Faith & Football Farnborough was started 5 years ago by Mark McGowan. The group was initially involved with Faith & Football Portsmouth and the Farnborough branch, still hold a strong connection with the partner club. The founding members decided that as Christians they wanted to serve their local communities by helping young people and their families, encouraging positive role models, and helping to make a difference! Faith & Football Farnborough shares the same vision and is accessible for all children, offering a low cost alternative which encourages children to keep active, increase confidence and play as part of a team. In Faith & Football Farnborough’s first season they had 25 children playing on a local park.
Faith & Football applied for a Youth Aspirations Fund (YAF) to help develop the project in a number of ways. The effect of the grant has enabled the community group to double attendance, now allowing a total of 52 children, between the ages of 5-10 years, to participate at practice sessions and matches.
The YAF has provided some new equipment for the club including:
Mark McGowan, comments: “With thanks to the YAF, we were able to invest some money into buying a new laptop. With thanks to this we have been able to get a website constructed. As i’m sure most will be aware, it’s vital to have an online presence in this day and age, so the grant has been used for this. In addition we have also been able to have a strong presence on social media and run campaigns to recruit new participants to play at sessions.”
Communicating with families is very important, and in recent years, various apps and mobile devices have proved to be the best way to communicate -it’s both cost effective and time conscious. From a pastoral perspective, Mark was able to communicate to more parents on a regular basis, making sure that the children were enjoying sessions, increasing feedback so Faith & Football were able to tailor sessions to suit every child's needs. Overall, the increase of communication has enabled the club to develop better relationships between both players and families.
Faith & Football supports children with ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, Dwarfism and Cerebral Palsy and with thanks to the new laptop and online presence, Mark and his team have been able to collect more feedback from both children and partners. The feedback showed that all children in the group have benefited from attending each week, regardless of ability. In addition, their self-esteem and self-confidence has grown and their mental health has been developed.
Mark McGowan, “We had one scenario where a child suffered from extreme anxiety and suffered panic attacks in and out of school. Since attending our sessions his anxiety has dramatically decreased. Since playing we have seen an extremely positively increase in his self-confidence and esteem. As a result of this his ability to play football has increased and his education has developed, due to lowered panic attacks.”
With help of the YAF, the project has been able to run all year round, even in the winter months, keeping youngsters fit and active. During the summer months, the group runs social activities which allow the community to be brought together and socialise while developing and sharing skills between both players and coaches.
Faith & Football have found that by having the family involved in the project it has brought the wider community together. Faith & Football believe that regardless of the ability of a child, all should be given the opportunity to play sport.
Mark comments, “Encouraging children with natural ability to help children with less ability has been a very strong and important aspect of the work we do”.
Overall, the club feels it has made a significant positive impact on all service users as well as the local community!