As part of 21 Days of Positivity, Ben Rosser, Operations Director of The Pythian Club, reveals how positive coaching can help young people from inner cities turn their lives around.
Football is proven to bring people together and make a difference to people’s lives, on and off the pitch. I set up The Pythian Club to help young people who are going down the wrong pathway, to give them something positive.
I got into coaching while I was still a police officer in Nottinghamshire. I’ve always had an interest in coaching and taking my level 1 coaching course inspired me to set up the club when I left the police force.
The Pythion Club is 3.5 years old now. We have players predominantly from areas of low income facing issues with crime and anti-social behaviour. Many of these young people are disengaged from society.
Our aim is to use football to build role models and leaders so they can help other young people going through similar situations and help them see they do have other opportunities.
It’s more than a 9-5 job! It’s not limited to football sessions. I’m not ‘just’ a coach, but I’m also a father, brother and friend to the players, this job is who I am rather than what I do, it consumes every day, every minute, every hour. They’ve all got my number and can reach me at any time – that’s what makes us different from other clubs. I find the main part of my job is outside football, it’s about life coaching as well as football coaching.
What I've learned about coaching young people from inner cities
Strong communication. It sounds obvious but as a coach you have to be able to communicate with people effectively across different cultures, genders and ages. From a player’s perspective, you have to be able to speak with them at a level they can understand and trust you.
Building trust. You do have to earn trust. When I tell my players they can contact me at any time, and when they call me I am available and spend time listening and helping them, they start to trust me. It’s so important to do what you say you’ll do. To effectively coach inner city young people you need to be believable, to have some shared experiences with them so they can see you know what you’re talking about – not just from a coaching perspective - that goes without saying - but from a life- skills perspective.
Sharing relevant experience. Many young black people can be wary of authority figures. This can affect how they react to being coached as they might have issues with authority or discipline. A coach needs to understand the dynamics and context of the player’s behaviour and work with it, not against it.
Creating role models. Lots of young people in this situation think they have limited opportunities other than crime. We get them into the mind-set of feeling more worthy and valued and instil confidence to help them see they can be a role model for other young people. We encourage our players to become coaches. We run an academy to help provide sustainable opportunities for young people. Through offering them a coaching pathway it encourages self-worth and they become a role model to other young people in similar situations. What better example than someone who has been on the streets selling drugs a few months ago and is now healthy, with a career and self-worth, coaching football and showing other young people they can do the same? It’s priceless.
Great teams. Building a great team around you is key. Our team of volunteers and professional coaches are the reason we’re here. The Pythian Club is a great team effort.
New initiatives. We can’t stand still, we’re continually finding unique and innovative ways to engage young people, either through football or beyond. Our sports academy offers boxing, Multiskills and other sports. Knife crime’s getting worse, so we created Double-Edge, a performance that addresses the impact and consequences of knife crime as well as focusing on education and the Law. The police, other young people and the community in general can see the positive impact of it and it’s already starting to help people have the right conversations and start to tackle it.