As a detached youth worker for the Tonyrefail area, I began building relationships with some boys whilst out on detached sessions in and around Tonyrefail. They all expressed an interest and an enthusiasm in football and explained they would really like to get involved in some sort of tournament that could represent them and their community. I explained to them about the Game On League and asked if they would be interested in coming together as a team and representing their community in the 5 a side league. This was the catalyst of what would develop into a very triumphant team that was completely driven by their sheer love of football.
The completely unique thing about this team is that they are a mix of individuals from the same community who simply wanted something to do something more constructive with their time on a Friday evening, some play football but some play rugby as their first choice sport. But as a collective team they all wanted to be involved in something that would divert their attentions away from drinking alcohol and the associated behaviours that comes with being a teenager and drinking alcohol in and around the community. They wanted to be able to give their community something to be proud of, something that would allow the community to see teenagers in a more optimistic light.
The Game On League is a tournament arranged on a Friday evening over a number of weeks. The commitment the young people showed was extraordinary and I was beyond impressed with their attitudes and dedication to the league and as a result they came 2nd within the whole league of RCT and Merthyr and were given the opportunity to represent Wales within the National Game on League.
In November 2012 we travelled up to Sunderland, the team played a host of teams from both England and Scotland. Although they did not win the league their attitude and behaviour both on and off the pitch was impeccable; they approached everything with a maturity far beyond their years. As a result of their success they were nominated for ‘Team of the Year’ within the RCT Sports awards, although narrowly missing out on the title their achievement to be shortlisted into the final just proves the calibre of this team of young people.
They have continually shown the sort of dedication and consistency that is rarely found in a group of teenagers representing their community on a Friday evening, and as a result their success has been quite overwhelming and simply outstanding. They were crowned Game on League winners in December 2012 and represented Wales again this summer in Trefforest where they were runners up to a strong academy team from Wigan Athletic.
After competing in the league for the second year running they have once again retained the title and have been crowned Game On League Champions 2013 and go into a Champions League tournament against teams from Swansea, Cardiff and Wrexham to once again have the opportunity to represent Wales in 2014.
I cannot express the commitment, effort and dedication this group of boys have shown to this competition, their continued devotion to wanting to compete within the Game on League has surpassed any of my initial expectations. They are an absolute delight to work with and I feel extremely proud that I get the opportunity to work with such young people who show a great amount of perseverance and allegiance to one another. As a team that was originally formulated as ‘something to do’ on a Friday evening their achievements and success have been awe-inspiring.
I firmly believe this group of young people are tremendous role models to young people not only within their own community but RCT wide. I feel honoured to be part of this journey with them and feel that their aspirations and devotion to being involved in something so positive and beneficial to not only them but the wider community, especially on a Friday night, is something that needs to be recognised and applauded. It is young people like this that make my job as a Detached Youth Worker the most amazing job in the world.
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