We are thrilled that Behind Every Kick has been selected by National Lottery Awards for All to receive £10,000.
This funding will enable Behind Every Kick to go on delivering our life-changing BEK Development programme to young people who play for sports teams across London.
Behind Every Kick would like to say a massive thank you to The National Lottery for supporting our project. To celebrate this fantastic news, we thought we'd share the stories and experiences of our inspirational team of trainers who deliver BEK Development.
Can you tell us about your background in sport?
Melissa (BEK - Trainer at Wealdstone FC & Rap-Aid FC):
I was a Junior LTA tennis player. As a teenager, I struggled with the mental side of the game. While the coaches I had helped me develop my technique, there wasn't any focus on psychology which is a vital part of any sport. Reflecting on my own experience led me to become very interested in sports psychology, so it's something I went on to study and is now my career.
Eesha (BEK - Trainer at School 21 & Sporting Hackney FC):
Growing up in Singapore, tennis was my sport too. I quickly realised I could only go so far with it though and so I switched to dance. All the skills I'd learned from playing sport - dedication, teamwork - were transferable to dance and helped me get to a pretty good standard. I was actually part of a semi-professional troupe. You're picturing one of those Hollywood dance battle movies, aren't you? Nothing like that (hahaha).
I studied psychology at University and sport is an integral part of student life in Singapore. I was studying alongside athletes who went on to compete internationally, guys like our national 100 metres record holder. After graduation, I started working as a psychologist with some of our national teams which was a brilliant experience. I then decided to come to the UK to do a Masters in Sports Psychology at Loughborough University, where I found out about Behind Every Kick.
Ewan (BEK Trainer - Rap-Aid FC & Skinners' Academy):
Unlike Melissa and Eesha, I was very much only ever an amateur. An enthusiastic one mind you. I loved playing football as a boy. I played for the school team and many Sunday League sides from the age of 8 to about 38! Sport has always been a way I can make connections with people. The lessons I've learned playing football - one of them, unfortunately, being how to lose - and friends I've made along the way are priceless.
Olivia (BEK Trainer - Cricklewood Wanderers FC): I absolutely hated sport at school. I always associated it with fitness and body image pressure, sort of like going to the gym. The PE teachers I had didn't get across all the other things sport can give you like confidence and a sense of community. The very things we work on with young people at Behind Every Kick. It wasn't until I went to University I became interested. There was an advert for a boxing scheme that in six months aimed to take people from complete beginners to having an actual fight in the ring. It was completely out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to give it a go. I became hooked. For my first fight, my ring entrance music was X Gon' Give It To Ya' and I knew there was no way I was coming out of there having lost. As well as boxing I now do kickboxing and Muay Thai. I'd love to encourage more girls and women into the sport so it can empower them as it has me.
What appealed to you about Behind Every Kick?
Joe (BEK Trainer - Skinners' Academy & Cricklewood Wanderers FC):
I'm a maths teacher and was part of Teach First which trains teachers to work in challenging schools where they are needed most. That sense of making society a bit fairer and empowering kids who might not otherwise have access to opportunities is something that matters to me. I recognised that immediately in Behind Every Kick. Also, I'm a massive football fan. I know that sport engages young people like nothing else - definitely more than maths!
Ryan (BEK Trainer - Cricklewood Wanderers FC): I know it's a cliche, but I want to give something back to young people. It's not long ago that I was one of them. It's so hard to create opportunities without a network and help, that's something I've learned. I commute down from Nottingham to deliver the programme. It's something I'm really motivated to do.
Chris (BEK Trainer - Wealdstone FC & Rap-Aid FC): I've been lucky to coach at Arsenal, Fulham and the FA. I don't think the impact you can make on a young person's life beyond their sport is always recognised. I remember once coaching at the Arsenal Academy, one of the girls was struggling with her geography project. I'd done geography at A-Level and just gave her a bit of encouragement. She went away and did this brilliant project on coastal defences. She came into training after she got her marks buzzing. Her mum kept giving me updates on her progress at school. She went from the bottom set to the top set in six months. Behind Every Kick has recognised the power of sport as a way to engage young people and develop them holistically. That's something I want to be a part of.
What have been your highlights delivering the BEK programme?
