Sports and dance can teach disadvantaged young people skills they need to study, train or get a job.
Taking part in a sport-based employability scheme overwhelmingly helped young people raise their game by picking up teamwork, communication and social skills.
These are the findings from a study of Street League, which aims to get 70% of ‘hard to reach’ young people into work, training or education.
Brunel University London tracked the progress of 114 young people on the charity programme, which runs daily football and dance classes alongside career coaching.
Health, confidence and self-esteem took a boost, but a key finding is how important the social side is. “Young people highly valued meeting other young people and developing positive relationships with the staff,” said Brunel’s Dr Laura Hills.
“I think this element was life-changing for some participants both in terms of making friends, increasing confidence and having positive relationships with a caring adult.”
Backed by Jose Mourinho, Nicola Adams and Prince Harry, the charity’s sport and dance does more than simply get young people through the doors. The scheme directly links skills from the pitch or dance studio with skills employers want. Salsa dancing, for instance, teaches eye contact for interviews, while running football warm-ups hones leadership.
The team looked at Street League programmes running in four parts of the country and hope youth employability programmes from the UK and abroad can learn from it.
Collecting better information about young people’s backgrounds, mental health and any learning disabilities is one recommendation researchers make. Widening the types of sport is another. Staff felt they needed training to help them with complex problems such as homelessness, addiction and abuse.
Dance taught Toyin, 23, a Londoner with autism, the social skills she lacked for a part-time childcare role. She had been out of work for two years. “I love dancing,” she said. “Street League has been a huge help to me in improving my social and dance skills.”
Chris, 19, from Edinburgh is another success story who beat drugs and homelessness to study mechanics at college. He said: “Adam and Ally have made my time at Street League fun and a great laugh. I know they want the best for me and have helped me so much, thanks to the A-Team.”
Besides improving job prospects, the research found the sport and dance helped some young people open up about personal issues, said Dr Hills. “These are people who have perhaps been quite isolated in schools and we found they were more comfortable talking in a football or sport context than they would be in the classroom.”
Street League’s target is to get 70% of its young people into employment, education or training for at least 6 months. “And they have pretty much done it,” says Dr Hills.
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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