Former heavyweight boxer inspires young people at Alnwood

Posted: 21/03/17

“Be yourself and never be afraid to ask for help.” That was the inspiring message from boxing legend Dermot Gascoyne when he paid a visit to young people at a Newcastle hospital.

The former international heavyweight met with teenagers at Alnwood, a unit at Newcastle’s St. Nicholas Hospital for 14 to 18-year-olds who have complex mental health needs, including those with a learning disability.

Reflecting on the visit, one young person at Alnwood*, had this message for Mr Gascoyne: “You have made me think about some of the things I have done and now I feel I can make different choices. I can change my life.”

Newcastle Bridges School pupils based at Alnwood have been taking part in the Sky Sports Living for Sport initiative, using fitness to improve personal interactions and promote good sportsmanship.

I’ve stressed that it’s important to ask for help when you need to. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.

Dermot GasgoyneFormer international heavyweight boxer

As a senior athlete mentor for the scheme, Mr Gascoyne used his time at Alnwood – part of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) – to give an honest and candid talk about the importance of making good decisions, learning from mistakes, and not being afraid to ask for help.

Mr Gascoyne said: “What’s important is that you be yourself. I’ve stressed that it’s important to ask for help when you need to. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength.

“You wouldn’t think that a 12-year-old kid from a Sheffield council estate would grow up to spar with world champions, but that’s what happened to me. It’s an honour to now pass that on to young people through the Sky Sports Living for Sport scheme and hopefully inspire them with what I’ve been able to achieve.

“It’s great to see so many bright, questioning, young people at Alnwood and I am sure they will continue to make good decisions in their lives. It’s not always easy, but I’ve been so impressed by them – their maturity, ambition, and respect. It’s been great fun and I’d love to come back very soon.”

Through the scheme, the young people had won a draw to go down to London to meet Jamie Redknapp. Unfortunately, due to their health needs the teenagers were unable to go, so instead Sky Sports arranged for top athletes to visit them so they could still benefit from expert guidance.

About 20 young people got the chance to chat with Mr Gascoyne, learning from his inspirational life story to take away important messages about wellbeing and role models. In his session on Friday (17.03.2017) afternoon, the former boxer touched upon the highs and lows of his career. He also shared his wisdom on the importance of making good decisions to look after the physical and mental health of both yourself, and others around you.

Newcastle Bridges School PE teacher at Alnwood, Anthony Lewins, said: “Here at Alnwood we are committed to helping the young people who stay with us to improve all aspects of their health, that is both physical and mental health.

“Sport can play a very important role in maintaining wellbeing. Having such a sportsman as Dermot visit us is a wonderful opportunity for the young people here to be inspired.

“The young people at Alnwood found him to be so genuine and engaging. They have taken away some really important messages about making positive decisions and working towards your goals.”

Teenagers at Alnwood completed a course of volleyball skills last summer through the Sky Sports initiative and now plan to embark on a series of table tennis sessions. They are also looking forward to further visits from sports personalities through Living for Sport.