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GUEST BLOG; What Sport did for my Child, by Debbie Gunning

Really pleased to have GB Runner Debbie Gunning’s great blog about what sport has done for her and her children – it’s a great read!

When I became a Mother, I wanted my Children to reach their potential, aim high and learn to be proud of their achievements whether in academic studies or on the Sporting field.

As a former International Athlete I wanted to get the balance right – my pet hate was and still is pushy parents, so I let my two boys go in the direction they were passionate about. Eldest Son breezed through School, although always worked hard, Sport – he chose Swimming, not the best in his Club but his work ethic soon paid off getting to a District Standard before opting to try his hand at Track and Field, gaining County Standard in his 1st year and hoping for more improvements now settled at Uni and increasing his training.

Then along came my youngest Jack, 6 and half years after my 1st born. Life was a bit tough from the moment he tried to take his 1st breath. He struggled with basic things, like trying to pedal a bike, walking up and down the stairs, catching a ball, As a parent you know they develop differently so there was no concern, his older brother was and and still is his Idol, so he tried swimming, coordination was a problem, football he had some success, making best improver for 2 years.

Then the bullying started, last year at Primary School, was a tough year, didn’t fit in struggled in every aspect. Left Primary School as a outsider with few friends. My little boy’s smile which would light up any room was rapidly disappearing. I was concerned as he entered Secondary School.

Then he was asked to have a go at running around Lawn woods with Swindon Harriers, he loved it, he came back said he wanted to do a bit more. Bryan his Coach, put him with a Group of slightly older Girls and a friendship developed that will never be broken. The Group was renamed ‘Spice Girls plus one,’ Jack was named Spice Boy. Each week he improved, getting fitter and getting more confident, joining in more sessions , he was included and accepted. I saw a trust in Bryan, that he never had with an adult outside the Family.

Running was becoming his saviour. Track Season soon came and he smashed through the targets both his Coach and myself had set him, and when he won a league Match, an 800m race, all his Club Mates cheered him on down the home straight. The smile that day shone through on a Cold Grey And Wet Day in Newport. On a Friday afternoon in October I received a call from him , he had won his Cross Country Race at School – no big deal , loads of Kids do that, but this was a Child who had been bullied, had no self esteem, and has also been diagnosed with Dyspraxia just 12 months earlier. Going on to make it through the Swindon Schools, to run in his County Schools, reserve for his County Team for South West and English Schools , but wherever running takes him his life has turned around. He is dreaming big, believing in himself, confident and happy teenager.

So when other Parents ask me why I drive around him to training or spend all Sunday at a race, stand waiting for him to finish his sessions in the freezing cold:-

It’s not about where he finishes, or how fast he has run

Sports gives him confidence.

Sports gives him the inclusion he lacks at School.

Sport gives him the interaction with Adults and Other Children.

It teaches him to follow his dreams.

It teaches is ok to fail – just get back up and try again.

It lets him be himself.

It teaches him self discipline

It teaches the importance of a Healthy Life,

It teaches him to be the best HE can be.

And the Smile… That is absolutely priceless.

About Debbie: I didn’t start running until I was 20, joined a gym, ran a half marathon, I realised I wasn’t too bad. Joined Swindon Athletic Club, trained hard, gave up a full time job and worked part-time to achieve my ambition of earning a GB vest…managed 12 – including European Championships in 1996. Very much a rollercoaster ride, lots of failing and picking myself back up again. Became a mum and within 6 months was back running well – but didn’t make it to Commonwealth Games, went onto the roads and won the Bath And Fleet Half Marathon. Trained as a PT, had another child, started working as a full time PT in DW Sports, training everyday people to reach their goals, whether it be weight loss, sub 30min 5k, but hopefully inspire people no matter what life throws at you – be the best you can be, and just be you…

Also fitted in 5 marathons – London 2017 looks to be on the cards!

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