Matthew Brown is Vice Chairman of Sporting Hackney FC. He explains why the club decided to partner with Behind Every Kick.
“I joined the club as a player in 1996 and was chairman when Behind Every Kick (BEK) first approached us about becoming their pilot club. That's nearly four years ago now. Sporting Hackney has always had a community ethos. We are in a diverse borough and the football club is one of the reasons I've stayed living here. It's a place where you can meet people who were born and bred here, but also newcomers to the area from all over the world.”
Partnering with BEK gave the club the opportunity to become a formal community club, rather than just being a group of people from the community who come together to play football. There's a difference between the two. Our aim was to build a pathway from youth football to our first team, something for our young players to aspire to. There's a real absence of that sort of progression in amateur football and its difficult to build a proper club culture without it.
“By partnering with BEK we are able to offer youngsters something more than purely football coaching.”
By partnering with BEK we are able to offer youngsters something more than purely football coaching. We offer them access to skills that will help them develop off the pitch as well as on it. As a club, We thought it was critical to show our young players that we were serious about them as people not just as footballers, and that we want to help them grow. This has really benefited us in terms of retaining players as they get older. They definitely identify with the club and our ethos. In fact, many of our first Behind Every Kick Under-16 cohort have gone on to play for our first team, which is something I'm really proud of. The skills our young players are learning through their BEK Development sessions definitely play out on the pitch. We've seen this with the players we've had graduate into our senior teams having taken part in BEK Development, their attitudes are exemplary. That's not always the case with 18 or 19 year-olds joining the men's teams, believe me!
“The skills our young players are learning through their BEK Development sessions definitely play out on the pitch.”
We deliberately try to recruit young players from across the whole borough and even beyond. Football brings young people together who otherwise wouldn't meet, as they attend different schools and live on different estates. It's so important for community cohesion. BEK has really helped us develop that team culture and togetherness that's vital in football, but also just as key in other areas of young people's lives. The partnership has enabled us to reach out to other organisations in the community, schools all over the borough, who we can go to and say, send us your young people and we'll offer them opportunities in life that go beyond just a place to play sport. We'll help them get to wherever it is they want to go in life as well as nurturing them in their journey as footballers. As a result, the club has an excellent reputation with parents as well as the boys themselves. Players feel they are lucky to play for us. They know they are getting this bespoke programme from BEK that will give them skills for their future. That's a brilliant selling point for us as a club.
Beyond the development sessions, the mentoring scheme offered by Behind Every Kick is also incredibly valuable to the club. Some of our first teamers have become mentors to our young players and attended the youth team's BEK Development sessions as well as their football training and matches. The first team players build relationships with the young lads, and the youngsters are then able to identify with our first teamers and aspire to be in that role themselves one day.
“Some of our first teamers have become mentors to our young players and attended the youth team's BEK Development sessions as well as their football training and matches.”
Our relationship with BEK - the environment and development opportunities it allows us to offer our young players - has enabled us to apply for funding that we simply wouldn't have had access to otherwise. That's incredibly important to all amateur clubs who are self-financed and managed.
For all these reasons I'd absolutely encourage other clubs - who like us want to build a real club culture, be at the heart of their community and help their young people - to partner with Behind Every Kick.