#NextGen with Sports Connect and HMYOI Cookham Wood

Sports Connect, a StreetGames Locally Trusted Organisation, are passionate about the power of sport to inspire, motivate and educate. Over the past 28 months, Sports Connect have built a strong working relationship with HMYOI Cookham Wood, supporting the sentence plans of more than 350 young people through a range of positive activities.

In partnership with StreetGames, Sports Connect are now running a #NextGen project on the Cedar resettlement unit at Cookham Wood. #NextGen is a training and development programme created by StreetGames to support young people from underserved communities onto a pathway of volunteering and leadership. Rooted in 15 years of experience in ‘what works’ when encouraging young people to volunteer and take social action, the programme is specially designed to appeal to those young people who are typically less likely to be involved in volunteering.

Positive pathways

The #NextGen project at Cookham Wood began at the end of May, with seven young people now undertaking a Level 1 NCFE Sports Coaching Qualification. Participants also take part in sports leadership activities twice each week along with other boys and staff on their landing.

The pathway into #NextGen has become an aspirational target for young people on the main house block, with clear goal setting in place to help them progress to Cedar. Sports Connect support this progression by providing 1:1 and mental health support, and demonstrating positive behaviour standards.

The alignment with StreetGames is also helping to provide a more effective pathway for young people upon their release into the community. Youth offending teams and resettlement practitioners can connect with community organisations in the StreetGames network, who can offer diversionary activity in their local area. The boys will also recognise the StreetGames brand and feel trusted and supported with a more connected journey. One young person who is resettling in Kent this week is already putting their learning into practice, supporting the delivery of Sports Connect summer provision across their summer series of sport.

Next steps

An activator session for boys and staff has been planned for September so that the #NextGen legacy can begin to be taken to the next level. This will shape exciting future opportunities for a Doorstep Sport club and further collaboration with the main house block.

Some of the boys will also be attending the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this month as part of StreetGames’ #Inspiration2022 programme, after a special license was agreed for them to attend the residential trip – encouraging aspiration and a sense of belonging as citizens of the sporting world.

Justin Coleman, Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at Alliance of Sport, said: “What Sports Connect have established is perfect because it is precisely what the Criminal Justice System needs to be doing much more of. Often it’s not possible for stakeholders within the Criminal Justice System to extend their support for an individual beyond the gate or community licenses. However, if the secure estate works with partners like Sports Connect and its vibrant lifelong sports, education and employment networks, it enhances the whole relationship with the individual. This in turn, connects the individuals to positive activity in a proactive community. The contact and support they receive will then be lifelong and extend beyond the court order. All the evidence tells us that is a critical part of successful rehabilitation.”

William Lee, Director of Restorative Practice at Sports Connect, said: “Bringing our work closer to StreetGames’ Kent Safer Through Sport programme and #NextGen will initiate a stronger resettlement opportunity for the children currently in custodial care. I am extremely excited about the boys’ trip to the Commonwealth Games later this month. It has created a real buzz around our Inspire4Sport project and is demonstrating life changing opportunities through the partnership and its network.”

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