Thursday 10 January 2013
To watch a video feature about the Prince's Trust Forum, click here.
Tottenham Hotspur striker Jermain Defoe joined other sporting stars at West Ham United's Upton Park last week at a Prince’s Trust event to help inspire young people.
The Prince's Trust Sport Youth Forum, held in partnership with the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association, was based on the theme of "reaching your goals through sport" and gave young people who have been supported by the Trust the chance to question the stars on a range of subjects.
Defoe, with former Olympic javelin gold medallist Tessa Sanderson, England and Arsenal footballer Rachel Yankey and Olympic rowing bronze medallist Tom Ransley, gave advice and their experiences to the audience about how they reached the top of their professions.
The 30-year-old, who is regarded as one of the Barclays Premier League's top forwards, spoke movingly about his journey from the East End of London to Spurs and the role of his mother in keeping him out of trouble.
"I'm a true believer that when you work hard you will get rewarded"
Defoe's mum would tell him to be back home early if he was playing football the next day even if his friends were still out enjoying themselves. “She said to me, ‘One day you’ll thank me’,” he said. “I thank her every day. It’s all down to her.”
And afterwards Defoe, who is a Prince’s Trust ambassador, said: “Taking part in the Q&As and speaking to the kids has been great, it’s just trying to give something back. It's a good feeling and it’s something that I look forward to doing more often. I really enjoyed it."
The panel of celebrities was asked a diverse range of questions, such as who inspired them, their advice for aspiring coaches and how they got started in their chosen careers.
"Hard work and belief are the most important things to succeed in anything you do," Defoe said. "If you ever want to achieve anything you have got put the hard work in. You have got to dedicate yourself.
"I'm a true believer that when you work hard you will get rewarded. And just believe in yourself, you have got to have that belief with anything you do."
Yankey, one of English football’s most decorated players, said she hoped the forum would have a big impact on the young people that attended.
"As I am coming towards the end of my career I definitely want to give back to people and I want to share my experiences," she told premierleague.com. "Although I am here to tell my stories, I am listening to Jermain, Tessa and Tom and I’m relating to what they are saying. It inspires me.
"So I think for these guys who want to be inspired, that’s the reason they have actually turned up, hopefully it will inspire them. You play sport because you love it and you enjoy it. You don’t do it for the money or the fame.
"We need to make sure that that message is pushed through throughout the whole of football, especially at grassroots level, that people are in it for the right reasons, and then we will get the most talented players coming through."
The Prince's Trust has a longstanding link with the Premier League and the PFA, with the Prince’s Trust Football Initiative this year celebrating its 15th anniversary. The partnership is supported by all 20 Barclays Premier League clubs as well as 45 clubs from the Football League and it has helped more than 20,000 young people gain momentum to move into employment, education or training with the support of more than £8.5m of funding.
"You don't always have to be stuck in that one hole, there’s lots more doors to be opened"
The forum was hosted by BBC presenters Chris Hollins and Sonali Shah and as well as the comments from the panel of sporting celebrities, the audience heard from two young people who have turned around their lives with help from the Prince’s Trust.
One was Andy Gibbon from Sheffield, who had a life of drinking and going out every night and was attacked by a stranger with a knife in a nightclub. But now, with the help of the Prince’s Trust, the 25-year-old runs his own business called Star Strikers, which provides football coaching to children, and is now a Young Ambassador.
"I could never have imagined standing up there and speaking to all of those people," he told premierleague.com. "I really did enjoy it. It has brought out a bit more out in me because I am not the biggest speaker and I don’t like telling people my own past. But in a situation like this, the whole purpose of the event was to inspire young lives and that was delivered.
"Jermain Defoe is an inspiration to me, and he is one of my role models. His football ability is excellent but for him to be here was amazing. His stories were great. People can relate to it.
"These inspiring celebrities are giving their own story and it seems like every time we hear what they have to say, it's always the same story as ours. They are so down to earth and natural and it really helps everybody in the audience to realise that it can be done in life. You don’t always have to be stuck in that one hole, there’s lots more doors to be opened."