NATIONAL sports stars are using fun sumo wrestling and rugby training to improve the lives of homeless youngsters in Sunderland.
Great Britain boxer Amanda Coulson, ex-rugby league prop Paul Broadbent and judo star Chloe Cowen are mentoring a group to help their employment chances.
The trio have been at the Aquatic Centre for a three-day course to help Wearside 16 to 25-year-olds who are supported by youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.
As well as working on personal development and motivational skills, the group has been getting rough and ready by taking part in combat sport activities such as boxing and sumo. Lee Oliver, of Monkwearmouth, is one of those who has been on the course.
“It’s been spot on,” the 18-year-old told the Echo.
“Taking part in different things like a bit of boxing and sumo has been great.
“We’ve learned about how not to give in to peer pressure from your friends and I’ve enjoyed meeting Paul, Chloe and Amanda.”
Lee added that the course has helped him to target gaining some qualifications as a priority in his life.
“Now, I’m thinking about going to college to do a fitness training programme,” said Lee.
The course has been provided by the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust with the Prince’s Trust and Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light.
Amanda, Paul and Chloe are using the example of their lives in which they have excelled at sport as inspiration for the group.
Thirty-year-old Amanda, from Hartlepool, who fights at lightweight, said: “Using sport really can transform their lives.
“I’ve seen things like this happening down south but as a North East girl I’m really happy that this pilot is being held in Sunderland.
“This week has been a huge success for us and the group who we’ve being with have set a really high standard. Hopefully they have set paths for others to follow.”
Paul, who is 45 today and counts Sheffield Eagles and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats among his former professional clubs, as well as representing Great Britain, added: “The conduct of those taking part has been superb.
“Maybe they aren’t used to getting up so early because some of them stay awake quite late, but by the last day of the course all of them have turned up 15 minutes early. They might not have had experience of setting goals before but the course is about making everything reachable for them.”