Guest Blog: Liam Jenkins, County in the Community
My name is Liam Jenkins, I am 24 and I am the Premier League Kicks co-ordinator for Newport County’s charitable trust, County in the Community.
County in the Community was set up when Newport County entered the Football League in 2013 as every club in the league is required to have a charitable trust that gives back to the community. It aims to encourage people of all ages across South East Wales to participate in football and physical activity, promoting health and wellbeing.
Premier League Kicks is the Premier League’s flagship programme that aims to inspire young people aged eight to 18 in high-need areas. By engaging with children and young people at a crucial time in their lives we hope to steer them away from becoming involved in crime and antisocial behaviour. We do this through a mix of targeted work with local partners and delivering drop-in sessions in the evenings. Thanks to the funding we receive from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner we have been able to expand the project and are now running sessions in the Ringland area of Newport where I grew up.
A typical session for us is usually a competitive football session but we always give the young people a choice of a few different sports such as dodgeball, basketball, or hockey to keep them interested. We have a few rules that you have to stick to if you play with us. There is no swearing, no smoking during the session, and everyone has to treat each other with respect. During the sessions we talk to young people about the issues they are facing and we try to help them to understand the damage that antisocial behaviour and crime can do to others in their community.
We have been fortunate to take young people to some of the big home games, such the Newport County and Manchester City match, and those who are committed have the opportunity to represent the county in matches against other Premier League Kicks teams. It helps them to understand what they can achieve when they really apply themselves.
The last year has been a difficult one but we have kept working and doing what we can to keep young people engaged. We delivered football kit and activity packs to people’s homes to keep them active during lockdown and encouraged them to take part in online challenges to stay motivated. We have also run online quizzes, football tournaments, and arranged calls for the young people to speak to some of Newport County’s top players such as Matty Dolan and Mickey Demetriou. Thankfully, now that lockdown restrictions have eased, we are back out in the community again.
We are not the police. We are not teachers. We talk to the young people on their level and for many of them this will be the only positive part of their day. We hope that by engaging with them and offering them the opportunity to channel their energy into sporting activities we can help young people to make positive decisions in their lives that will benefit them for many years to come.