Oli Meets Darren Campbell
- Athlete mentor news
- Wed 18th Jan '12
Darren Campbell says choosing this year’s Sky Sports Living for Sport Award winner is proving one of his toughest tests yet.
The former Great Britain sprinter is part of a judging panel that will pick the successful student from a line-up of 12 regional finalists, at a ceremony at Wembley on Thursday.
Campbell is an Ambassador for Living for Sport, and aims to help pupils develop new skills and grow in confidence through sport.
He is overwhelmed by the achievements of this year's finalists and is thrilled to see them inspiring others.
“Picking a winner from the shortlist is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life,” says the 38-year-old, who won gold in the 4x100m at the Athens Olympics.
“When you hear how each of their mind-sets have been changed by the scheme and how they now want to go out and give back, it’s clear they are all winners.”
Living for Sport, a joint initiative between the Youth Sport Trust and BSkyB, has worked with over 35,000 students since it was set up nine years ago and arranged for sports stars to visit many of the 1,500 schools that have participated.
Campbell got involved as he recognises that scheme could have helped him when he was growing up and he is particularly pleased that a new Teacher of the Year Award has been introduced this year.
“I was a disengaged young person,” he reflects. “I didn’t have many opportunities but there was one teacher that believed in me when I was at school - my P.E. teacher.
“Whenever I needed someone to fight my corner, he would always stand up for me even though the other teachers had labelled me a no-hoper and said I’d never amount to anything - that I’d probably spend the majority of my life in jail. He didn’t believe that and it made every difference.
“For all of the good work that the Athlete Mentors do, you need a teacher to reinforce and instil the right message, otherwise you don’t have a programme that works.”
Last August Sky Sports News presenter Charlie Webster caught up with Campbell for an edition of ‘Special Report’ that focused on how Sky Sports Living for Sport was helping students from Wexham School, in Slough, and the St Matthews project, in Brixton, to gain confidence from actively participating in sport. Read the story here.
Campbell admits he could not believe how much progress some of the students made.
“Some of the young people couldn’t even look me in the eye when they said ‘hello’ at the start,” he recalls, “so it was incredible to go back six weeks later and watch them put on a sports session for their peers.
“But that’s the power of the initiative and that’s why I feel so privileged to be a part of it. It has become a programme for all and one that can unearth talent in young people that even they don’t know they have.
“It takes the tools I learnt as a sportsman – how to work as a team, how to communicate, how to respect other people – and uses them to give young people total belief, focus and a purpose to achieve in life.”
Earlier this month the Government announced a new strategy that aims to fulfil one of the central pledges of the London Olympic bid by getting more 14-25 year olds involved in sport.
Campbell is delighted that the Youth Sport Trust and Sky Sports are already taking the lead.
“Every journey begins somewhere and if you are going to try and change mind-sets then it’s very important to start with young people, who can then pass the word on to other people,” he says.
“We start first and foremost in school and that’s where Sky Sports Living for Sport can help to create a sustainable legacy.
“The work that is being done right now by the Athlete Mentors clearly makes a difference and it clearly works. Sky Sports Living for Sport is now supplemented by ‘Get Involved’, which is looking to help society as a whole and can only be good for everyone in the country.”