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BIGKID Foundation & Street Soccer London Support Underserved Communities in London

Beyond Sport x Under Armour Participant Spotlight

July 7, 2023 

Beyond Sport recently announced an exciting new partnership with Under Armour on a point of purchase campaign to help support non-profit organisations across the UK and Europe that are using sport to inspire and teach valuable life lessons to youth – particularly those that are consistently underserved, excluded or economically disadvantaged.

The #SportForSocialChange campaign kicked off in Under Armour retail stores in the UK and this month we are highlighting the eight participating charties which are collectively reaching thousands of youth. Today, meet London-based BIGKID Foundation, which is helping youth at risk of social exclusion and violence take control of their lives and Street Soccer London, which is creating safe environments to empower people who are socially excluded and isolated. 

According to Youth Sport Trust, children from low-income backgrounds are far less confident in taking up sport and being physically active. Additionally, a Sport England survey found that people in lower socio-economic groups are more likely to be inactive. There are a number of contributing factors for young people in Central London that deter them from participating in sports. These include financial strain, limited access and availability of sports programs as well as succumbing to negative influences such as gangs.

BIGKID Foundation 

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Since 2008, BIGKID Foundation has been on a mission to end youth violence through sport. It works with over 2,500 young people annually and firmly believes that behind every KID is something BIG. Through community engagement and sports sessions including football, American flag football, basketball and tennis, plus music, creative arts and more, the charity creates opportunities and equips young people in Central London with the tools and skills to take control of their lives and find, develop and act on their own true potential. 

“Our delivery of sport is built on the premise that it is a fantastic tool for engaging the hard-to-reach, those who others may have given up on... We build a family around our young people, creating an environment where strong friendships are forged and achievements celebrated so that they feel a sense of belonging and build confidence and self-esteem,” said Kathy Silenga, Head of Development. 

Silenga shared that the top challenges facing youth in the region are the nation's cost-of-living crisis, racial inequities, the lasting impacts of the pandemic on education, employment prospects and mental and physical health as well as the lack of free or low-cost youth services. BIGKID tackles this by providing access to counselling or mentoring where needed and creative and youth-led activities that give young people a purpose and voice in their community. It also provides training and employment opportunities as well as pathways within the organisation to volunteer and eventually become paid staff.

“COVID was a setback. I felt like I didn’t grow up. I was locked inside. I didn’t get to experience that period of my life properly. It made me feel like I wasn’t able to do certain things like excel in football. I’d lost hope and started slacking in my schoolwork,” shared a participant. “BIGKID definitely helped me through that time. If I hadn’t found them, I feel like I’d be clueless. I wouldn’t say I would be on the streets, but I wouldn’t be so serious about my education. I’d probably be causing havoc. My behaviour wasn’t the best. Since coming to BIGKID, I’ve become more confident in myself. I feel I can make decisions for myself, I’m more independent.”

As Silenga explained, the organisation works to engage those who others may have given up on. Participants train and learn new skills while also developing key life skills such as teamwork, communication and leadership. And with staff and coaches acting as informal mentors, the true aim is to build relationships and trust so that young people feel able to share any issues they may be facing. "We build a family around our young people, creating an environment where strong friendships are forged and achievements celebrated, so that they feel a strong sense of belonging, build confidence and self-esteem."

With funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour in-store campaign and seed funding provided by the retailer, BIGKID will support its sports engagement programme, specifically its football and futsal sessions in Stockwell. The organisation had lost touch with its community and young people in Stockwell due to the pandemic and closure of its pitch.

“Larkhall, Stockwell is an area of significant need, situated within an area amongst the 20% most deprived in the country. Since re-starting football sessions in Larkhall (summer 2022), we have reconnected with many of these young people, also many new ones. Funding will enable us to both sustain and build in this area with after-school sessions in local schools,” said Silenga.

"We are so excited to have been selected to be a part of Beyond Sport and Under Armour's new retail donation campaign. Joining our mission to end youth violence, the support will help us engage more young people in sport across London; boosting physical activity and improving skills at the same time as providing a safe space where young people can build confidence; develop life skills; make new friends; find, develop and act on their own potential."

Street Soccer London 

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Street Soccer London works to empower people affected by social exclusion and isolation by creating safe supportive environments, free from judgement. The organisation is creating hope and opportunity for all through free community football sessions and personal development, using the sport as the engagement hook. It supports its participants through specialist services and emotional support, working individually and in small groups to develop resilience, improve mental health and tackle life issues. 

The top challenges faced by the young people Street Soccer London engages are poverty, lack of opportunity and exclusion. From these arise other challenges such as gang-related crime, street violence, exclusion from school and adverse mental health. The charity uses sport as a touchpoint for 11 to 18-year-olds experiencing these challenges. Through football, it teaches young people about consent, communication, anger management, resilience, time management and peer support, among other things, all of which positively impact their growth and development. 

Weekly sessions last for a couple of hours and offer a safe, friendly environment for players to enjoy a kick-about, get some exercise and meet new people. They are led by experienced, approachable and trusted football coaches who look to offer help and support to players rather than a figure of authority. Alongside football sessions, the organisation offers players greater access to opportunities related to education, training and personal development, building key partnerships with local organisations, charities and providers.

“By its very nature, football brings people together and can help break down barriers. We see social exclusion in a number of different ways – through exclusion from school, criminal justice, players with refugee status, and gang culture. Sport in an inclusive and safe space like our sessions integrates people from these groups, allows them to access opportunities, and builds community which directly challenges exclusion,” explains Sophie Hill, Grants and Trusts Manager. 

Hill added that team sports and group physical activity have been proven to have positive impacts on individuals’ mental health and on trauma, as well as reducing feelings of isolation. Street Soccer London believes that its combination of a safe space and a relational approach within a sporting environment increases the positive impacts sport is able to have on its participants. "Sport also breaks down barriers. For us, sport helps to integrate young people from different schools, regions and backgrounds, bringing them together in a positive environment."

One of the key elements of its sessions is to help address some of the harms of gang-related crime, racism and substance abuse through support networks. The organisation helps nurture and encourage these networks made up of players and trusted non-authoritative adults so that young people have a safe space to discuss their issues and support in navigating difficult challenges. 

“Street Soccer has given me a dream, which has changed my world. By focusing on the small things and building up confidence, they’ve let me believe that I can change the world and I know that they are having a great impact on everyone else too,” shared participant Jose

The funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour partnership will support the organisation's off-pitch activities and access for its players, allowing the charity to provide food and more sports kits to help engage more underserved youth in the community. 

Learn more about the incredible organisations we're working to support in the UK HERE. Please consider visiting your local Under Armour store in Birmingham, London, Manchester, Liverpool and York in England and Edinburgh in Scotland to support #SportforSocialChange!


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