Football Grassroots Sport London

Humans of Grassroots Sport | Jack Cassidy

Read time 2 minutes

Football Education Academy Manager, Jack Cassidy, joins our Humans of Grassroots Sport series to discuss the role sport has for increasing potential & aspirations in young people

What’s your background?

The Football Education Academy is an initiative I set-up myself in 2018 after working within the football industry and education services for many years. It’s been a passion project of mine and I’m incredibly proud of the impact and progress we have made in a short time.

The Academy brings together my two great loves, football and education. It combines working with youth groups and engaging with them through the beautiful game. My early career revolved around me delivering educational programmes for football clubs and I was travelling a lot – Cambridge and surrounding areas were the usual targets. It was working very well, but there was always a nagging feeling that I could be doing something a little closer to home in Bedfordshire.

Setting up the Football Education Academy in Bedfordshire enabled me to directly help kids in the local community that I had grown up with.

When I was at school, I stayed on for 6th form even though I’ll admit I wasn’t the most academic. I wasn’t given any alternatives and my aim now is to provide an option for those kids wanting to balance football and school.

Our mission is to install basic values into young players’ lives that can stay with them onto their working life.

Why is football so good at delivering the programme?

Football provides the perfect mechanism to engage with kids in and around the area. There are so many transferable skills learned through the sport and these can be carried into later life. We always talk about our seven core principles.

These include Enthusiasm, Organisation, Discipline, Respect, Accountability, Hard-work and Integrity. These are lived and breathed throughout the delivery of all elements of the programme. It is key to create a positive working environment for all players to feel comfortable to achieve the very best they can.

These core principles are ingrained within football. The sport provides the carrot for our kids to get involved in the classes and we’re strict about the commitment. Kids must complete assignments before playing. Understandably the practical element is much more fun, but the theory provides the legacy of our programme.

Skills learned here for life and putting up with some boring elements for the greater good is a wonderful lesson for anyone.

What impact has the programme had?

Many of our kids enrol in the programme lacking confidence or motivation. Low aspiration is another issue we see regularly and sometimes it’s all three. We’ve had a big impact on many of our young learners and have recently been buoyed by our end of year reviews.

Progress isn’t always data driven as we like to focus on the person. For example we may have a player who struggles to hold face-to-face conversations and this is something that doesn’t necessarily follow with a grade. Seeing the progress made on a day-to-day skill that many take for granted is hugely rewarding and vindicates our approach to focusing on the person.

This strategy is supported by making sure we have small classes to guarantee the kids get enough attention to genuinely make a difference. Our parents are heavily involved too and help us continue the education outside of our class times and beyond the programme in later life.

What are the plans for the future?

We currently have two groups of 20 kids, each with one mentor, and we want to keep the same ratio as we grow. Our mentors have also come through many of the same life situations that our kids have to make it very easy to relate to.

Some of our team will soon be heading into schools to share experiences for behaviour projects in and around Bedford. Inclusivity is our mantra and if we continue to grow, then we’ll need to expand our staff. It’s imperative we don’t dilute our message and make the many life lessons harder to communicate.

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