Sky Sports Living for Sport finalists are all winners, says Darren Campbell
By Oli Burley - @SkySportsOli. Last Updated: 13/03/13 5:25pm
Darren Campbell says the race to be named this year's Sky Sports Living for Sport Award winner was a photo-finish.
The former Great Britain sprinter is part of the judging panel that has selected the successful student from a line-up of 12 regional finalists; the winner will be named in a special ceremony at Sky Studios on March 15.
"What we try to look at is the person who the scheme has affected the most, who has gone through the biggest change."
Campbell - like Olympic heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis - is an ambassador for Living for Sport, a free initiative for secondary schools that aims to help develop the life skills and raise the aspirations of young people through sport.
Reflecting on the judging process, Campbell told Sky Sports News: "It's always difficult - all of a sudden you've got to pick a winner out of 12 fantastic stories; stories about young people who have come back from adversity, or have been bullied or have low self-esteem.
"What we try to look at is the person who the scheme has affected the most, who has gone through the biggest change. They are all winners - but unfortunately we have to pick one.
"You read the notes and you watch the videos back and you can see how they've really turned their lives around.
"They are fortunate in the respect that there are now 70 Sky Sports Living for Sport mentors who go out to the schools - we're talking about Olympians and others topping their sport.
"To hear a young person talk about how they now want to become a mentor and in some cases are already mentors; that tells you the power of Sky Sports Living for Sport. "It's always difficult to go 'that's the best story' because they are all fantastic.
"We've also got an award for the best teacher who has used the scheme to inspire a group of young people."
National Sky Sports Living for Sport mentor Alex Danson helped Team GB to win hockey bronze at London 2012.
She told Sky Sports News that she hopes that Olympics will encourage a new generation of girls to take up sport.
"At our stadium we had 16,000 people filled every single game - there were male and female fans screaming and going absolutely crazy," she said.
"Five years ago Sky Sports Living for Sport we had 10 Athlete Mentors - now we've got 70.
"The scheme has boomed. Schools see the value in sport, they see value in these role-models, and it is getting girls involved, which is what we need."
At present only 31 per cent of coaches in the UK across all sports are female and Danson believes that figure won't improve unless more funding is made available.
"The lack of female coaches is a problem and we absolutely need to target that," she said. "We need to put a lot more investment into our coaches at grass-roots level, full-stop.
"The Games acts as a massive inspiration. Now we need funding - we need to target those inspirational women coming through, those fantastic leaders that I see daily in schools.
"London has given it that edge, that coolness to be involved in sport whether it's volunteering - look at those Games-makers - or coaching or participation. That's where we have to hit and hopefully those figures on the back of what's already been done will start to change."
To find out more about Sky Sports Living for Sport visit the official website by clicking here.