Darren has recently joined the 3Pillars Project team as a Mentor and Coach. In this blog we hear first-hand how he plans to transfer his extensive experience from within the prison service within his new role to help change even more lives through sport.
I have previously worked for the prison service for over 21 years. Briefly as Logistics Coordinator then I graduated as Prisoner Custody Officer taking up the role as Industries Officer before achieving my goal working with the gymnasium team as Physical Education Instructor. I was quickly taken under the wing by one of the PEI team who mentored me into delivering sports leader courses. When the Sports Academy opened in 2013, I achieved the position as Sports and Leisure Tutor.
During this time, I was briefly seconded to support the development of the Initial Training Course for PCO’s as Training Coordinator. This gave me great insight into the roles and understandings of the training and development team who gave their support, as well as other departments to the learning role as Prisoner Custody Officer. My duties included delivering fitness training sessions including running, circuits, and team sports. I also set up a mentoring scheme which was used to offer support from experienced PCO’s to maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and to carry out their duties to a high standard. I would pay regular visits to follow up their learning and development and offer ongoing guidance.
Teaching for me has been a role that I have always found to be most rewarding. Offender learning, I feel, is not always about the qualification but about their learning journey. To guide and support them through that journey is important in the way they present themselves to others, to have belief and to stand amongst others in their field confident and competent in their abilities.
It was a massive honour that a few years ago I was awarded the accolade as the Festival of Learnings’ National Inspirational Tutor of the Year. This I dedicated to all my learners who have taken the opportunity to acknowledge that education and learning can support them whilst serving a custodial sentence.
I have always had a vision that prison establishments could link up with external sports organisations and associations.
These sports initiatives could create opportunities for people in prison by giving them coaching qualifications, gain knowledge and experience, build better relationships and maybe even offer the opportunity to gain employment. This would prevent them from re-offending, live a more positive life and look forward to a future rehabilitating themselves back into society and giving back to their community.
I have always admired the work that 3Pillars Project and CEO Mike Crofts has achieved educating young adults in custody. Working within the prison service for many years I understand the importance and the impact that sport, mentoring, leadership, and education can offer to young men in prison. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a 3Pillars Project event launch. I can honestly say that the team was so passionate about the work they do and their vision to support and empower others. It was clear to see why the young adults who participate in sport-based mentoring programmes whilst in custody look up to these positive role models enabling them to help and support and to prevent others from going down the same road that they have been on living a lifestyle that is so destructive.
Now working as a Mentor and Coach for 3Pillars Project, I very much look forward to the future, sharing the same vision and enthusiasm in developing young lives by delivering sports-based programmes and offering support and encouragement in the hope in making the world a better place.