Find out more about Tom's experience on the Arsenal Gap Year.
Pre-Gap Year: Accountant by day. Grassroots football coach by night.
Post-Gap Year: I am back working with an NGO I was placed with during my gap year. My role is to build a football curriculum. It’s a new challenge for me but I am enjoying it.
What did you gain from doing the Arsenal Gap Year?
In short, I gained the best year of my life so far. In terms of coaching the Arsenal Gap Year gave me so much. Before the gap year programme I had only coached at a grassroots football club so the new environments were great opportunity for me to learn. Coaching in schools was new for me, as was coaching high standard development players, coaching abroad and also coaching children who don’t speak English. I picked up many skills from these different environments and also from the Arsenal in the Community coaches. I have, without a doubt, improved as a football coach.
Off the field I gained much more. Being thrusted into these situations, especially abroad, really developed me on a personal level. I am now much more independent and confident.
What was your favourite part of the programme?
Its hard to say because the programme was full of so many new experiences for me. I absolutely loved stages two and three of the programme. They gave me the opportunity to live and work in the Philippines and Ghana; two completely new counties for me! The children in both countries were a enjoy to coach. Their energy and happiness really inspired me. Seeing the impact the various projects have on marginalised communities was really rewarding. I was also interested in learning about the cultures of both countries and spending everyday with locals gave me a really good insight.
The first stage of the programme in London was also one of my highlights. Meeting the other 10+ like-minded coaches on the programme was great. We all formed a good friendship and we all still keep in touch from all around the world.
How would you describe your overall experience on the Arsenal Gap Year?
Positive and life changing. Firstly, I moved to London for the Arsenal Gap Year programme. This was my first time living alone so that was something I had to overcome. Looking back I think that better prepared me for going abroad for stages 2 and 3. Luckily were a few other coaches on the programme in the same situation so that made it a bit easier.
Next, all of the staff at Arsenal in the Community were great. They were always very helpful whenever I had a problem. The coach education led by Arsenal in the Community coaches was well run and I personally picked up many things from it. I was also lucky enough to attend extra events which were further opportunities to develop. Finally, my hosts on stages 2 and 3 were very welcoming. I was made to feel at home from the second I arrived at both placements.
By the end of the gap year programme I directly coached over 2,000 children from London, Philippines and Ghana. It feels great knowing I have helped and educated that many children.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of doing the Arsenal Gap Year?
Do it! The Arsenal Gap Year programme is a wonderful platform but you will only get out of it what you put in. Take as many opportunities as you can and volunteer to help at every event that comes up. You never know who you might meet!
If you continue to stages two and three of the programme continue working hard. It isn’t a holiday. Of course enjoy yourself but don’t forget that there will be people and communities relying on your help. In England we are very reliant on our mobile phones but try to break that habit. Instead spend time with locals or engage with the players at the sessions. The time on these stages will fly by so make the most of every day.
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