By Oli Burley - SkySportsOli. Last Updated: 17/09/12 10:40am
The free secondary schools initiative uses sport stars and sport skills to boost confidence and improve life skills by promoting Six Keys to Success - qualities that, as Darren explains, were on show in abundance at the Olympics and Paralympics...
When Kate suffered a fractured jaw in the 4-0 win over Japan, it looked as though she wouldn't play again in the tournament but through sheer will and determination she got back onto the pitch and led the hockey team to bronze. Mental toughness takes many forms - in Kate's case, she showed her team that she was prepared to go to any length to achieve her goal. She put her body on the line and refused to give up on her dream and that spirit filtered through the squad. How big a price do you pay for success? In Kate's case she needed a metal plate in her jaw and she still can't have solids. The team was devastated after they lost their semi-final to Argentina but Kate played a key role in picking the players back up and gave them a new target to aim at - winning bronze - something that up until that point hadn't been on their radar.
Usain ticks all the boxes, but the thing I admire most about him is his ability to make everyone feel a part of his success. He doesn't just go in to the arena and run for himself, he wants to put on a performance before, during and after the race. Some people might think he's arrogant but anyone who has met him knows that they've been touched by greatness. Only a few sports people have ever been able to handle the pressure of being a global superstar and be grounded enough to realise that everyone they meet is special and deserves to feel special. Muhammad Ali was one such person and I honestly believe that Usain will similarly be remembered as a legend. He's always got time for people, whoever they are, and that's such an important life lesson.
Mo came to this country as a young child and could barely speak a word of English, so integrating and feeling a part of school life must have been extremely hard. That journey, though, has helped to turn him into the person he is today; adapting and gaining that life knowledge has given him the strength of character to go on and be incredibly successful. It's given him the belief that everybody has a part to play in life and if you can find out where your best position is, there's no reason why you can't go on to excel. I know Mo pays incredible attention to detail and has a clear idea of how he needs to prepare to be as successful as possible. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses - and working on both - is a key part of understanding yourself and being successful in your chosen field. Mo knew what it was going to take to bring home a gold medal - and he left the London Olympics with two.
Being part of something that has never happened before is rarely easy. Women's boxing featured in the Olympics for the first time in London 2012 and Living for Sport mentor Natasha - who only started boxing five years ago - was the first woman to qualify for Team GB. She was soon followed by flyweight Nicola Adams, who became the first woman to win an Olympic gold, and Savannah Marshall, while Ireland's Katie Taylor beat Natasha en route to the lightweight gold. Women's boxing is now firmly on the map thanks to people like them and hopefully their achievements will encourage young women to get involved in boxing and sport in general. As mentors, we try to convey the message that anything is possible in life. Natasha has certainly demonstrated that if you've got the dedication and belief then you can challenge the norm.
I still remember the first time I heard Tim's story because it touched me so deeply. At the age of eight he began to lose his sight and by the age of 12 over 90 per cent of it had gone, but he never lost his ambition. He started to plan an alternative life for himself and having sat down and listened to him I know it he did so on a totally different level from most other people. He tried and failed at different races as a junior before he found his niche. He put the blocks in place and rebuilt his life; in so doing he fulfilled his passion and discovered real enjoyment, winning Gold in the 800m at Athens 2004. London 2012 was his fourth Paralympic Games and although he finished fifth in the T13 800m final, he still managed a personal best time of 1m 55.85 seconds. Adversity is part of life but if you know where you are trying to get to, you can make a plan. There's no point in programming your Sat Nav if you don't know where you're trying to go.
As a Living for Sport mentor who has visited many, many schools Alex has a duty to lead by example. In life it's fine to talk a good game, but then you have to step up and show that you can produce when it matters. Our mentors really believe in these Six Keys and I know Alex firmly believed that she and her team could win gold. When that dream was taken away, they were naturally devastated but they picked themselves up off the floor, regrouped and put the past behind them as quickly as they possibly could, which everyone knows is a tough thing to do. There was no way they won't going to win a medal - not least because of all of the people cheering them on - and it was because of that hunger that I believe they ultimately succeeded.
Darren is an Ambassador for Sky Sports Living for Sport - a free secondary schools initiative that uses sport stars to improve life skills. Find out more and sign up today by clicking HERE.
DOB: 17/5/1956 Event: Boxing Medals: 1 gold Flag: USA
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