Michael Russel, Youth Engagement Officer with the Positive Youth Foundation was last week called up to the Irish Rugby team senior squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.
The tournament, which will be held in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and will be the fifteenth staging of the Rugby League World Cup and Mikey will feature in the Irish squad as a travelling reserve.
Michael, or ‘Mikey’, as he’s known by our young people, regularly leads sessions at the Positive Youth Foundation and has become a valued member of the team. Mikey also plays professional rugby with local rugby team, Coventry Bears, joining them from Irish Domestic League team Barnhall Butchers in 2016.
Having previously represented Ireland at Under-19 level, ‘A’ team and as part of the senior team during World Cup qualifying, Mikey already has experience on the international stage.
Before setting out to join the Irish team in Dubai, Mikey took part in a workshop at Blue Coat school, leading a session for a group of pupils and sharing his top rugby tips. During the session, the pupils questioned Mikey about all aspects of professional rugby and his experiences with the Irish national team.
As part of the session, Mikey worked 1-on-1 with the pupils, teaching them how to kick, throw and tackle as they do in Rugby League.
As Mikey ventures onto the world stage at the Rugby League World Cup, we couldn’t be prouder of him and we wish both Mikey and the Irish squad all the luck of the Irish!
On Monday 31st July, a group of young people from the Positive Youth Foundation attended a football tournament at the ‘Home of Football’, St. Georges Park.
The members of the team were selected to represent PYF after a gruelling four-week tournament in which multiple teams battled it out to be crowned winners and earn a chance to represent PYF at St. Georges Park.
The selected team made their way to St. Georges Park ready to take on a number of teams from around the country.
On arrival, our team were given a tour of the National Football Centre, walking through the England team’s dressing room, taking part in a workout in the gym and best of all, taking to the pitch for the first time.
The team started their journey by playing against West Brom, drawing 1-1 after a tense affair. Next up, we took on Team Charlie (UP Foundation) and played a blistering game, winning 4-1. Lastly, our team took on Birmingham City, playing bravely but ultimately it wasn’t our day as we lost 1-0.
However, that wasn’t the end of our journey, finishing second in our group we moved into the quarter finals, ready to take on a team from Burton Albion. After an inspired performance, the PYF team won 2-0, moving them a step closer to the final with a game against Solihull Moores up next. After a tense game where both sides challenged but couldn’t find the back of the net, the result came down to sudden-death penalties.
Sadly, this was where our journey ended, with Solihull Moores advancing into the final to face off against Birmingham City.
Health and Sports Programme Co-ordinator Cormac Whelan said “The lads are gutted not to get through to the final but they had a fantastic day playing at St. Georges Park and scoring some absolute wonder goals. They’re a fantastic credit to PYF and to the city of Coventry, the tournament was an opportunity for the young people to show their commitment as well as develop a range of skills beyond the physical elements of sport. We’re grateful to UP Foundation for inviting us to take part in the event, it has been a fantastic experience for our young people.”
On Monday 17th July, a group of staff members and young people from the Positive Youth Foundation attended the West Midlands Police Sports Awards in Birmingham. The event was to highlight the power of sport within communities, and how sport can become a catalyst for social change.
The Positive Youth Foundation have used sports programmes as a vehicle to remove barriers for young people to get involved in various different sports. Sports also allows for opportunities to create positive opportunities, develop role models and embed a feeling of local pride and involvement in their local community.
We were nominated for two awards on the night; the ‘Power of Sport’ and the ‘Project of the Year’ awards.
The ‘Power of Sport’ award looks to celebrate an individual who has made significant improvements in their life and has had a positive impact on others around them due to their participation in sport. As part of our focus on inclusion, we delivered a Sports Leadership qualification to a group of newly arrived Syrian young people in order to enhance their confidence whilst also providing them with their first UK qualification.
During the course of the qualifications delivery, we saw an outstanding amount of leadership, but none more so than in one family. For this family, 15 year-old Batoul and her two brothers, Mustafa and Abdullah, taking part in sport has proven to be a signification catalyst for development.
All three have since volunteered with us at PYF, leading sports sessions at our half-term programmes and even becoming ambassadors for other newly arrived young people in Coventry.
For our ‘Project of the Year’ nomination, in which we came 2nd, we spoke about our free holiday programme, which engages over 300 young people in a variety of free activities; including sport, music and arts.
Using sport as a catalyst, we focussed on using sport to develop volunteering opportunities, such as in the case of Batoul to develop their sense of belonging in their new communities. Providing newly arrived young people with positive experiences in sports has allowed a further 100 young people to move from targeted provision into open-access sessions.
