I understand the integral part exercise plays in the wellbeing of young people and the challenge we face to overcome the shocking obesity problem here in Southwark. With this in mind I set out to provide a fully accessible sports program that would be made up of exciting sport tasters as well as more specialized coaching clubs. Football, tennis, dance, cricket, table tennis are some of the more traditional sports we provide for young people here at The Salmon Youth Centre.
Although not all of our sports are the traditional sports you would expect to find in a youth club, we have wheel chair basketball, an adventure ropes course, trampolining, and climbing wall these activities provide an alternative healthy activity for those young people who are generally not interested in traditional team sports, because of levels of physical dexterity and general fitness levels. These sports provide the opportunity and space for key one-to-one conversations with young people. I have seen this type of youth work to be particularly effective because it is accessible to all abilities and requires different types of skill and mental ability from traditional sports, with some quick/straightforward gains in terms of achievements and outcomes.
Trampoline club is a really good example of this. I have been working with a young girl called Kylie who attends regularly. She is often full of energy finding it difficult to follow instructions, and enjoys the attention of her peers in a negative way. She was excluded from school and is now attending a pupil referral unit.
Although she has difficult behaviours, I wanted to take some time to make sure that she felt a part of the club and that she got the attention she craved. I would purposefully build her up affirming good behaviours and good skills on the trampoline. She would often stay behind at the end of the club to chat to me and help put the trampoline away. After four weeks she asked me why I would always take time to talk to her and why am I so nice to her to her when she is so bad. One evening after trampoline club, she asked to talk and said there was something really important she wanted to tell me. She revealed some abuse that had occurred in her early childhood and how this impacts her behaviour now. We spent along time talking and she asked if I would mind mentoring her.
Our mentoring sessions have been so rewarding for me and something I find an absolute privilege. I recommended Kylie see a counselor and at first she was dead against it although after some gentle persuasion she is now meeting her counselor weekly and benefiting from this. Her behavior is still not great at trampoline club and she still craves attention but with regular mentoring I have seen small positive changes in behavior. These are small steps in a great big journey for Kylie and our job as youth workers is to love these young people when the rest of their world has given up on them, to give them hope when the rest of their world tells them there is no hope and to support them regularly as they transition into adulthood.