Spur young to aim high
Published: 08 Nov 2016
Our editorial partner, SportBusiness International, met with Bonita Norris, the youngest person to reach the North Pole and the summit of Mount Everest. Here she talks about her work as an ambassador for the Play for Change charity.
"I was recently involved in an attempt to climb K2. It’s totally challenging. The mountain lived up to its reputation in some ways in how unpredictable it was in terms of weather and avalanches, but in other ways it is described as the world’s most dangerous mountain and I didn’t really get that sense. The climbing was straightforward and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I got a cerebral edema, which is like a brain swell, so I couldn’t carry on, but nobody made it to the top because of an avalanche, so it was a mixed bag. We came home empty-handed, but you accept that as a climber.
"I’m the youngest person to climb Everest and reach the North Pole. I was 22 when I climbed Everest and 23 when I got to the North Pole. Everest was definitely the hardest, because it was so much longer and way more dangerous.
"When you look for a sponsor you make it very clear there are no guarantees that you’ll make it to the summit. The problems arise when you start to think the success depends on coming away with some kind of gain, like being more famous in the climbing world. The best sponsors are the ones where their brand values are aligned with what you’re doing. I worked with a company called Vocalink on my Everest summit and one of their brand values is that they support young people.
"Play for Change approached me at the beginning of the year. They wanted me to give a speech at a local school for them. I said I’d love to give the speech, but I asked if I could be more involved, because I work in schools a lot, trying to raise aspirations and just help them to learn the tools for goal-setting and breaking goals down. It’s always nice to take flags to the tops of mountains and do interviews [to raise awareness of the charity], but it’s also nice if they’ve got someone who can go and work with the people they’re trying to help. Play for Change has projects in Nepal, which is obviously a country that’s close to my heart. They work with people out there and it’s not just about getting people engaged in sport. It’s just generally giving the young the opportunity to play and keep active and interact. Their project in Nepal is something I’d like to see one day and that’s one of the things I aim to do for the charity. It’s about getting disadvantaged children, not just from the UK, but also other countries, active and giving them support through sport and educating them through that. I think sport and education are intrinsically linked.
"Being a Play for Change ambassador is not a massive drain on my time. All of Play for Change’s ambassadors have full-time jobs. It’s just a question of what you can do in the time that’s available to you.
"I think on the whole there is a difficulty in getting girls engaged in sport. There will always be a group of girls who are motivated to be active and sporty, and who don’t need that much of a push. Then there is another group of girls who for so many reasons don’t feel like they can take part in sport. I see it when I go into schools in the UK. It might be that they’re completely disinterested and don’t see how they can get anything out of sport, or they might not want to get sweaty in front of people they know. There’s a lot less of a rite of passage for girls to be involved in sport.
"We’ve seen with the Olympics that religion or politics don’t have to be a barrier to women taking part in sport. You see girls taking part in Hijabs and that has not been a barrier to them but perhaps with women in sport there aren’t as many direct role models in the media. Footballers transcend culture, but for young girls there don’t seem to be as many female sports stars who filter into the mainstream.
"I’m also a motivational speaker, I’m writing a book and I’m also a TV presenter. I work for Red Bull and I’m one of their extreme sports presenters. I work across sports for them and different events for them on Red Bull TV. For Red Bull, I think it’s not necessarily about sponsoring extreme sports; I think it’s about sponsoring sports that require a lot of mind control."
This article was originally published by our editorial partner, Sport Business International.
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