A social enterprise run by a former elite athlete and an award winning football coach using sport and fitness as a means to engage with young people is launching Traineeships in Sport in Teesside, County Durham and across the North East.
Sport Works has delivered educational sport mentoring programmes across Stockton, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool and right across the North East since 2009 for local authorities, schools and community groups across the region; often targeting the most disruptive, disenfranchised and vulnerable young people.
“It’s about changing individuals perceptions of themselves because until you can instil self-belief you will never change the outcome,” said Neil Cameron managing director of Sport Works Limited.
He has competed alongside long jump champion’ Chris Tomlinson and had the same coach as Jonathan Edwards, was a sport science lecturer at the tender age of 21 and soon after became an elite performance manager for England Athletics at Gateshead International Stadium.
He said: “I’ve been fortunate to work with some of sports’ greats and experience what is required mentally to succeed, or cope with failure, at the very highest level. But we’re not looking for the next Alan Shearer here, we simply want to improve outcomes in young people and this is something that can require a very different approach for different people.
“Whether it’s helping somebody who lives with disability have a better standard of living or someone else from a deprived background gain a qualification they wouldn’t have previously considered possible, then that is our goal.”
Neil recruited operations manager Jamie Cairns, a highly decorated youth team football coach from Gateshead who received a national award for coaching from World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst and a £10,000 cheque on behalf of his then club, Rutherford AFC, from Newcastle United’s Stephen Taylor as part of becoming a Nike Ambassador – all whilst still a teenager.
“I suppose I did a lot whilst still very young but I supported my mum who brought my brother and I up more or less on her own when my parents divorced, so I had to be responsible,” said Jamie.
“The coaching started when I was 14 at Rutherford AFC because my brother and his friends were deemed not good enough for a team and thought we will prove them wrong so I started an under 10’s team. We had a lot of success over the years as a result of our attitude and I learned so much about how to get the best out of people. I became the youngest member of the senior management team at 16 years old, with my colleagues in their late 40s early 50s.
“When I was awarded the national young volunteer FA coaching award it was amazing to get to meet Geoff Hurst but it was the openness and words of Sir Trevor Brooking with his views on focusing on the development of people that inspired me.”
Neil heads up a 15 strong team of committed qualified sport trainers who are set to deliver government traineeships as part of their overall educational sports programme offering.
The Government backed Traineeships in Sport programme is a 10 to 15 week course targeted at any 16 to 24 year olds who wish to access the programme, including those not already in education or training (NEET). It’s designed to bridge the gap between education and apprenticeships or other FE or higher education qualifications. With many young people experiencing barriers to progression commonly outside of their control it can often lead to them dropping out of education entirely with responsibility landing on the state for the fallout.
Neil said: “We work with local authorities, schools, community groups anyone in fact who requires support for young people who may be on the wrong path and need to recalibrate. For them sport educational programmes are a fantastic way to engage, providing a level of focus that has perhaps been lost in the more traditional classroom setting.”
Sport Works is a social enterprise registered as a Community Interest Company which includes a national franchise operation. With its head office at The Core in the centre of Newcastle the company will shortly be rolling out the Traineeship model nationally.
19 year old Ashley Douglass from Brotton, near Saltburn, suffers from a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Despite this and partly thanks to the support Sport Works has given him he’s achieved a Level 1 Sport leadership award which provides basic skills and experiences in leadership taught in a sporting context.
Although he has always been interested in sport he finds interacting with people frustrating and sometimes has trouble reading people’s expressions and reactions. This made the transition from primary to secondary school especially difficult for him and at the age of 12 he experienced outbursts of anger and impulsiveness and became uninterested in his studies.
Ashley began training with Sport Works when they conducted a taster session at his school, KTS Academy in Brotton. He said: “I first heard about Sport Works when they came into my school and did some drills and exercises with us. They talked to us about the training they do and I thought it would be a good way to meet new people and make friends that like the same things that I do. Sometimes I find it hard to talk to new people and playing a sport helps me to open up and get involved.
“I’ve always loved playing football and basketball and it’s good to be able to learn other skills, like leading people and teamwork, doing something that I enjoy. The training was fun and even though we were learning things it wasn’t the same as sitting in a classroom all the time, it was very hands on which made me interested in what I was doing.
“Completing my qualification has given me hope that I can have a career in sports and inspired me to work harder in school. Once I’d been training with Sport Works for a while it was great to work with the younger kids and have them look up to you as a role model. I really liked being able to show them the things that I’ve learned and pass on the skills that we’d been talking about in training.
“Sport Works were really supportive and working with them has made it easier for me to interact with other people and I find it easier to talk to people I don’t know. They helped me to deal with my outbursts and turn them into something positive.”
Ashley has now left school and is pursuing a career in sports coaching and fitness.
Poppy Hutchings – a sport coach and volunteer
From Seaton Carew near Hartlepool, Poppy Hutchings, 23, went to Sacred Hearts School, then Hartlepool Sixth Form College, and then in the third year of her Teesside University sport and applied exercise science degree one of her modules required volunteering.
“Sport Works helped me deliver the 50 hours of sport volunteering I needed to complete my degree,” she said.
“I’ve always wanted to coach in sport and Sport Works helped me to progress in that direction by allowing me to help deliver sport classes.”
Poppy helped deliver the short breaks programme for families caring for children with disability; responsible for children with Down’s syndrome, autism from across the spectrum (from slight awkward social interaction, right through to an inability to speak), to those with other physical disabilities who were confined to a wheel chair.
“Like most people who’ve never regularly spent time with people with disability I was worried about how to treat them and over thinking my own behaviour.
“The classes are diverse and had an age range of about four to 18 and had about 12 people in them.
“Initially I was very nervous, but I quickly realised, with the help of Jamie from Sport Works, that there was nothing to be frightened of. People with disability are just normal people that have to live life a little differently. I realised that you don’t treat them differently at all, the same coaching principles apply, just a normal bunch of kids who respond well to having fun, needing their confidence built up.”
Thanks to the experience she gained through Sport Works Poppy is now progressing to an area she always wanted to work in.
“I’ve always loved swimming and I’ve now moved into being a swimming teacher. I work with a swim school in Darlington called Swim Buddies that teaches children to swim and also has access for children with disabilities to learn at their own pace.”