Our Chairman, Dean Kavanagh, said “Using positive activities to create social change is something which we at PYF specialise in. These awards are testament to the power of community programmes and the impact that they have on young people’s lives. We are very proud of the achievements of the young people on our programmes. They have shown determination and incredible resilience to get to where they are. We thank our supporters for enabling these opportunities”
In recent years, the club have turned their focus towards developing their youth structure, aiming to get more young people into the sport. Through the clubs links with the Positive Youth Foundation, the organisations forged an exciting partnership to increase the amount of young people taking part in sports, both at St. Finbarrs and across the city.
Dean Kavanagh, Chairman of the Positive Youth Foundation said that the sponsorship represented an opportunity to embed the sport across Coventry.
“It’s fantastic to see Positive Youth Foundation collaborating closely with St Finbarrs, who play a key part in the development of Gaelic Football in Coventry and have been the heart and soul of the community for many decades,” said Dean.
Although Gaelic Football originated as a national Irish sport, it is wonderful to see how many young people from non-Irish backgrounds and cultures have taken to the game,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for our young people to continue developing their physical and social skills and keep active all year round. We our thoroughly looking forward to continuing this new partnership.”
Danny Coleman, Chairman of St. Finbarr’s, echoed the thoughts of Dean, noting that the partnership with the Positive Youth Foundation represents a chance to get more people involved in Gaelic Football.
“Our new relationship with the Positive Youth Foundation is exciting as we look to engage both families and young people to not only get involved in Gaelic Football but to also become part of the club and community as a whole,” he said.
There are several age groups for young people wanting to get involved in Gaelic Football, starting from under 8’s, which aims to introduce children as young as 6 to the game. Leagues and tournament settings are played every Saturday over the Summer months.
Every Monday a group of youngsters come to our dance session at Sidney Stringer school, many come for pure enjoyment, others come and use it as a form of exercise and way of keeping busy. However, one youngster by the name of Harvey Powell attends our session to improve his dancing skills, progress and move upwards along the career ladder.
Currently he is attending sessions alike to ours, but hopes in the near future to be able to help deliver similar sessions to the one he is currently attending and hopefully lead sessions just like his tutor somewhere down the line. ‘I want to be at a stage where I can lead and teach sessions like this myself’. When asked about our dance session he replied ‘I come to the session because the teachers are really good and helpful and they help me move forward with my dancing skills’.
Talking about the session, Harvey noted the variety of routines in the sessions, noting that ‘the dances are always different and very helpful, we have a set routine which we have to learn and then perform to each other’.
‘I come to the session because the teachers are really good and helpful and they help me move forward with my dancing skills’. – Harvey Powell
Harvey’s plans for the future are to go to college and study dance before doing a teaching degree and one day run dance sessions alike to those that he attends. He summarised the session as ‘a fun session where you get to meet new people as well as improve your social skills’ and if he had a choice of a specific routine he would like to do, he prefers the ‘sharp, dynamic routines’ in comparison to the hip hop, freestyle and street style routines.
If you are someone who is looking to get into dance, want to keep yourself busy on a Monday evening or even looking for a way to socialise and meet new people then the Positive Youth Foundation Dance Sessions are ideal for you every week from 5pm till 7pm.
Positive Youth Foundation took three youth teams on their first ever cricket tournament and for some it was their first ever competitive match, outside of their weekly session games. They were given the privilege of representing their city as an added bonus against city rivals Birmingham. The tournament was held at Joseph Chamberlain College, Birmingham and was divided into three tournaments based on ages, first one being primary school, second one being secondary school ages and the last one being sixth form students.
‘I can’t believe that he doesn’t play cricket regularly, he is so good’,
Aasim Aziz (Birmingham Chance to Shine Coach) asking about Muaaz Patel
We took two teams for the secondary school tournament and one for the primary. The primary tournament consisted of three teams including our very own, the format was every team played each other twice and then a final. Our youngsters won four out of four and the other two teams scrapped out for a place in the final by who had scored more runs in the tournament between them since they both only won one out of four. Going into the final we were firm favourites, even more so after we made 63, 30 more than the average score but unfortunately we lost in the last over. Likewise, with the secondary tournament we played a very strong Birmingham side in the final, requiring four runs to win and three to draw off the last delivery, we were only able to manage two runs. Losing by one.
