Over the course of the 2022/23 season we will hear from a wide range of local people who have benefitted from Arsenal in the Community projects. Here we find out more about how Antonio, 14, has grown in confidence and developed leadership skills alongside his football knowledge.
Project: Premier League Football Plus
Participants since starting: 10,000
Weekly participants: 350
Sessions: Monday to Sunday
Available to: Participants aged six to 16
About the participant: Fourteen-year-old Antonio is a local lad from Islington who enjoys taking part in the Arsenal Football Plus programme.
Participant Antonio says: “I first heard about the Football Plus when I was invited to attend by one of the members of staff at a Junior Gunners event after taking part in some of the skills activities.
“I knew that some people had Arsenal coaches go into their school but didn’t realise there were weekly sessions that I could attend. When I learned about that I really wanted to do it. I was usually a bit reluctant to try something like that, but I wanted to play football with Arsenal.
“At the time I was lacking in confidence. I enjoyed playing the game but I was worried about joining a club and playing with new people. The first time I went the coach and other players were really welcoming – I tried hard and got some good feedback. I didn’t feel pressured and everyone was friendly.
“Since I started going to Football Plus I have been involved in many activities away from playing. For example I recently attended the City Run at the Emirates where we ran round the stadium representing London in a timed race against Manchester. It was sponsored by adidas and was a brilliant event.
“I’ve made some good friendships through sessions with Arsenal in the Community because I’ve now spent many years playing with mostly the same players. We have got to know each other really well and we feel comfortable playing together. We have a group chat and are always in contact.
“One of the first things I noticed about the sessions themselves was that the style of coaching was different to other clubs I’d played for. It was a really high standard and the coach, James, was very positive. There was no shouting, it was very professional and I didn’t feel I was under pressure to perform or not make mistakes when trying something new. It definitely increased my confidence and I started really enjoying football.
“It’s such a big part of my life now. I’ve learned to express myself more and these days I’m quite vocal on the pitch. I’ve learned a lot about formations and tactics, but also about working in a team, including a variety of leadership skills.
“This has overspilled into my everyday life. I join in school discussions more, play for the school team and organise the football at break times in school.
“In short, being part of Arsenal means everything to me. Joining was one of the best decisions I’ve made.”
Football Plus project manager James Warnock says: “Antonio has been with us for several years, and during this time we’ve seen him develop into a confident and caring young man. He is a popular member of the group for all the right reasons and is well respected by staff and peers alike. Antonio embraces activities both on and off the pitch and he actively seeks self-development.”
For more information email James Warnock at email@example.com
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