The Arsenal Students Level 3 Sports Science & Coaching programme has welcomed more than 1,000 youngsters keen to learn more about coaching since it was founded in 1986. Open to students aged between 16 and 18, the BTEC course is an opportunity for around 32 weekly participants to forge a career in the sports industry or discover how to apply the principles of sports science and coaching in other potential career pathways.
Ben, aged 17 and from Islington, is one of our current Level 3 students, and like many before him the youngster’s involvement started as a family affair.
“I first heard about the Level 3 programme through my brother, who had taken the the course and thoroughly enjoyed it,” he says. “When I was younger I had been involved in the Arsenal Double Club at Highgate. I really enjoyed that experience and it led me to join Arsenal in the Community’s football team, which I also really loved. Year 11 was a tough year as it left me with nothing to strive for in the future. But since becoming an Arsenal student I now know what I want to do in the future.
“The first time I was introduced to Martin and Tony – the tutors of the BTEC – I instantly knew they were different to the teachers I’d previously had,” Ben adds. “They held you to a higher standard and treated you like young adults, which I really respected. When meeting my other classmates I was nervous because I didn’t know anyone else there, but everyone was welcoming and it created a positive environment.”
His fellow student Matilda, aged 18, feels the same. “Finding out about Arsenal’s sports coaching through Arsenal in the Community social media I can say has been an amazing opportunity and has changed my life.
“Before joining I was aware of many projects Arsenal deliver, such as social inclusion and our ‘women and girls’ provision which, from my perspective, has had a huge impact and grown a passion for women’s participation in football as a whole,” she adds.
“I always knew that I had a passion for football and coaching, but the support that I had from my dad and my best friends gave me that extra push to go for it. And seeing the rise of opportunities that Arsenal have given to women and girls inspired me to find the right option for me.
“On my first day at Arsenal I felt very nervous. I can remember having many worries, the main ones being, ‘What if I am the only girl in the class?’ and ‘Am I going to be taken seriously?’ I wasn’t the only girl in the class! During the day everyone including my peers were very welcoming and kind and, before you knew it, the week had turned into a month.”
Opening doors and making memories
Alongside coaching on various Arsenal programmes and in the wider community, the Level 3 Sports Science & Coaching programme provides the youngsters with the sort of opportunities that wouldn’t ordinarily arise.
“I was involved in the Arsenal Statsports event at the Emirates Stadium – it was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Ben. “The event was a training session by an Academy coach, replicating practices used in the Arsenal Academy. It ended in a 11-a-side match on the full Emirates pitch in which I scored!
“The thing that has surprised me the most about the programme is the opportunities that it provides you with. I came with the expectation that there would be opportunities, but not to the extent that I’ve had. Being part of Arsenal is amazing – the badge holds a lot of weight, which allows you to take part in events you wouldn’t otherwise get to experience, both locally and internationally.”
For Matilda, the chance to work with even younger people has been an eye-opening and inspiring aspect of the programme.
“Having participated in many activities and had some incredible opportunities, I can say by far my favourite activity was being able to coach football to primary school children,” she says. “Seeing how happy they were and knowing that our session can impact their whole day positively is incredible. Also our Violence Against Women And Girls workshop helped me understand that, being at Arsenal, I have a voice. I was able to speak on this sensitive topic for my first public speaking experience at the stadium.
“From the heart, I can say that the Arsenal staff, including my tutors Martin and Tony, have made this experience amazing throughout,” she adds. “The encouragement and motivation they’ve given me within the classroom and on the pitch – as a young woman starting her football coaching career – has truly inspired me to continue this journey to wherever it may lead me.”
Friends for life
The programme also gives like-minded youngsters the opportunity to make new friends and establish social networks that will benefit them personally and professionally for years to come – as well as enjoy the moment while developing a host of new skills.
“Through being part of the project I’ve made very good friends with lots of new people,” says Ben. “They’ve allowed me to have the best college experience I could have had and I’m very thankful to them all. The college has had many positive effects on me, but the main one I would say is that I’ve gained so much confidence. Through coaching sessions and presentations, I’ve gained a lot through putting myself in uncomfortable environments.
“When college finishes at the end of the day I look forward to tomorrow because I enjoy studying and seeing people there. Without doubt, when I leave college I will instantly want to come back.”
“Being a student at Arsenal Football Club allows for countless opportunities to add to your personal experience,” adds Matilda. “This scheme has changed me as a person as it has allowed me to be more independent and creative. It has supported my growth in confidence through motivation and reflection. Hopefully I can lead others and motivate them too.
“Being a part of Arsenal not only makes me feel confident, it also gives me a sense of pride at being able to wear the badge. What it reflects has shaped me into being open-minded towards our community and, as an individual, it has given me the opportunity to be both independent and a team player, and has led me as a young person into the world of football and football coaching. No one can do it like Arsenal!”
For more information email Martin Davis at email@example.com
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