A Sheffield man whose determination and dedication in teaching snooker to those with learning difficulties has been awarded an MBE.
Steve Harrison, 46, of Wisewood, has been given the honour for services to sport and people with disabilities after setting up a snooker academy, in memory of his father Ray – who was world paraplegic snooker gold medalist in 1985 – for children with learning difficulties in 2007.
Shortly after its conception, Steve was approached by Sheffield Council who asked him to host sessions for adults with learning difficulties and now they offer snooker opportunities for children aged eight to 18 and adults between 18 and 25.
Many of the children are often referred from social services or schools, but Steve said he is inundated with messages asking for more sessions.
A former professional snooker player himself, he teaches members how to not only play the sport, but also how to socially interact and improve their social, numeracy and literacy skills as well as bolster their confidence and independence.
He also hosts the Junior Disability Snooker Championships to coincide with the sport's biggest competition of the year and has established a special needs inclusion play scheme and a programme of work experience opportunities to help improve the self-confidence of young people.
Currently operating four tables from Walkley Snooker Centre, Steve has more than 50 children currently at the academy and will be holding an event in April in memory of his father, where he is hoping to introduce a group with physical disabilities.
Once members turn 18, they are also given the opportunity to train as an academy coach to impart the skills they have learnt as a service user to the next generation.
Through helping both children and adults with mental health needs, Steve has received recognition from the NHS, and his commitment to the wider community extending beyond the academy has been praised by the police, the Youth Offending Service and the council.
Ray Harrison also used to play football for Sheffield United as well as cricket and only took up snooker after being diagnosed with polio at the age of 17.
He campaigned for disability sport across the city and now Steve’s ultimate aim is to get snooker reintroduced into the Paralympics after it fell out in 1988.
He also dreams of opening a specialist centre for the academy, and is looking for a ground floor accessible venue in which they can play.
Steve initially found out he had been awarded the MBE in November, but has had to keep the news secret since then.
He said: “I found out in November and we have a picture of my dad in the front room with all his medals.
“I put the letter next to his picture and shed a tear. I quickly put the letter away and haven’t brought it out since then in case anyone sees.
“My dad was such a big inspiration to me as a child and now I can see the fantastic work he did and the legacy he has left and I'm determined to carry that on.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever known. Snooker has always been part of my life and my passion is all about getting people into the sport.
“My father was the best, he would support me and offer tips on how to improve after matches. He was kind and someone people would go to for advice.
“It's about remaining positive. I want to give children confidence, they need someone behind them pushing them saying they can do it. It’s not just about a game of snooker.
“I’ve got four children, Katie, 20, Lucy, 18 and Elise, 16 and then 12-year-old Harry. The girls are all involved and get stuck in. It’s nice for them to see my passion come from my father and I want them to carry it on for me.”