David Stalker is CEO at Myzone, a former CEO of ukactive and CIMSPA Chair. He was a judge in the Raising Your Bar category of the Legacy Awards, dedicated to Future Fit Training’s (FFT) current students and graduates.
“Many of them have no experience whatsoever so the awards are celebrating bravery, entrepreneurial spirit and a drive to succeed – for me that’s a really positive twist.”
Alongside three other judges, David saw presentations from eight finalists at the awards ceremony and was “taken aback” by every single one.
“I was knocked off my feet by the efforts of these people; I walked out of there stunned,” he says. “I went along expecting to hear some great stories; I didn’t expect to be so moved that I needed to gather my thoughts before carrying on with my day. There’s a tendency, when you’ve been doing something for a long time, to become cynical. I left thinking that this 30-year journey seems more than worthwhile if it means I get to meet and perhaps mentor such inspiring people.”
David was particularly moved by Joseph Bleetman, an 18-year-old who won Gold in the Raising Your Bar award. Joseph, who has experienced a range of social and mental health issues, had dedicated the last few years to exploring the topic and creating a business plan. His aim is to offer fitness training to underprivileged youths and adolescents facing mental health difficulties, and to use fitness as an alternative therapy for anxiety and depression.
“He may have looked his age, but his vision, his courage and his story were way beyond his years,” says David. “I found myself looking at him and wishing I’d had the maturity of thought he does when I was his age. I was inspired by his enthusiasm.”
Jaina Mistry’s experiences of overcoming adversity and severe health challenges also stayed with David. Aged just 17, she suffered from Stevens Johnson Syndrome, a rare life-threatening illness triggered by an allergic reaction to penicillin. After 12 days in ICU, she woke to learn she had lost 60% of her skin, suffered visual scarring and severe respiratory damage. Within 12 months she lost her eyesight. Now she is determined to make a difference as a nutrition advisor, guiding and motivating people to shift the way they think about food and movement.
David says: “The way Jaina has dealt with the personal challenges thrown at her could not be anything other than moving. What I loved was her positivity – she has embraced the misfortune that came her way and it’s not going to stand in the path of her career. She will do anything to help people, whether they’re facing challenges similar to her own or not. The enthusiasm despite adversity … inspirational! It’s a word that applied to every finalist.”
Each of the Raising Your Bar winners received membership to CIMSPA, which David believes is vitally important. He argues that if the fitness industry is to stand up alongside, for example, architects or engineers as a viable profession it needs to be led by a forward-thinking organisation. “For me, that organisation is our chartered institute, CIMSPA. And if aspirational, inspirational people like the Legacy Awards finalists are part of CIMSPA, they will help to drive our industry higher up on the national agenda and ultimately help us get more people more active more often,” he says.
David goes on to say he wishes the Legacy Awards had existed when he was starting out in the fitness industry. “The awards are creating something I wish had existed in my day. They’re putting young, inspirational people together with those of us who’ve been around the block a few times, offering them the opportunity to be mentored by those of us who’ve already made lots of mistakes. I love that,” he says.
And this is where he sees the Legacy Awards growing and flourishing in the future – creating a mentoring network, which will afford up-and-coming industry professionals the opportunity to use the experience and expertise of the industry’s many stalwarts.
“Once people begin working in this industry, they tend to stick around … look at me!” David says. “I wholly condone those who are moving up the ranks using the benefit of our experience to drive forward our industry. I think this is a fantastic scheme and, as they develop, I would be honoured to mentor any of the people I met that day. Everyone is too busy these days. But I am never too busy to help any of the finalists.”
Asked what advice he would give to people starting their career in the fitness industry in 2019, David says: “Do not stop questioning why things are happening. You are the people who are likely to impact; you’ll be the ones making the difference in this industry in years to come. You’re going to take responsibility for driving the nation’s physical activity levels forward and that’s huge, so you need to keep your minds and your ears open, keep asking questions and keep listening.”