Sports journalists aim to inspire Aylesbury HMYOI offenders to pick up the pen

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Leading sports journalists and broadcasters Michael Calvin (BT Sport podcast) and Leon Mann (ITV and BBC Sport) visited a group of young offenders at HM YOI Aylesbury to discuss their incredible careers, life in the sports media industry, working with high profile sports people and clubs, as well as the opportunities that reading, writing and strong verbal communication skills opened up for them.

The visit was part of the National Literacy Trust’s Inside Stories programme, which uses the power of reading to help young offenders lead productive and fulfilling lives while in custody and upon release.

Michael Calvin is one of the UK’s most accomplished sportswriters.

He has been named Sportswriter of the Year and Sports Reporter of the Year on several occasions. He spoke about hosting the weekly BT Sport Football Writers Podcast, his interviewing style and experiences as well as covering major sporting events, from seven Olympic Games to six football World Cup finals.

Michael also spoke about his series of award-winning sports books, including Family, which the group of young people were given to keep.

Leon Mann is a leading TV sports presenter and filmmaker, who has covered the Euros in France for ITV and London Olympics for BBC Sport. Leon spoke about interviewing some of the most celebrated names in sport including Usain Bolt.

He also spoke about how he founded the Black Collective of Media in Sport, a network that raises the prospects and profile of black sports journalists in the UK, and the Sports People’s Think Tank with former Premier League footballers Jason Roberts MBE, Michael Johnson and Darren Moore.

14 young offenders attended the discussion to learn about the panellists’ careers and those who came along received a copy of Michael Calvin’s book Family, to read in their own time. The group were also given the opportunity to spend time writing up sports stories of their own, which Michael Calvin will review and feedback on.

Catherine Bentley, Learning and Skills Manager at HM YOI Aylesbury, said: “It’s been a fantastic experience for the group to hear first-hand from two distinguished sports writers and film makers, showing the men what can be achieved with hard work and ambition.”

Michael Calvin, award-winning author and sportswriter said: “It was great to spend time with the group discussing all the things that have been really essential to my career – a passion for people’s stories, a deep inner drive and, of course, communications skills. Creativity breaks down barriers, and they were all really involved in the discussion.

"It is rewarding to generate the sort of debate which highlights career paths that these young men may not have considered before. Sport has the power of positivity.”

Leon Mann, sports presenter and filmmaker said: “I really enjoyed the session with the guys at Aylesbury YOI.

"I wanted to get across that there’s a place for everyone, you just have to persevere. I’ve worked really hard to promote diversity in sports media in the UK to show that everyone is welcome in the industry.

"I hope my hunger for positive and inclusive change encourages them to reflect on their own ambitions and aspirations for the future.”

Rebecca Perry, Criminal Justice Programme Manager at the National Literacy Trust, said: “We’d like to thank Michael and Leon for coming along to Aylesbury YOI to talk to the group about their fantastic careers.

"It’s been great for this group of keen sports fans to hear first-hand how two successful sports reporters have worked really hard at carving a career path that they’re really proud of, and how good literacy skills have been key to their success.”