In the third installment of our new series, we’re looking at how Arsenal in the Community projects have helped and inspired young people to push themselves to new heights. Here, we find out how Enrico has developed his leadership skills to help other youngsters on and off the pitch at Rosemary Gardens.
The Premier League Kicks project began for Arsenal in the Community in 2006 at Elthorne Park and quickly expanded to a second site at Rosemary Gardens in Islington with a vision to “build safer, stronger, more respectful communities, through the development of young people’s potential”.
The aim was to use football to bring communities together and engage with young people who were “difficult to reach” and to create opportunities for their own personal development.
Although the main activity delivered through PL Kicks is football sessions, the purpose of the programme is to support young people’s development off the pitch. This is achieved through creating a safe environment where young people can enjoy sport and build positive relationships with both participants and staff members.
Staff encourage participants to take ownership of their sessions by helping with refereeing, organising teams and assisting the staff. These responsibilities can help develop the participants’ leadership skills and confidence plus provide them with a “sense of belonging”.
Enrico is 15 years old and has been attending Kicks sessions twice a week at Rosemary Gardens in Islington for around two years now. He is a regular on both Monday and Friday and has become a core member of the group.
Enrico initially discovered the PL Kicks sessions through his friends and joined the group because of his passion for football.
“I’ve been playing football my whole life and hope to play at a high standard one day,” he says. “I grew up in Islington playing football on local pitches and ended up finding PL Kicks through my friends. Now I enjoy going Kicks every week.”
A key aspect of the PL Kicks programme is inclusion. It’s important that everyone is welcome and able to take part, no matter who they are and whether they are new to the group or have been taking part for years. Enrico was initially quite quiet during his first few sessions and focused on playing, but over time he has developed core leadership skills by supporting the coaches and being a positive influence among his peers.
He has worked extremely hard at improving his football and leadership skills while throwing himself into the sessions. He is eager to improve and develop himself while helping others.
Enrico began mixing with the whole group by playing on different teams each session. He would then start to organise these teams, and no matter the ability or age of his team-mates he managed to get the best out of them using his burgeoning leadership skills.
“It’s fun, and it’s actually like I’m playing for a purpose. It’s very intense and quick and helps me improve my own football.”
Listening to the voices of young people is central to our approach on how we move the PL Kicks programme forward. Through the staff building strong relationships with the participants, we are able to take on board their feedback on sessions and also provide them with platforms to help them share their views and opinions on a wide range of topics.
The most recent evidence of this was part of Arsenal and adidas’s No More Red campaign, whereby participants came together to inspire a mural that was installed at the venue with the help of Stazzy, a local artist who has worked with the club before – he initially produced a piece that commemorated Arsène Wenger’s 20th anniversary at the club and was presented to our legendary manager on the pitch at Emirates Stadium. He also produced art for The Arsenal Foundation charity ball that was signed by the players and auctioned. His recent work at Rosemary Gardens involved asking local youngsters what our community meant to them, and the finished mural featured a number of Arsenal players including Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Vivianne Miedema.
“I really liked the idea of having Rosemary represent something so important to the community,” says Enrico. “I liked how the participants were given a voice to give their input.”
The PL Kicks staff have been hugely impressed by Enrico’s positive attitude and willingness to get involved.
Anthony Prodromou, social inclusion coordinator at Arsenal in the Community, says, “Enrico has been a great addition to the group at Rosemary Gardens over the past two years. Not only is he a very talented footballer, but his personality has had a positive effect on others around him, creating a high-energy and fun environment.
“Enrico has shown great leadership skills, most recently at one of our Kicks events where he captained the side to victory.
“Most importantly, Enrico’s qualities have helped create a sense of belonging, not only for himself at sessions, but also for others by the way in which he leads his peers.”
You can also read more about how Stazzy got involved with the club here
Copyright 2023 The Arsenal Football Club Limited. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source.