As a mother of two young adults, I increasingly ask myself what’s causing youths to turn on each other, attack and injure each other purely because they live in different postcodes? My heart is in my mouth as my wonderful children go about their daily lives – to work and to socialise. That same heart goes out to the parents, families and friends of young adults who have been caught up in the senseless knife battles instigated by boundary wars.
Are society’s young people so desperate to belong to someone or something that they’ll do unthinkable things to be accepted into a “family”? Do they feel such a lack of control over their lives that they think harming others will give them back some power? Are they so disillusioned with their future that they seek unfounded gratification in their present by extinguishing another young existence?
What can we do? What can I do? How can I help to infuse a sense of community into our young people so they feel pride and a sense of identity with their neighbouring peers? Imagine my hop-skippety-trippety-yippee-di-doo excitement when I got a call at my office job several weeks ago. The caller needed help setting up a voluntary local grassroots football (soccer) project to steer youths away from criminal paths on a one way route to the criminal justice system. I was so excited that stomach butterflies performed an ecstatic choreography, my mind hastily started rearranging priorities and my voice said “Yes!” before the caller had even finished asking the question. Thank goodness they were actually asking for my help rather than asking me to recommend someone who’d be up for and up to the job. That could have been a tad embarrassing!
I’ve been involved in youth football for 15 years and I’ve personally witnessed the difference it makes to youngsters as they try to pick their way through the challenges of school and home lives. Some of them may be being bullied or abused, some may be the bullies or abusers, some may lack self-confidence or self-esteem, some may struggle to make friends in their street, some may be young carers, some may need help developing interpersonal skills, some may have natural leadership and nurturing qualities but have no outlet for those skills in their everyday lives.
Football (and sport in general) is a wonderful channel for young people to discover what makes them tick. It provides a platform for them to express their feelings and explore their capabilities on and off the pitch. They learn to interact and communicate with all ages and levels of authority while enjoying the thrill of mastering and developing a skill. By being aware of how others’ actions and words affect them, they realise how their actions and words impact on others by being. It’s great to watch the gradual transformation which can take weeks, months or years but it happens.
This is a huge voluntary addition to my hectic day job schedule but I’m determined to give it my best – I know I can make this work. It tugs at all my core values, morals and ethics. This is how I can contribute and infuse community spirit back into society by showing young people that there are other options available for them to make different choices.
I’m not a great planner as most of my day job colleagues would probably tell you. I like to try stuff out and see what happens – not a very popular approach when the senior leaders like to talk in “deliverables”, “outcomes”, “checkpoints”, “accountables”. However, some of the “organisational speak” they’ve been trying to drum into me and which I’ve stubbornly dug my heels in against must have snuck into my subconsciousness (Shoo! Out you go!). I’ve found myself managing this project with gusto – (ooooh! does that mean I can call myself a Project Manager?!) with project task lists and owners, regular progress checks, risk identification and mitigation. My goodness! Did I swallow that APMP folder a colleague gave me two years ago which I hadn’t looked at until last week? Ok, so I’ve only blown off the dust and flicked through the first few pages but it’s a start. Gantt chart what now?????
I’ve also learnt what charitable objects are, experimented more with social media ready for when I step up our social media campaigning (somehow I’ve positioned myself as the social media guru of the group – something my children would be totally amazed at!). Next on the task list…..build the website over the next week.
Now do you see what youth football can do?! This post started off asking sombre and solemn questions. It’s ended with a sense of optimism, hope and bubbling excitement. I’ll continue posting updates in this section of my blog so please do feel free to check back, comment and share your own experiences. Things are happening so quickly that I reckon I’ll be posting here quite regularly. Are you strapped in and ready for this latest ride in my world?!?!?