Champion skateboarder to teach pupils hunger to achieve
- Fri 1st Feb '13
Sky Sports Living for Sport Athlete Mentor Neil Danns is to spend February sharing his story of how hunger to achieve helped him to become a world champion skateboarder.
Celebrating his 50th birthday this year, Neil is a world renowned skateboarder who self taught himself the skills to become British champion at the sport. Growing up in the tough Toxteth area of Liverpool during the 1970s and 1980s, Neil has an acute understanding of how dreams and goals can turn youngsters lives around and it is this message that he will be sharing with pupils this month.
Neil’s skateboarding career began by accident when out on a school trip to Liverpool museum aged 14 he became mesmerised by a performance by American skateboard team, Hobie. Neil went home, built a skateboard from a plank of wood and his sister’s roller boots and never looked back!
“Discovering skateboarding helped me to set goals for my future and strive to achieve them,” commented Neil. “Growing up in inner city Liverpool, I was aware of negative influences around me such as truancy, drugs and crime and although I knew I didn’t want to be a part of that, until I discovered skateboarding, I didn’t have a focus for my future. Participating in sport gave me self confidence which in turn helped me to earn respect for who I was as a person and make new friends.”
Focussed on building a successful career in skateboarding, Neil set himself a target of becoming the UK’s best skateboarder aged just 16 and achieved his goal within a year. With support from the English Skateboarding Association, Neil represented the UK in competitions across the globe and was crowned European Champion in 1989.
However, a skateboarding career is not for the feint hearted and for Neil it was one that was plagued by accidents and injuries. Maintaining his position at the highest level within the sport meant Neil endured frequent injuries as a result of pushing his skills to the limit from broken arms, legs, wrists and collarbones, to a ruptured knee and osteoarthritis.
Despite these setbacks, Neil never lost his desire to return to the sport that he loved, eventually retiring in 2005 after 25 years competing as a skateboarder. Now working as an Athlete Mentor for Sports Living for Sport, Neil is sharing the story of his sporting journey, to inspire students in his home region of the North West.
“When I meet students today, I share with them the story of my sporting career including all of the highs and the lows. I spent a lot of time injured because skateboarding is such a physically challenging and high risk sport but I never let that get me down. This was partly due to the friends I had made across the world who spurred me on to stay positive but there was also a constant desire within me to return to the sport I loved and keep focussed on what I wanted to achieve in life.
“It is this determination that I want to impart to the students that I meet. I believe everyone should have goals in life and, through the skills that I teach, I hope I can give today’s students some of the drive that I had to stay focussed on my goals despite setbacks along way. Skateboarding is a fantastically inclusive sport and one which both youngsters and adults can enjoy. I hope through my visits to schools in the North West that I can inspire more youngsters to dream, aspire and achieve whatever they set their minds to.”
Sky Sports Living for Sport is designed to empower students and uses the British Athletes Commission’s ‘Six Keys to Success’, which include mental toughness, hunger to achieve, people skills, sports and life knowledge, breaking barriers and planning for success, to help them achieve their own life goals. During his school visits Neil will focus on hunger to achieve, encouraging students to discover the desire to improve, follow dreams and learn from mistakes.
We caught up with Sports Scholar Siobhan-Marie O'Connor during a Sky Sports Living for Sport for Sport session at her old school last week. Find out how she's preparing for the 2016 Rio Olympics swimming qualifiers here
Sky Academy Ambassador Katie Taylor today announced a host of exciting new Athlete Mentors joining the Sky Sports Living for Sport team, including sports stars from GAA, athletics, rugby and soccer. Find out more here
Find out about Teignmouth Community School's Sky Academy experience, alongside Sky Academy Ambassador Darren Campbell and Senior Athlete Mentor Steve Brown