Jack Sims has been awarded Panathlon’s 2023 Jack Petchey Foundation ‘Young Leader of the Year’ award for the amazing rapport he builds with young competitors at our competitions. 

Jack, 17, is a student at Great Baddow High School in Chelmsford, Essex, and has worn the famous pink Panathlon Leader t-shirt at six competitions, including several swimming galas at the iconic London Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park. 

He loves guiding younger pupils and officiating at our competitions and has a talent for making connections with children as they compete. 

“I’m so proud and happy to win this award,” said Jack (pictured above with Panathlon event manager Dean Walker). “I really, really enjoy helping and learning from the kids. I take a lot of pleasure and joy from these events. 

“Seeing the children so happy and appreciative of the supporting role we play for them and seeing their smiles is what really make it a special experience.” 

Our annual Jack Petchey Foundation Outstanding Achievement awards recognise the pupils, young leaders and schools in London and Essex who have excelled and impressed throughout the year in Panathlon activities.

Jack is one of this year’s recipients – and it was the relationship he built with one particular pupil at a recent Panathlon swimming gala that prompted his teacher, Sally Smith, to nominate him. 

She explained: “A boy grew very fond of Jack and became attached to him whenever he had to enter the water. Jack built this brilliant rapport with this young child within a matter of hours and this young boy had learnt his name and was so engaged with him. 

“The support staff of this particular student were worried at the beginning of the event about how the boy would cope in the water. However, with positive leadership skills, it was quickly evident that he would have no issue as long as he was supported in the water by Jack.” 

Jack adds: “As the kids were having their lunch, I saw this boy sitting by himself, so I sat with him. He was a little bundle of joy. He was so happy and funny. I spent the whole time talking to him. 

“You only get about two and a half hours at the competitions so to be able to make a connection with one kid so naturally was fantastic.” 

Jack is finishing sixth form this summer to start a carpentry apprenticeship and take a personal training qualification. He has played rugby for Essex since Year 9 and says the game has taught him “respect, discipline and the importance of staying healthy.” 

Jack’s teacher Sally says the Panathlon young leader role has accelerated Jack’s personal development. “Jack was quite an excitable lad when he joined me in Year 12,” she said. “I think coming to these events and seeing young people who have struggles in everyday life was almost a bit of a shock at first. He thought, ‘They can’t do many of the things that I take for granted.’ 

“That taught Jack to appreciate what he had and it’s been lovely to see how it’s helped to develop him. 

“The Panathlon leadership role helps make our pupils well-rounded people. It also shows them that they’re really lucky to go to Great Baddow High where they get loads of opportunities to work with these young people who are so excited to get the experience through Panathlon. It shows them they have a lot going for them and should be really appreciative.”