Centrepoint Sport, using sport to heal and connect

| Azad Sharma

With the World Cup a not too distant memory and last weekend marking the beginning of the new Premier League season: the ‘beautiful game’ continues to endure, excite and bring people together. Football is no longer just a sport, it can be a vehicle for healing and connecting.

Although England’s endeavours in the World Cup didn’t bring football home, we’ve been learning about how Centrepoint Sport is using football as a means to help young people experiencing homelessness to find a pathway to a home and a job.

What they do

Centrepoint Sport work with young people aged 16 to 24 years old who are experiencing social exclusion and/or homelessness. Their overall aim is to help young people find security through helping them find work and a home.

They use sport as an ice breaker to encourage young people to connect to each other and integrate. Together with The Street Football Association, they have developed a multi-sport curriculum which brings together physical fitness, education, life-skills, and employment opportunities. Centrepoint Sport focus on Street Football, a unique fast-paced and technical seven-a-side version of the game. Alongside this, they provide structured eight week programmes that help young people develop soft skills in terms of communication, networking and community formation. And they work with big football clubs such as Arsenal and Chelsea to provide positive opportunities such as employment or training.

Our favourite things about Centrepoint Sport are:

  • Their programmes are driven by these key themes: Respect, Awareness, Control, Resilience, Perspective, Responsibility, Teamwork, and Relationships.
  • They have a collection of cool rules that guides what they do. One of these is that staff, volunteers and young people all wear the same kit so that equality amongst the group becomes the touchstone for all their work.
  • They invite participants from past groups to volunteer as welfare coaches to support other young people.
  • Their training programmes and work are informed by the experiences of the young people they are helping. Through what Centrepoint Sport call a ‘participation loop’ young people reflect on their work and help modify and build it for the next group.
  • The atmosphere at their Community Hub. Everyone in the Hub, the young people, the trainers, coaches, and volunteers wanted to help: and they wanted to help because they truly believed in the people they were helping.

Who do they work with?

Aside from Premier League football clubs, Centrepoint Sport isn’t all about football. For those who are interested in other sports or want to focus on their fitness, there are a wide variety of activities available at their base in the Black Prince Community Hub. These include boxing with Fight for Change, Gym exercise with The Foundry, Basketball or Football.

Regardless of the sport, at each session young people are taught about trust and respect. Young people who have felt isolated, build a sense of camaraderie through sport which helps them develop the soft social skills to help them foster important connections, create community, and make lasting friendships.

Centrepoint trips

Another great feature of Centrepoint Sport’s programmes are that young people are guaranteed at least one international trip if they play in the football team. Earlier this year whilst the Russia World Cup was under way, Street Child United held their own World Cup in Moscow. Centrepoint Sport took a group out there to play street football.

They’ve also taken groups to Futbol de Rua in Braga, Portugal to work in partnership with Cais magazine and to the European Street Football Festival in Graz, Austria which is funded by Erasmus+. Perhaps the biggest tournament as far as Street Football is concerned is the Homeless World Cup which takes place later this year in November, in Mexico City.

Mainstream sports are often in their nature divisive: there are winners and losers. But at a deeper level organisations like Centrepoint Sport recognise something integral to sport as an activity that builds community and confidence. Giving young people a chance to move forward in their lives, to take care of themselves both physically and mentally, whilst providing a pathway to a home and a job: that’s what makes the game truly beautiful.

Photo by Fachry Zella Devandra

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