Kinetic Academy have not been around for a long time but they are already considered as one of the most productive charities of its kind in the UK. Not only are they producing professional footballers on a consistent basis, but they are also playing a big part in breaking down social inclusion barriers.
I spoke to Academy Manager Harry Hudson to discuss how Kinetic Academy use the psychosocial side of the game to produce top players and young adults ready to tackle the challenges of life.
CP: You have had so many success stories in such a small time, how much of an emphasis do you put on the psychosocial side of the game? And how do you develop this in your players?
HH: We look at player development holistically. First and foremost Kinetic is a registered charity and our remit is to try and help young people become pro-social members of society; football is the engagement tool we use to build trust and respect with our participants. We typically work with very talented players who are raw and have been in and around pro clubs in the past. These players are often damaged psychologically from being dropped and we try and build them back up as people. Our participants volunteer their time in their communities and work with our younger teams on a weekly basis. This notion of giving back is really important to us at Kinetic and it builds humility and opens their minds to different career paths they can explore as well as professional football. It is often when they understand they have more options that they play with freedom on the pitch and then excel – when a player pins all their hopes on being a pro they play restricted and with fear.
“These players are often damaged psychologically from being dropped and we try and build them back up as people”
We also have a ‘support pillar’ within our organisation which has two purposes. The first is the delivery of monthly sessions, delivered by industry professionals, on topics such as resilience, group cohesion etc. From these group sessions individuals often speak with the deliverer post session and ask more individualised questions.
The second strand of our support pillar is bespoke support for individuals who we feel needs additional help. We have a team of mentors, life coaches and councillors to work with our players on a 1to1 basis.
CP: Players such as Josh Maja who scored 4 goals in Sunderlands first 4 games this season and Miles Kenlock who regularly plays for Ipswich in the Championship at the tender age of 21 have both come through your system, what personal attributes did you notice that they possessed whilst at your Academy? Are these attributes that anyone can learn?
HH: The two boys you mention there both had a lot of set backs during their youth career. I remember Myles got sent back to us after one day at Oxford United and then signed for Ipswich a week later! Football is a very tough industry and the players, especially at a young age, have to be resilient and deal with set backs. Both Myles and Josh never gave up and kept their faith and thankfully they have achieved their dreams. The other thing both boys did was trust in the process. It can be very easy to lose belief and stop working hard, being on time and grafting. Players need to understand that it is very difficult and it might not come off for them but their best chance is to be brave, focussed and have other options – that allows the players to play with freedom.
“I remember Myles got sent back to us after one day at Oxford United and then signed for Ipswich a week later!”
CP: Your players tend to come from all different backgrounds and cultures. Is it easy to have everyone integrate with each other?
HH: London is multi-cultural place and innately players have friends of all different cultures which they have grown up with. Sport can be a fantastic way to break down barriers in society and it should be used to achieve this – it is these social issues which lead to the spike in knife crime and youth violence. There is detachment in what the young people believe they can achieve due to schooling, ethnicity, gender etc. Sport can be an ideal way of bringing different segments of society together.
CP: How much of an importance do you place on education in your Academy? Does it go hand in hand into developing the person within a footballing context?
HH: All young people on our program have to complete their education alongside their football. If the educational aspects are not adhered to then the young person will not be permitted to participate in the football. It goes back to what I was saying earlier we need to show the young people they have options, career paths etc and this increases their self – esteem. It also allows them to play without pressure on the pitch. The next game doesn’t have to be the one to get them a contract, we all know trying to do anything in life under that much pressure is not how humans excel.
CP: What recommendations would you give to a player in his teens that doesn’t have a club or has been released from an Academy?
HH: Find a structure which can support you as a person! Try not to be dragged into the biggest badge or the promises of First team football – find the people and structure who care about you as a person. Ask the questions about employability and exit routes if football doesn’t work out – if they don’t have any answers they obviously do not value it! Being a pro footballer is very difficult – we have worked with hundreds of boys who have the ability but don’t make it. Why? A bit of luck at times I hate to say but also there is something missing. That might be technical, probably is some tactical development, but mainly it is how they conduct themselves. Do they shake the hands of the coach when they are at a club? Do they look people in the eye when talking? We had two boys released from a trial because they had their hands down their trousers on a cold day! Developing the person is critical to success in the game and this is too often neglected by semi-pro and pro clubs in my opinion.
“Developing the person is critical to success in the game and this is too often neglected by semi-pro and pro clubs in my opinion”
Kinetic Academy Graduates:
Top left to right:
Ali Koiki, Josh Maja, Myles Kenlock, Joe Aribo
Bottom left to right:
Wes Fonguck, Rhys Norrington-Davies, Ramarni Edwards, Yeboah Amakwah
Want to find out more about the great work that Kinetic Academy do? Check out their website for more information: Kinetic Foundation