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Premier League Kicks sessions supporting local communities

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For more than twenty-five years Albion in the Community has been working in local communities to inspire thousands of young people. Premier League Kicks, is one of the important programmes that uses the power of football and the value of participating in sport to connect with and help youngsters in some of the most high-need areas to create safer and healthier communities.

Eighteen-year-old Abigail Gibbs is one of the participants who has benefited from being involved in the programme. Abigail was first made aware of Premier League Kicks when she moved to Whitehawk in Brighton and went along to find out more. At her first sessions, she was reluctant to join in but was happy to stand on the side-lines and watch her friend. After a conversation with a coach, Abi revealed that she suffered with anxiety and explained that she didn’t feel confident enough to join in.

She explains: “I can be quite shy and have always felt that I have to prove myself to people and that no one will think I am good at the things I am doing. I worry that people always underestimated me and this has made me lack a lot of confidence in what I can do.”

Abi has now been a regular at the Kicks sessions for many years and since joining her confidence has improved which has also helped her self-esteem and general well-being. She is now willing to get involved in things that are outside of her comfort zone and often helps support the coaches who deliver the weekly sessions.

Abi recognises that due to being involved in the programme her communication skills are much better and that she’s less anxious about speaking to new people: “When I come to Kicks I feel like you can leave all your problems at the gate and enjoy your time getting involved in the session and meeting people that are outside of my normal friendship group.  My confidence has grown since attending Kicks and I now feel that I can talk to people.”

By engaging young people in positive activities including free weekly football, educational workshops and mentoring from qualified football coaches and youth workers, communities across Sussex have been significantly impacted through the Kicks programme.

Funded through a combination of local grants and the Premier League Communities Fund, the sessions take place in community venues and youth centres across Sussex where football activity is provided in safe and supervised environments alongside personal development opportunities including a youth leadership programme and lifestyle guidance to help young people make informed choices and fulfil their potential.

Martin Schooley, inclusion manager at Albion in the Community explains why the programme is so important: “Young people need these safe places in their communities to develop positive, supportive relationships with one another and to learn the importance of giving back and helping those around you. The young people know we are here every week on their doorstep, and they can come and talk to us, get involved or just have a kick about and release some energy.

With the lockdown restrictions in place for much of the past year, in-person sessions have been limited. Martin recognises that this has had a big impact on the young people that Albion in the Community works with:

“We’ve been limited in the number of face-to-face sessions we have been able to run over the last year but where we could we have continued to provide one-to-one support and mentoring and maintained phone contact with as many of our participants as possible.

“It’s been tough for so many young people in our communities. Regular social contact with friends and role models is so important to help their development at a young age and support them through personal challenges.

“You can’t replace in-person contact and now we are able to restart our Kicks sessions across Sussex we’re looking forward to getting young people back together in a safe way and help support them as they recover from the impact that lockdown has had on their physical and mental wellbeing over the past year.”

Kicks is open to anyone aged between 12 to 18 years old with a Mini Kicks programme available for a younger age group aged 7 to 11 years.  There are also specific girls-only sessions and free football tournaments during the school holidays.

To find out more about the Premier League Kicks programme or a local session email: premierleaguekicks@albioninthecommunity.org.uk.

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