Arsenal in the Community began delivering Premier League Kicks in 2006, and throughout the time since then a key focus has been supporting the personal development of young people off the pitch. We provide participants with opportunities such as gaining qualifications, employment and one-to-one support.
A focus of our staff has been to support participants through a journey where they can take part in educational workshops, work towards achieving their coaching qualifications and gain practical experience. Where suitable they can become part of our coaching team, which in turn creates a group of positive role models who are well placed to support the next generation of participants coming through the programme.
Raphael was a participant on our PL Kicks project in Hackney and has now coached for Arsenal in the Community for the past ten years.
“Kicks was in my local area many years ago when I was 16 years old,” he recalls. “Arsenal in the Community came to my estate one day and said they were starting a session on the estate for local kids.
“Back then I was young – I had just finished school and was going on to college. I was thinking about coaching. The sessions started and Arsenal coaches were coming twice per week and from then all of the young people got involved. You would start with a warm-up, then do ball work and then play matches. We were looking at what things we could improve on and how we could do better on and off the pitch.”
While engaging as a participant on the PL Kicks programme, staff worked closely with Raphael to mentor him and provide him with opportunities to develop as a coach. He successfully completed his FA Level 1 Coaching qualification as well as several courses in mentoring, youth work and a number of other sports. These diverse courses provided Raphael with a wide range of experience.
He went onto become a casual community coach on our Social Inclusion projects after demonstrating a strong commitment to working with local young people. Raphael was motivated to helping other young people follow on the same path that he progressed through.
“It’s about making it fun for the kids to get involved, and to make sure that everyone is included,” he says. “Mix young people up so that they meet new people and everyone’s engaged. When the participants leave the session, the young people feel excited and you’ve played a role in it.
“Kicks is about helping and developing young people and supporting them in many ways – for example if they want to become coaches, go into retail work and so on. Of course it’s about football too but it’s about developing them as a person. The participants might play football but when they grow up they might want to do something else. I always ask the participants, especially those that are 15 or 16 and leaving school, what do they want to do next? Is there anything that we can do to help?
“I feel that I can transmit the things that I’ve learned and experienced to help others,” Raphael adds. “I enjoy helping the kids, I listen to their feedback, I like to hear how their day was: what have they been up to? What did they learn today? A lot of the kids, they don’t get that question, how was your day?”
In addition to working with Arsenal in the Community, Raphael now also works in a local primary school as a teaching assistant and behavioural mentor – a role he has had for the past seven years.
“Kicks has helped me a lot, especially when I started. I was a young boy; now I’m a man. I think I’ve developed as a person, as a coach and through Arsenal it has helped me onto a good pathway. Through Arsenal I’ve got to work at a school full time due to the experiences that I gained by working on estates and projects such as the Double Club.”
Having positive leaders in the community is an integral part of the Kicks programme because it allows us to connect with young people and support them in a meaningful way.
“There are some young people who I used to work with as participants and now they are coaching with me,” Raphael says. “It’s rewarding seeing that growth and maybe they saw me doing it and asked me how did I do it. And now they are coaching.
“I understand where a lot of them are coming from because I know it’s not easy growing up, especially where I was from. It wasn’t easy. They don’t have so many things to do so to have sessions to look forward to is important – making it a part of their routine.”
To top it all off, Raphael has recently received an award for his hard work, presented pitchside by Mohamed Elneny – as you can see above – at our home game against Brighton & Hove Albion on May 14. The One Of Our Own award is presented to a winning nominee from clubs that receive Premier League community investment, and Raphael was our recipient for his exceptional commitment and long-term contribution to our local community. Congratulations Raphael, and keep up the great work.
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.