Champion Skateboarder Supports the School
Staff and students at Saint Paul’s Catholic High School in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester are delighted to be involved in the Sky Living for Sport project which uses sport to motivate and inspire students.
The aim is to engage the students more fully in PE and raise their aspirations and enthusiasm. Neil Danns, British and European skateboarding champion, is acting as a mentor for the school and is working alongside the students.
Growing up, Neil Danns represented his county as a footballer, but it was skateboarding that led to him becoming a top athlete.
In a bus station aged 14, Neil heard some music and first witnessed skateboarders in action. He went home, built a skateboard from a plank of wood and his sister’s roller-boots and never looked back.
Neil became a completely self-taught skateboarder. His talent earned him sponsorship from a local shop and an introduction to the English Skateboarding Association. He was invited to take part in his first major competition aged 17 and won his first British Championship aged 22. Neil was soon repeatedly winning European and British titles, whilst travelling the world representing the UK.
Neil’s career wasn’t without setbacks. The complexity and physical challenges of skateboarding saw him suffer severe injuries. Yet he continually returned from injury, pushing himself through rehabilitation to continue competing.
Neil retired from skateboarding in 2005 and today runs Team Extreme, the UK’s only professional BMX team, alongside fellow Athlete Mentor Mike Mullen.
Talking about his role as Athlete Mentor Neil commented: “My main aim as Athlete Mentor for Sky Sports Living for Sport is to share with the students the ways in which I set goals, motivate myself and the experiences I have had travelling the world and competing in my sport. I think it is also important to share the setbacks and the sacrifices I had to make to pursue my sport as life isn’t always easy and I think a lot of the students today will identify with that.”
“Through sport I found people who I could respect and look up to and I hope as an Athlete Mentor I can show students that irrespective of where they come from they can determine their own paths in life.”
“The focus is on building self-esteem and empowering the students to work together, we also hope to develop their social and leadership skills,” explained Ms Laura Wild, Head of PE at Saint Paul’s. “The programme is designed to help young people develop valuable life skills that will help them in and outside of school now and into the future.
“Neil shared his life story, challenges and experiences followed by a question and answer session. The students then got to grips with some practical team challenges and then Neil finished by teaching the students some skateboard and scooter tricks. It was a fantastic day and Neil was most impressed with the group, he was full of praise for them.”
“The project is designed to boost the students’ confidence, change behaviours, increase attainment and improve life skills,” commented Mr Tony Billings, Executive Head Teacher at Saint Paul’s. “Neil Danns is working with the Year 7 and 8 students helping them to raise their aspirations and inspire them in readiness for a successful future.”