AT the age of just 15-years-old Helena Flanagan is a true sporting hero ­— both on and off the pitch.

The St Joseph’s RC High School pupil has been recognised by GreaterSport ­— which organises sporting tournaments for Greater Manchester schools ­— as one of its inspirational sports stars.

The sporting body has been looking to shine a light on the region’s young sportsmen and women after being forced to cancel its 20th award ceremony because of Covid-19 and social distancing.

They include Horwich schoolgirl Helena, who has been using her passion for sport to help out others.

Helena has represented her country at the age of 10 in tennis tournaments and at the age of 12 was playing against 16-years-olds at Tyldesley Netball Club.

And she uses her talent to give back to others, whilst also finding the time to support her sister who has Crohn’s disease.

The teenager spends one lunchtime and one evening each week helping other pupils at the Chorley New Road school and also regularly volunteers at Bolton Arena.

She told the Bolton News: “I really enjoy helping other pupils in my school and making lots of friends who have a passion for sport.

“I spend time giving them coaching sessions.

“After starting to help I became more confident, and my leadership skills gradually improved.

“The main reason I volunteer my time is to help others to learn, to inspire them to be the best they can be and to encourage them to move more – and make sure they’re having fun while they’re doing it.”

Over lockdown Helena has kept up her own personal training and has focused on getting her siblings involved in different sporting activities.

Helena said: “During lockdown sport gave me the mental strength to carry on through the difficult days.

“Days when I wasn’t able to see my friends and felt quite lonely and anxious about what would come next.”

Tony McCabe, the headteacher at St Joseph’s said: “Helena is an inspiration to our young people and epitomises our mission ‘to dream the impossible and achieve beyond our wildest imagination’.

“Even during lockdown when in the absence of team sports, most people found it hard to be motivated to keep moving and stay fit, Helena was a great example to us all.

“As one of our student senior leaders she has been a brilliant role model and shown us all that when we can’t do what we want to do, we have to do what we can!”

Next year, Helena will take her Level 1 tennis coaching award.

She said: “Since lockdown I’ve reflected on that and want to pursue coaching more.

“Sport makes me happy, but helping others find their passion for activity makes me even happier.”