However, the attitude, behaviour and passion on display from all Coventry teams was there for everyone to see, with most spectators including coaches from Birmingham being shocked that most of our players didn’t play cricket seriously nor did they see it as their first sport. Aasim Aziz (Birmingham Chance to Shine Coach) said ‘I can’t believe that he doesn’t play cricket regularly, he is so good’, when asked about Muaaz Patel (11) who later on in the week was awarded with a Positive Youth Foundation player of the tournament award for his outstanding contribution to the team as both a captain and participant as on more than one occasion he corrected and helped the umpires on field alter their decision even though it was at a disadvantage to his own team. This just one incident where the youngsters we took did us all proud. Ever since that tournament our numbers for our weekend cricket sessions that are completely free have increased steadily in the wake of their success and the potential for more silverware and the pride of representing your city in national and regional tournaments. The next tournament is in the April half term so if you’re willing to play in a fast, inclusive, tape ball cricket tournament and you’re between the ages of 8-18, then come on down to either our Saturday session at Sidney Stringer school from 1 till 2:30pm or alternatively the Sunday session at AT7 Centre also from 1 till 2:30pm
Our Friday evening basketball sessions are structured, inclusive and bring a sense of freedom to participants. These are just a few words Jamie Bunch from Coventry Solihull and Warwickshire Sport (CSW Sport) used to describe Positive Youth Foundation’s basketball session. CSW Sport is funded by Sport England and through its ‘Sportivate’ project, funds us to deliver sporting sessions, including our basketball session just to name one! Just last week, an examiner came to check the delivery of our session and gave us very positive feedback.
‘The Basketball session is a partnership approach between Positive Youth Foundation and Particip8. It is an informal recreational sports session, engaging young people of various faiths and from communities in and around CV1’.
This is just one sentence from Jamie’s review of our session in which he also lauded the balance and interaction our two coaches, Alex and Marian had. Furthermore, the ability for our sessions to keep youngsters away from trouble and crime is clearly evident even for someone attending our sessions for the first time like Jamie was. He continued to say ‘as a Friday tea time session it gives the young people a really good start to their weekend and a structured activity to attend. Thus most likely reducing ASB and giving positive activity’.
Following up on our positive report, we went to interview one of our basketball coaches, Marian Horvat, who lives in the local community and is fast progressing his journey at PYF. Beginning as a participant, he accepted an apprenticeship with PYF and is now a member of staff. We wanted to find out more about what happens behind the scenes at our Basketball session and to find out more about the man behind the (basket)ball!
Written by Usman Khan
Positive Youth Foundation runs a racquet sport session every Monday evening from 5pm till 7pm at Sidney Stringer Academy. The session is open to all abilities, ages and gender to participate in and liven up their first evening of the week. This week’s session did just that, aided by the brand new tennis court that was gifted by Tennis Foundation, becoming one of only ten organisations to have access to this court. The aim is to make tennis more accessible to everyone and break tennis stereotypes.
The session began with everyone getting involved in setting up the court, whether that was helping take out the court from the store cupboard, setting up the net or even taking the equipment out ready to get started as soon as the court was ready. The excitement and energy was clearly visible as before the court was rolled out, several participants had already reserved their spots, ensuring they don’t miss out on this one of a kind experience. Our sports coaches played a variety of games, from last man stands, doubles, triples and even an intense couple of rounds of foot-tennis which even got Community Support Officer, Naveen Madhas drawn into playing for some bragging rights and he lauded the weekly sessions by saying ‘it’s really good and positive, it’s a variety of different age groups and it keeps them off the streets and active’. The diversity and unity within the session is what stands out for him ‘there are all different people from different cultures together in one place’.
Mohammed, a participant expressed a few reasons as to why he came to our sessions every week ‘I really enjoy it because I get to play with my friends and it helps me improve in school P: E in sports I don’t normally play’. On being asked about the new court he replied ‘it’s really fun and good to play on!’. Another participant, Anthony, went on to say ‘it’s really cool and an easy way to play tennis’.
This new court has definitely proved in just its first session that the interaction with tennis aided by this piece of equipment will change and improve. One of the targets set out by the Tennis Foundation in making tennis more accessible is portrayed in Anthony’s response when asked what attracted him to come every week ‘you get to trial different sports at this session and new sports which I can’t do in other places’. This was the first week of using this court and we had a great response from participants, volunteers and coaches. The session is divided into playing tennis and badminton so if you fancy smashing a few aces and drop shots next week, feel free to come down and take part at Sidney Stringer Academy, every Monday from 5pm till 7pm.