Sports Fun 4 All (SF4A) was established by its Founder & CEO, Kieran Connolly, in September 2016 in response to identifying a need for expanded football coaching opportunities for young people beyond the traditional club settings. Based in South East London,
SF4A first started delivering sessions in Downham, in the Lewisham Borough. The organisation spent time sourcing data to highlight the need for more inclusive football opportunities within this area and found the following:
- Downham is the 35th most deprived ward in London, with 1st being the ward with the highest deprivation and 633 being the lowest. (GLA calculations from indices of deprivation 2019, MHCLG)
- Downham is the 27th most deprived ward for children (aged under 16) for income deprivation in London. (GLA calculations from indices of deprivation 2019, MHCLG)
- Downham has an estimated inactivity level of 31%, above the London average. (Sport England Active Lives Survey, 2020-21)
- 13% of students in reception and 25% in year 6 in Downham are obese, above the London average. (Indices of Deprivation 2019)
To combat these issues and try to remove some of the barriers that prevent young people from participating in football, the organisation began delivering free football sessions, open to all young people. SF4A now also serves communities across Bellingham,Brockley, Catford, Crystal Palace, Deptford, Hither Green and Mottingham, covering the Lewisham, Greenwich, and Bromley Boroughs, all areas facing similar issues to those outlined above. Currently, the organisation conducts 10 free weekly sessions at 8 venues.
Since starting, SF4A has provided football coaching to children and young people aged 3 to 19, catering to varying skill levels, from beginners to aspiring academy players, and providing 16+ participants with volunteering and qualification opportunities.
At the core of SF4A’s mission is creating a supportive and positive environment where young participants can learn the fundamentals of football whilst developing essential life skills and establishing a solid foundation for their future.
Most of these young people are not going to be (professional) footballers; I’m not here to sell them a dream…we’re here to teach them life skills. When they are here, they leave their house and do something productive. Hopefully, that routine will stay with them for the rest of their lives
Attracting and Maintaining Participants’ Engagement
In the initial stages, SF4A employed various methods to attract participants, including distributing flyers outside primary and secondary schools, placing posters in the Downham Health & Leisure Centre, and using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to generate interest. These efforts successfully brought together a group of young individuals eager to engage in football within a supportive environment.
Beyond their regular weekly sessions, SF4A emphasises providing attractive offers to maintain engagement and ensure consistent participation among young people. An example was in May 2022, when five coaches accompanied 15 young people to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium. The organisation provided match tickets, transportation, and a pre-game lunch at a local restaurant in Wembley. For many of these young people and some of the coaches, it was their first visit to Wembley, and, for some young people, it was the first time they had ever attended a football match.
Experiences like this are crucial for young people. Taking them out of their local area, which they don’t usually do and visiting an iconic venue like Wembley broadens their horizons to realise there are many opportunities for them to succeed. The young people had a fantastic time, and we can’t wait for our next visit to a football match.
Engagement & Outcomes
SF4A has delivered various programmes supported by funders such as the Ministry of Justice and Phoenix Community Housing. They have also expanded their range of Doorstep Sport Sessions, emphasising their commitment to fostering community involvement and physical activity among young people. Since founding in 2016, Sports Fun 4 All has delivered the following outputs:
- 2,381 Young people engaged
- 1,404 Free hours delivered
- 29 Coaches qualified
Health & Lifestyle
Through the weekly sessions, the organisation has positively impacted critical health and lifestyle goals, especially in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic and lockdown periods.
In response to the challenges of isolation and limited social interaction, SF4A provided a valuable platform for young people to connect, reduce isolation, and cultivate friendships. The dedicated coaches from Sports Fun 4 All not only imparted football skills but also created a supportive and encouraging environment that had a noticeable impact on the mental and physical well-being of the participating young people.
Between July 2021 and June 2023, SF4A organised 50 sessions, attracting 185 young participants, including 88 residents and tenants from the Phoenix area. The positive e ects of these sessions extended beyond the immediate context, positively influencing the overall well-being of those involved.
In a Survey undertaken, the results further highlighted the positive impac of SF4A. All respondents reported significantly improved physical and mental well-being due to their regular participation. They praised the coaches for creating a safe and friendly learning environment that allowed them to express themselves and develop lasting relationships with their peers.
SF4A has provided free access to previously financially inaccessible facilities for many in the local community. This initiative has promoted economic inclusivity and played a crucial role in fostering solid bonds among families. It has also instilled confidence within the community, encouraging them to view sport as a catalyst for positive change.
One success story is George, a Special Educational Needs (SEN) student. Following the project’s launch in July 2021, post-pandemic lockdown, George became a dedicated participant, attending sessions every Friday. George’s involvement in activities alongside young people from mainstream education has significantly improved his self-confidence. The warm reception and acceptance George received from his peers have had a profoundly positive impact on his mental well-being. Due to the improvement in his football ability,
George is now attending a SEN programme run by Millwall Community Scheme. This exemplifies how SF4A’s initiative has provided access to sports facilities and contributed to the growth and well-being of young individuals like George within the community.
Training & Employment
SF4A has significantly contributed to enhancing education and employment prospects within the community, mainly through improving the soft skills of young people and providing avenues for accredited qualifications and employment opportunities within SF4A.
Every participant in the survey responses felt they had made notable improvements in their communication, leadership, confidence, and decision-making skills as a direct outcome of their regular participation.
Moreover, the project has facilitated a bridge between passion and potential employment. Four young individuals have completed the Introduction to Coaching Football qualification, marking a significant step towards likely work within the organisation. This underscores the project’s commitment to personal and professional development and provides tangible opportunities for participants to pursue careers in the field.
Tyrell was a previous SF4A participant and returned once the Downham Football Project started. Tyrell is a keen footballer and was looking to combine his education with his push into the semi-professional level of football. Due to the improvement in his ability, which he put down to his attendance at the sessions, he was accepted into Bromley Town FC’s College Scholarship Programme. He will play for the youth team and complete a BTEC in Sport. Highlighting the positive impact sport can have on education.
The SF4A project’s impact on education and employment prospects reflects its pivotal role in nurturing young participants’ personal and professional development. Beyond its role in football, it serves as a vehicle for creating pathways to brighter futures through education and skill development.
In the future
Looking ahead, SF4A aims to:
- Maintain attendance at all current FREE sessions.
- Identify areas to start new FREE sessions.
- Deliver in more primary and secondary schools.
- Providing more participants aged 16+ with volunteering and qualification opportunities.