 15 other finalists. The overall winner will be presented at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year event in Glasgow on Sunday, 14 December.

Watch a video on Dave and find out more at:

The club is open for children and adults – ages five to 85 are welcome.

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