I’m still absolutely bursting with pride since returning home from the Sky Sports Living For Sport Awards. What an afternoon it was!
For those of you who don’t know, Sky Sports Living for Sport is a free secondary school initiative, delivered in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, that sends Athlete Mentors into schools to help pupils harness the power of sport to improve their lives.
I’m very proud to be an Athlete Mentor - and the awards are one of the highlights of the year as Student of the Year, Teacher of the Year and Project of the Year are all announced.
Just being there in the Game Changers studio at Sky TV was an experience in itself, especially as David Beckham and Jessica Ennis-Hill handed out the awards this time – you could really feel a sense of excitement in the room. But I have to confess it was an extra special occasion for me because the Student of the Year Award was won by Bethan Gill of Samuel Cody Specialist Sports College in Farnborough – someone I have come to know very well indeed.
Bethan’s story is an amazing one. When I first met her five years ago she was a shy, quiet and withdrawn person in the classroom and had been a selective mute at Primary School, meaning extreme anxiety led to her being unable to speak in specific situations or to specific people. This had impacted on her academic progress, even though she was such a bright and lovely girl who couldn’t do enough for other people - and who was clearly passionate about her sport.
To see the way she has progressed since then, benefitting from a series of Sky Sports Living For Sport projects designed to raise her confidence, is amazing. These days she captains her district athletics team, coaches children at trampolining, has been doing a GCSE in PE and has plans to join the Military Preparation College at Farnborough to take a BTEC level 1 in Sport and Active Leisure. It’s a transformation that is testament to Bethan, to her teachers and to the Sky Sports Living for Sport initiative.
Over the years I’ve taken a real interest in Bethan’s progress and hopefully been a role model for her too. So I don’t mind admitting my heart was bursting when she stepped up to collect her award! But the icing on the cake was seeing her confidence as she was interviewed by Sky Sports News. It really underlined how just far she has come.