Stuart Long, December One in a Million

The pressures on young people today are enormous and sometimes they can take a course of action or turn to the wrong people for support and end up in some form of trouble. Our December One in a Million is there ready to help these young people as a Coach to an organisation called ‘Achievement through Football’ (ATF).

The organisation works with young people at risk of exclusion to move them away from anti-social behaviour and provide a safe environment, increased opportunity and enhanced wellbeing. Their training isn’t limited to football and includes other sports and activities. ATF staff include are far more than just coaches and offer mentoring and counselling too.

The project works with councils, schools and the probation service to help young people involved in the criminal justice system and those excluded from mainstream education. Outcomes range from a fall in anti-social behaviour, a rise in volunteering, a better understanding of community needs and improved employability skills.

Stuart said: “We work in some of the most deprived areas of the county and we’ve got single parents who find it difficult just getting by, let alone exercising or sport, which doesn’t really come on their agenda. We’re trying to engage with them and provide fun multi-sport activities and childcare at the same time, just to provide them with some positive headspace. We’re also building community relationships with parents within the Roma community, after slowly building trust with their children over time. Achieving success on both these fronts will be amazing.”

Earlier this year a regular ATF member was tragically stabbed to death. Stuart said: “The club was really shocked. A lot of the young people who attend ATF were deeply affected by this incident and found it difficult to make sense of such a loss. Both staff and young people pulled together and supported family and friends. We organised a tournament and charity match, proceeds of which reduced the financial burden on the family. The events helped in a small way, to allow individuals to begin to process their grief and were an important focus in such a difficult time, when emotions were running so high.”

Now, over 200 youngsters receive support through football, mentoring and counselling services. Relationships based on trust have been developed in Southend, Basildon, Rochford and Castle Point, as the ATF gains momentum.