Jenna (BEK Trainer - School 21):
Seeing the transformation of the netball girls was incredibly rewarding. In our first session, they were extremely reluctant to speak. I could see they were interested in the curriculum, but they were waiting for me to feed them information. By the end of the programme, the roles had reversed. They were leading the conversation, always thinking ahead and taking discussions in unexpected directions. Their confidence had developed so much. In the time between two of the later sessions in the programme, they'd created their own community netball club. They'd found a coach, booked a court and produced promotional materials having recognised there wasn't a club for girls and women to play in the area. It was awesome, totally inspiring.
Ryan: The girls at Cricklewood Wanderers FC have made a point of saying how much they value the sessions, which has to be a good sign, surely? Some of them are taking FA Level 1 coaching courses. They told me they plan to use the exercises we've delivered to them in the sessions they'll be coaching. I think for clubs like Cricklewood engaging with Behind Every Kick is very attractive to players' parents. The club is showing they aren't only interested in young people as players, they want to develop them as people too.
Joe: At Skinners' Academy in the early sessions, one of the boys was a bit disruptive. He's a towering presence physically and can dominate the group. He didn't seem very engaged. Honestly, I wondered whether any of the messages from the sessions were getting through to him. Then when we came to work on confidence, he suddenly opened up. He allowed himself to be vulnerable within the group, explaining how his size affected his self-esteem. It was pretty deep stuff. The following session, in recognition of his contribution, we made him a team captain in the games we played. His face absolutely lit up as if to say 'what me a captain, really?' That was absolute magic.
Eesha: That's similar to an experience I had with a player at Sporting Hackney. He wants to be the clown of the group and gives the impression that he thinks he's too cool for this. He definitely didn't strike me as a team player. Then we did an exercise where the boys were asked to identify their own strengths. We gave them a profile card to fill out a bit like in FIFA (or top trumps if you don't play XBOX!) Some of his team-mates were reluctant to say what their attributes were. Perhaps they didn't even feel like they had any. He suddenly came to life saying to his team-mates 'you're great at organising the defence, you're an excellent passer, you never give up.' It was really touching.
What makes a good Behind Every Kick trainer?
Jenna: Being willing to share your own experiences, times when things haven't gone right on the pitch or in life. Showing vulnerability and working collaboratively with young people. That's how you build a rapport. Some of the girls I trained last year came to watch me play hockey recently, we've developed a real bond.
Chris: It's important not to have preconceptions. Before I came to Behind Every Kick I remember seeing a coach punish a young player who was late for training. He made him run laps of the pitch. I went over and asked the lad if everything was ok. He explained his mum had recently suffered a stroke and wasn't working. The dad had taken on extra shifts and couldn't bring the boy to training on time. It was only through speaking to him that we found out the challenges he faced and what a fantastic effort he was making.
Adam (BEK Trainer Sporting Hackney FC): Those are the sort of authentic conversations we can have with young people at Behind Every Kick. We occupy a different space to the other adults in their lives - be it their parents or teachers. I remember delivering a session in the first season of Behind Every Kick where the boys were really distracted. About halfway through I had a decision to make: Do I try and keep forcing the message, sticking to my session plan? Or do we have a genuine conversation as a group? I put it out there that their behaviour was disrespectful, affecting the session and that I was making a two hour round trip on a Friday night to be with them. They explained that they'd had a really long week at school with mock exams and just weren't in the right mindset. We spent the rest of the session working on strategies to help them cope with pressure. It was a brilliant conversation that came from a challenging moment. That's when you make a real impact.
What are your hopes for Behind Every Kick in the future?
Adam: We are so grateful for The National Lottery funding. It will enable us to reach more young people in the coming seasons. I'd love to see Behind Every Kick working with as many teams as possible across all sports, girls and boys. It would be incredibly powerful if some of the young people we are training now go on to become Behind Every Kick trainers and mentors in the future.
Jenna: I'm a realist and think the way the programme has developed since it launched, slowly building up more teams and trainers, is excellent. That said, I think the potential of Behind Every Kick is immense. Every young person would benefit from the sessions we deliver and networks we can help them build. Being a Behind Every Kick trainer has made me realise what is really important to me - helping people. It's an organisation I'll always want to be involved in. Once you find Behind Every Kick and see the work being done with young people, it's not something you'd ever want to leave.