It’s that time of year when we all like nothing better than to curl up in front of the TV and watch a good ‘rags to riches’ movie, with a feel-good ending. This year, Street Soccer Academy has it’s own tale to tell, with the announcement that Lee Wilcock has joined our full-time staff, with effect from 1st January, as Lancashire Area Manager. Lee initially engaged with SSA as a service user, signing up for our Coach Education and Development Programme in Accrington a few years back. The journey Lee has experienced with us has been nothing but miraculous and below is a short passage written by Lee’s Coach Educator and mentor, Anthony Smith, which tells of the highs and lows of Lee’s time with us. My hope is that in reading this article you will be encouraged by the Lee’s testimony and by the fact that regardless of the circumstances you may find yourself in, your life can be turned around by making good decisions and surrounding yourself with people ho will champion you at every turn.
Lee engaged with our first Accrington Street Soccer Academy CEP programme back in 2012. He was indeed a broken man coming to us with many needs relating to a very complicated family breakdown. On joining us Lee had just finished work due to the stress caused personally and was at the time trying to complete a college course in joinery.
I explained to Lee about our Coach Education & Personal Development Programme that was being delivered at Accrington & Rossendale college on a two-day a week basis for ten weeks. I explained to Lee that if he was successful in completing the programme and applied all the principles it could change his life. The course we offer is an incredible opportunity for the individuals to not only learn about practical football coaching elements but also about how the theory elements for coaching delivered in the classroom session can be applied on and off a pitch to challenge their thought processes.
Throughout the course Lee never missed a session and was making the most of the support that was available to him both on and off the pitch. Football coaching was never in really in Lee’s plans for his future but after completing both aspects of the course theory and practical, a plan of action for future developments was becoming evident. Before the course Lee was little impatient, wanting everything to happen straight away, which would often lead to frustration and maybe lead him to approach things in the wrong way. This would often cause Lee to put up barriers to avoid getting hurt, but through applying key units delivered in the our programmes such as Action planning and Effective Communication Lee started to achieve more positive outcomes which not only built his self esteem but also saw barriers come down with opportunities and a future becoming more tangible.
After ee completed the course I then offered him the opportunity to come on the next ten-week course as a mentor to the next group of lads which again he thrived in, as well as growing in confidence. On completing his mentor role it was evident here was a guy that needed a break in life and after being in our positive environment for almost a year we got him funding to complete an FA Level one in Football Coaching, which he passed with flying colours.
This qualification lead to a part time job in coaching children at the weekends. A job which Lee is very proud of. It builds his confidence every week and also massively increases his health and wellbeing through being active.Lee also sought volunteering work with a local partner agency in a great environment whilst looking to gain full time employment in coaching ideally. Applying himself so well in volunteering he was soon offered a part time job which he took. Lee exited our programme 18months ago as a service user and straight away came back into us as a volunteer. He regularly attends our Accrington and Preston centres to gain valuable work experience in different coaching environments as well as being a great example to the lads of where you can be if you engage with the support that’s available.
The pieces are falling into place for Lee now he has implemented a realistic action plan and no bigger piece to fall in place because of this was the custody of his daughter which took around 3 years to clear up.
Over the time Lee has been with us there has been a lot of highs but thankfully during his darkest days we have been able to be there for him with a calming influence all be it on the phone or in person.
LW wrote “Street soccer has taken me from a dark place where no one could help me. It has built my confidence up from rock bottom and helped me gain employment and qualifications. I have gained a lot of experience and am now able to help support other people who find themselves isolated by circumstances they face”
Anthony Smith, SSA Coach Educator
The next chapter of Lee’s story was concluded in Accrington, yesterday lunchtime, when it was my pleasure to be present as Lee signed a full-time contract to become Street Soccer Academy’s Lancashire Area Manager. We are looking forward to working with Lee and to tapping into the wealth of experience he has to offer and to use this in supporting isolated individuals in our Lancashire region. Lee’s story is one that gives me great encouragement as it demonstrates what an individual can achieve when they are willing to accept the help offered to them and make a conscious decision to make positive changes in their life. One of the very first times I met Lee he told me that one day he would work for SSA and he would often remind me that the day was fast approaching. I am delighted that we have been able to fulfil Lee’s dream and more importantly, add a very dedicated and caring individual to our ranks in Lancashire.