An innovative scheme involving sport stars and their winning skills are improving the lives of young people at Tonypandy Community College.
This week a trio of top class sporting champions visited the school to share their knowledge with a group of students as part of the Sky Sports Living For Sport initiative.
Olympic triple jumper Vernon Samuels joined Welsh Olympic and Commonwealth swimmer Thomas Haffield and Welsh rugby international Phillippa Tuttiett for a series of workshops and presentations at the College.
Headteacher Helen O’Sullivan said, “We are delighted to welcome ambassadors of the Sky Sports Living For Sport Initiative who have inspired our students during their series of events at the College.
“Sport helps people think, helps people listen, helps people to speak up and helps people work together.
“Different sports inspire different people but one thing is true: there’s a sport for everyone and it can change your life.”
The initiative worked with a group of 20 students with a range of abilities and helped them boost their confidence through six key successes.
These include enhancing mental toughness, hunger to achieve, people skills, sports and life knowledge, breaking barriers and planning for success.
Vernon told the students how his career started at a PE lesson in school when he was first introduced to the triple jump.
Using sport to compensate for his academic disappointments, Vernon continued to excel at triple jump where his physical strength outshone his low self-confidence.
As a young athlete Vernon overcame many setbacks including serious respiratory problems, and sport helped to greatly improve his health and fitness. He experienced bullying at school and found sport perfect for channelling his frustrated energies into constructive achievements.
Vernon won his first national title in 1979, and over the following five years he set a series of records, won multiple national championships and received his first senior international honours while still attending school.
Aged 19, Vernon won a sports scholarship to Southern Methodist University, Texas; he graduated in 1988 and in the same year qualified to represent GB in the Seoul Olympics.
Vernon’s greatest career achievement was finishing 13th at the 1988 Olympics as the top of three British competitors representing GB. He finished his international career in 1992 as top ranked GB indoor Triple Jumper.
As an Athlete Mentor with the Sky Sports scheme he explained, “By tapping into the experience of elite sports people, Sky Sports Living for Sport provides powerful insights and real life examples of athletes’ journeys to sporting successes as a means of cultivating the aspirations of students.
“The programme is highly relevant to all young people as it focuses on key success factors in sport and beyond through practical engagement activities which encourage and influence young people to tap into their own potential.”