Mr Dickinson by Amir Khan

The two-time boxing world champion remembers the cool, calm and collected PE teacher he owes `big time'

Tes Editorial

My PE teacher between the ages of 12 and 16 really helped me out. I went to Smithills School in Bolton and Mr Dickinson filled me with self-confidence.

I was always a good student, in sport especially. I worked hard at it, always have. But Mr Dickinson made sure I didn't just stick to one sport. He got me into running, swimming, cricket, football - the works. He didn't make you focus on the one thing you were good at; he would push you to try to be the best you could be at all sports.

The key to why he was such a great teacher, though, was what he taught outside of the actual activity. He showed us how to keep fit, he told us the diet side of it and the importance of knowing the human body. It's worth bearing in mind that, outside of school, I was deeply into my boxing, so all the things he was teaching me about nutrition and fitness applied inside the ring. Mr Dickinson taught me about my body: how the muscles work; how to keep hydrated so you can get the best out of yourself. He made a massive difference to my boxing career. I owe him, big time.

To this day, I do things as a direct result of what Mr Dickinson taught me, particularly nutrition. He taught me about how much protein to eat to maximise training, what carbs to eat and when - basically, how to get yourself nice and strong before intense exercise. I've stuck to those things.

He was universally popular with the kids. He never used to shout, he would just explain things calmly and that worked for us, certainly for me. A very calm guy. I respected him like I would a friend. He was, actually: he was a friend to me. Still is. He would come to watch me fight all the time, too. I mean, that's support from a teacher.

Teachers who shout, I believe, really struggle to get their message across. Shouting's a short-term fix. In boxing, if I'm in the corner of the ring and I'm taking punches, shouting's an injection of authority to push me to get out of that corner. But, long term, it doesn't teach. I don't necessarily learn what I need to get out. Does that make sense? To know how to fight an entire fight, I need calm teaching. I think that applies to school. Shouting is a short-term fix, but it's no replacement at all for calm explanation.

I've revisited Smithills loads of times. Mr Dickinson is still there and he hauls me up in front of everyone in assembly, and uses me as an example to current students. He explains how hard I used to work inside and outside lessons. He tells them that in break times I would go to the gym and train, but also that I worked hard to pass all my GCSEs. Which I did.

He lives near me, so I get to say hello a lot. I've thanked him for what he's done for me. Teachers like Mr Dickinson have encouraged me to go out there and do things for other people in the world. I've started my own Amir Khan Foundation. Teachers made me realise that it's good to help other people. The foundation looks at young kids globally, helping them, supporting them, educating them. And part of that is down to the people who have helped me, like Mr Dickinson.

Amir Khan was speaking to Tom Cullen. The Amir Khan Foundation launches on 14 August at the Hilton Deansgate, Manchester. It will fund charity projects on a local, national and international level. To buy tickets to the launch, email

Weighing in

Amir Khan

Born 8 December 1986, Bolton, Greater Manchester

Education Smithills School, Bolton; Bolton Community College

Career Won a silver medal at the age of 17 in the lightweight division of the 2004 Athens Olympics, becoming Britain's youngest Olympic boxing medallist. Won the WBA light welterweight title at 22. On his welterweight debut in May, Khan outpointed former WBA welterweight champion Luis Collazo

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