Sporting talent backs new initiative to increase sporting opportunity

Up and coming North East sports stars are backing a new joint programme between Gateshead College and Darlington Mowden Park that opens-up sporting opportunities for North Yorkshire, County Durham and Teesside youngsters.

Sacriston boxer Jon-Lewis Dickinson (British cruiserweight champion) was joined by rising Newcastle Falcons and England U20s rugby star Zach Kibiridge and SAFC Ladies football ace Steph Bannon, at The Northern Echo Arena today.

All three were there to launch the initiative that will enable talented students to reach the top through access to high level coaching in what can only be described as world class facilities.

They were able to pass on their support and encouragement to youngsters from the region keen to stay in post-16 education to gain a professional qualification - a BTEC Level 3 in Sport – which can pave the way to a career in sport.

As of September, women’s football, amateur boxing and rugby academies will all be available at the Northern Echo Arena for students from across the region to access.

The students, who could become the next generation of North East sports stars, took the chance to tap into Jon-Lewis, Zach and Steph’s knowledge and expertise for first-hand advice on how to reach the top in sport and the advantages of continuing to study.

The Level 3 in Sport offers the opportunity for progression to either higher education or into employment within the sports industry, health and fitness sector, sports development or sports coaching fields. Studies include practical sessions, workshops, seminars, team work, independent study, guest speakers and trips and visits.

Zach Kibiridge said he was delighted to support the programme and added: “The BTEC is a fantastic course allowing youngsters to fulfil their sporting ambitions while continuing to study for a valuable qualification.

“The partnership offers world-class facilities and resources on the region’s doorstep, providing the foundations for reaching the top in sport either as a player or in a managerial or administrative capacity.”

Seventeen-year-old rugby student Charlie Prentice added: “Gateshead is a terrific college that offers opportunities for people like me to maximise their potential and gain the skills for career success.

“I’m really looking forward to working with some of the best coaches not just in the region but the country, so I would urge anyone looking for a career in sports to grab this chance with both hands.”

Lewis Pendleton, manager of Gateshead College’s Academy for Sport says: “Our new programme is a great opportunity for youngsters to stay in post-16 education to gain new skills and a nationally recognised qualification.

“They’ll also benefit from our superb coaching team and mentoring expertise at the same time, gaining the important tools to develop in their chosen sport.

“We want to ensure that we help students to fulfil their potential and perhaps go on to forge a worthwhile career in the sports industry or as a professional player.

Lee Rust, Commercial Director of Darlington Mowden Park added ‘’We are working with a number of partners from across the region to bring the Arena to life. Gateshead College have built an international status with their Sports College.

“We’re extremely excited by the opportunities that will be created for young people in the region both in terms of sport and education pathways.’’