THE BLOG
21/10/2015 13:38 BST | Updated 21/12/2016 05:12 GMT

How Sport Can Help Build Young People's Confidence and Self-esteem

Young people face many of the same pressures growing up that I did but with the growth of social media the pressures have become more intense - communication can be 24/7 and there is often nowhere to hide... Playing sport as a child helped me enormously.

Young people face many of the same pressures growing up that I did but with the growth of social media the pressures have become more intense - communication can be 24/7 and there is often nowhere to hide.

There are pressures to do well at school and to be popular and when you leave school to be worldly, confident and able to find a job and life partner. All of this is made all the harder with tweets, Instagram posts, Snapchat and email - your friends, admirers, and sadly in some cases antagonisers, are able to communicate with you at all times, wherever you are.

So it is not surprising to hear that many young people feel unconfident. A recent poll of 11-24 year olds by Sky Academy found that a third of young people are not confident, whilst two thirds of girls said that their level of confidence is influenced by how attractive they feel. This is an issue that we as parents and society need to look at. We all need to help our young people feel confident and ready to take on the challenges life will inevitably throw at them.

I feel very lucky to have got involved in sport when I was quite young. I was ten when my parents took me to an open athletics day in Sheffield where I got the opportunity to try athletics for the first time and instantly fell in love with sport. This was the start of something that gave me focus and determination throughout my teenage years.

Playing sport as a child helped me enormously. I met lots of different people, both teammates and competitors and faced new challenges. The camaraderie and support that you get from sport massively helped build my confidence and my ability to overcome setbacks and defeats both on and off the track.

Last year I returned to training after having my son, Reggie. I was very nervous and unsure about how my body would hold up and whether my performances would be impacted. My confidence was low. But my friends, family and coach encouraged me and helped me get back to my best, which led to me winning gold at the recent World Championships in Beijing. It was a surprise for many commentators and experts. It was a huge surprise for me too. I'd been working really hard, but I wasn't expecting to do so well so soon after returning. It made me feel that I can be a good mum to Reggie but still achieve my goals as an athlete. It's been an enormous boost to my confidence going into the Rio Olympics next year.

I know sport may not be for everyone but I think the best way to build confidence and self-belief is to find something you enjoy doing. The more you enjoy what you do, the more you will feel good about yourself and I think every young person can find at least one sport they enjoy.

As I begin the long road of training and competitions before the Rio Olympics next year, I hope more young people will be inspired to try different sports. This is one of the reasons why I am a Sky Academy Ambassador and supporting Sky Academy's Confidence Month. As part of the month, Sky Academy is showcasing its five initiatives which each build practical skills, experience and confidence. One of the initiatives, Sky Sports Living for Sport, was founded on the belief that sport has the power to transform young people's lives. And I've seen first-hand that it does. Sport offers far more than just the physical benefits. Young people learn teamwork, planning, resilience and communication, and of course how to build confidence.

These are all invaluable skills that help young people deal with the challenges and ever changing pressures of life.

Sky Academy uses the power of TV, creativity and sport to provide real experiences for young people to help them build practical skills, experience and confidence. For more information visit sky.com/academy