Panathlon has named teenager Leon Pring as our 2017/18 North Yorkshire Outstanding Achievement award winner for the dramatic improvement in his attitude to sporting competition.

The pupil at Joseph Rowntree School in York, who turns 14 next week, used to struggle with lack of confidence, low self-esteem, an inability to work within a team and great difficulty dealing with defeat.

His difficulties used to result in ‘meltdowns’, which his teacher Barry Cornforth first noticed when he visited Leon on sports day at his primary school as part of his transition into Joseph Rowntree School. Barry witnessed Leon’s inability to cope again at the Paralympic games he organises annually for the SEN students and Year 6 pupils who join the school as part of their transition.

He quickly realised then it was an area he needed to work on with Leon – and his progress since that point has been remarkable.

Barry organises extra PE sessions for SEN students, focusing on sports that are included in Panathlon competitions. Through these, Leon’s confidence and self-esteem began to grow and strategies were put in place to mitigate against his ‘meltdowns’. He was named as the school’s table cricket captain and vice-captain of the whole Panathlon team. He has since led the team into the Yorkshire table cricket finals.

He really embraced these roles and felt a sense of worth and responsibility with the position. Other team members have noticed the difference in Leon and often remark about how he no longer reacts negatively to setbacks.

In recent Panathlon competitions it has been particularly pleasing to see Leon encouraging, nurturing and supporting a young team-mate, Jack, who has cerebral palsy. He coached him to use the bat, which Jack found difficult to do.

Barry commented: “To look back over the last three years to see how he was and what he has achieved through Panathlon has been outstanding. It is such a joy and inspiration to see the change in him.”

Leon’s mum, Nina, added: “I feel overwhelmed with pride today as I watch Leon smile for the camera holding up his Outstanding Achiever Award.

“It is hard to believe that just a few years ago this young man wasn’t able to access sports or even deal with school sports days, and how much we would dread the event.

“Now in front of me is a young man who enjoys achieving and competing in the Panathlon each year, someone who is confident and secure in his ability – not just to participate, but to lead a team!

“How fortunate we have been to have the endless support of Mr Cornforth and his team who believe in Leon as much as his family do. Thank you Panathlon for the opportunities you give and thank you Joseph Rowntree team who have worked so hard behind the scenes to get Leon where he is today.”