My journey with Street Soccer Academy started started about a year ago on a cold September evening I was invited to hear a presentation about the charity. Having listened to the presentation I was intrigued by the football aspect of their work I so I gladly attended the Regional Centre in Accrington as I felt I had nothing to lose.
I was a bit nervous at first as I didn’t play much football at that time. I was under the impression that this was some sort of academy, therefore aimed at performance, but I was completely wrong. It only took minutes to settle in, as if I belonged here because of how warm and welcoming everyone was. I was greeted by several friendly individuals and to be frank I couldn’t tell the difference between staff members or service users beside the kit that they were wearing.
Since that first session I decided to engage with Street Soccer Academy week-in week-out. I looked forward to new challenges, meeting new people and most of all enjoying myself which boosted my confidence to another level. I understood how hard it can be for someone to come out of their comfort zone , how every individual can struggle with obstacles in life or how challenging day to day life can be .
I felt obliged to do what I can to help others at the Regional Centre therefore joined the Coach Education Programme which lasted for 10 weeks. I managed to complete most modules even though I felt I lacked the football knowledge however that didn’t matter with my new gained confidence I was able to conquer my fears.
After a few weeks I was asked whether I wanted to do another CEP but this time as a Mentor. I was flattered to be thought of as a supportive figure and it was about the right time for another challenge. This enabled me to improve my communication skills, timekeeping and in general taking more responsibility. The CEP was a great success I was given more responsibility in the Regional Centre such as warm ups. I was also allowed to take part other community events on behalf of Community Solutions who partner with SSA in the delivery of SSA Accrington.
One evening I was called into the my regional manager’s office for a review only to be told that I was being put forward to do my FA level 1 Coaching Badge This was a proud moment for me and one that a few months ago I would have never seen myself doing. I allowed to take warm-up and technical sessions at my regional centre to help me prepare for taking the FA course and exactly a year later I gained my FA Level 1 with ease due to the support frame around me
For me SSA is not just about a football session. It can be the break that you need when you are having a bad week, or it can be that person you need to talk to when the world shuts you out. Sometimes it can be that smile that gives you hope to carry on , or the applause when everyone else makes you feel worthless. For me SSA is that fresh breath of air when you feel like you are stuck in your surroundings. It helps shape you as an individual and encourages you to pursue your ambitions even when you feel your are in the margins of society.
I will continue to be part of SSA as a volunteer and grant others the same support that has been given to me before retiring the number 19 shirt of course.
Thank you for taking your time to read my journey at SSA.
To read about Street Soccer Academy’s approach to helping people with complex & multiple needs check out their Annual Report by clicking here.