Behind Every Kick is our exciting new pilot project based in London and Hertfordshire. It brings together competitive football with a creative and exciting ‘off the pitch’ syllabus, incorporating resilience-building, time management skills, and the development of key character traits such as ambition, commitment and discipline.

Communications Manager Kate Bermingham spoke to Behind Every Kick founder David Pollock to find out more…

Kate: How did you come up with the concept for Behind Every Kick?

David: I have always been passionate about football. Over the years, I realised that the skills I learnt through playing the game were having a positive impact on the rest of my life. I think these skills, such as discipline, mental steadiness and teamwork can be incredibly useful at school, in the workplace and in our communities. I felt strongly that young people should have the opportunity to develop these skills, through football and other activities, to help them manage the transition from teenager to young adult.

A couple of years ago, I began to draw on my own experience of building successful businesses, my knowledge of the Hackney area, and my involved in non-professional football as a player, coach, manager and football club chairman. This knowledge helped me to design the concept for Behind Every Kick, with advice from several dedicated and talented partners. My aim was to make a real difference to the lives of boys (and hopefully, in the future, girls) as they make the transition to adulthood.

Arsenal legend Denis Bergkamp once said: ‘behind every kick is a thought…’ My hope is that every player who takes part in the Behind Every Kick project can enhance their personal development through the game itself and the ‘off the pitch’ syllabus. To me, football seems to be an obvious hook to engage young people and encourage them to be confident and ambitious with their education, their career and their ability to make a positive contribution in their communities.

I’d like to thank a few people who helped me turn this vision into reality. Firstly, management consultancy Lane 4 have provided excellent advice on how we can develop our ‘off the pitch’ syllabus to maximise every opportunity for the young people to grow and develop. Secondly, it’s been a privilege to work with your colleagues at Volunteering Matters. Their enthusiasm and expertise has ensured that this project can offer the best possible experience for the young people and their volunteer mentors.

Thirdly, Sporting Hackney FC have been fantastic. I’m very pleased that the Behind Every Kick teams can play for such a well-established and reputable Hackney club. I always wanted this project to be rooted in community engagement. I’m sure that the players will be proud to wear their Sporting Hackney FC badges, and hope that the club will be able to retain them as players beyond their teenage years. I’m also pleased that we can promote Sporting Hackney FC’s commitment to youth football through this project.

I’d like to thank the Badu Sports coaches. These guys are well placed to pass on their knowledge as committed and skilled footballers themselves, who embody the key skills of resilience, determination and team spirit. Finally, I’d also like to thank creative agency Don’t Panic: their thoughtful input has been hugely valuable, they are definitely my ‘right brain’! Finally, I’d like to thank City Academy Hackney for hosting our training and classroom sessions and working with all the partners in a collaborative way.

Kate: Tell me more about the mentoring aspect of the project.

David: Mentoring has certainly become a ‘buzz word’ over the past decade. I realise it means different things to different people, and am aware that the concept has been ‘professionalised’ in recent years. From my perspective, giving a young person the opportunity to be carefully matched with an older mentor, who can offer their time and the benefit of their wisdom and experience, is enormously valuable.

The mentoring relationship enables the young person to identify and work towards their goals with the structured support of a senior mentor. The mentoring really helps to embed the learning from the Behind Every Kick syllabus, and maximises the potential for the young person to use these skills on and off the football pitch to develop as a person and realise their potential.

I also think it’s important that the young people can view their mentors as positive role models who give up their time to mentor young people in their community. This is an important message about the power of volunteering and I hope that it will encourage the young players to seek out volunteer roles themselves. We will certainly be encouraging our Behind Every Kick alumni to become peer mentors to the next cohort of young people, so they will have the opportunity to experience the project again and give something positive back to their local community.

Kate: How do you see this project progressing in the future?

David: I would like to think, with my visionary hat on, that the world is our oyster! I certainly want Behind Every Kick to grow, and we are doing some strategic thinking to work out how, where and what that might look like. I certainly would like to think that we can expand our reach and offer opportunities for girls and young disabled people to participate.

Being able to demonstrate the impact we are making to individuals and the broader community is going to be key here. However, with my team, I’m confident that we will have learnt some fantastic lessons from the pilot to propel us forward. So, please watch this space!