A young sportsman told he was too small to play for Notts County FC has been spurred into a new career as a jockey.
The club told Jamie Parkes (15) that due to his size and predicted height-weight ratio he was not big enough to play professional league football in May.
The Ravenshead player was in his sixth season at the club after signing on at the U10s age group when he heard the news, but there was scarcely time for his disappointment to sink in before a new opportunity presented itself.
Jamie said: “I have always played football and that’s been my dream. I got a call from the club’s academy manager, Mick Leonard, saying I was too small to get a scholarship. I was dead upset. But then Mick told me they had another idea for me.”
Mr Leonard realised the commitment, fitness and desire that Jamie shown in football could make him an ideal jockey and took him to the Northern Racing College in Doncaster, where boss Sarah Beattie agreed with his assessment after seeing Jamie ride a horse.
Jamie said: “I had never even stroked a horse, let alone thought about being a jockey. I had a ride and it turns out I was quite good and from that day it just clicked!”
Roger, Jamie’s dad, said: “Jamie was obviously very upset at hearing the news after devoting so much of his time, effort and commitment.
“My initial feeling was huge disapointment. I was massively involved in junior football and my opinion was - ‘If you’re good enough you’re big enough!’
“It took a while for us to come to terms with the idea of a career change.
“Me, my wife Amanda and all Jamie’s family are very supportive towards this new path he going to undertake so everything is very positive at the moment.”
Jamie will be going on a day release to the racing college this year to gain experience in working with, looking after, and of course, racing horses.
Once he reaches 16 in August next year he will be eligible to undertake a scholarship programme at the college which involves living there for 12 weeks and gaining experience in a working stable.
He will then prepare to gain his racing license to allow him to begin the real world of being a jockey.
In the meantime, Jamie has been gaining invaluable experience over the past month at Sherwood Forest Trekking Centre based in Edwinstowe, where owners Steve and Leanne Williams, ex-jockeys who came through Doncaster Racing College, have been teaching him the ropes.
He has been mucking out, caring for the horses and getting practice regularly riding out and cantering at ‘a fair old pace’.
He said: “I am absolutely loving it. I never though I would like it - but I have got the bug. It’s brilliant!”
Jamie, who will continue playing until the end of the season for Notts County, says that football will always be part of his life. He coaches the disability football section at Blidworth Welfare FC and recently won the Notts FA Disability Coach of the Year.
BALL BOY Jamie shows off his footballing skills
HORSE BACK Jamie shows he’s no slouch in the saddle
STABLE DOOR A new career awaits Jamie Parkes