CELEBRATING A UNIQUE 10-YEAR PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN ARSENAL IN THE COMMUNITY & ISLINGTON HOUSING we take a look at one of the coaches working on the front line.
Tony David (TD) is a founder member of the National Children’s Football Alliance. His knowledge, understanding and enthusiasm for football in the community has helped Arsenal Community win awards from organisations like the International Children’s Football Alliance partners, Football is More. In his capacity at Arsenal’s Positive Futures Community Coach he has help deliver the Family Skills Project with partners NCFA and Family Lives. He has worked with Ernie Brennan, Director, NCFA for many years providing Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football events in North London and Kent. Tony provides a candid profile of very modest football coach which defines many unsung heroes working in challenging environments.
TD. We started engaging young people in January 2004 in notorious anti-social hotspot areas in Islington, based on a government initiative called Positive Futures along with partnership with Islington council. The age range varied from 8 – 19 years and informal football sessions are the main activity to engage them. The venue is normally a kick about area on their estate where travel is limited to just a short walk. We would organise friendly matches, tournaments, educational workshops and trips to keep the interest there and then try and work with different agencies for an exit route strategy and outcome. We have witnessed many success stories often with some challenging young people.
As an Arsenal Community Football Coach I would describe my job / role as a combination between youth worker, football coach and mentor. We are often referred to as role models which I think benefits the youngsters when they first meet us and start to engage in the activities we facilitate.
I believe our role in the community is important we have many young people in Islington who love Arsenal but can stray slightly in life. We are here with another option, rather than the boys getting into anti-social behaviour we give them a chance to make new friends, improve in football, chance for a healthier lifestyle and perhaps help with their future choices.
The biggest challenges in this job are probably the usual things like ‘a lot of red tape’ trying to help young people with criminal records and not being able to progress due to restrictions. Young people themselves who reach so far and then fall back into trouble and reoffend. Like any profession you need to keep focused on the job in hand and respect the clear boundaries in everyday life.
The football sessions are in their backyard so it helps the area when more and more participants join up and stay away from anti-social behaviour. We don’t claim to reduce all crime in Islington but we along with local partners and agencies try to do something that makes the participants think a little more about getting involved. The sessions also help them with their football ability, coordination, communication, discipline and understanding of the game. It gives them some much needed respite from the rigors of day to day life. Regular matches and tournaments help them mix with youngsters in different parts of Islington where post code wars exist, which is a positive!
We deliver free football sessions two evenings per week on these estates: Market, N7; Girdlestone, N19; Highbury Quadrant, N5; Andover, N7; McCall and Hollins, N7; King Square, EC1; Finsbury, EC1; Crouch Hall Court, N7; New Orleans, N19; Harvist, N7, For more information email Tony David: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7704 4155.