Feature article in MICA Magazine, a FREE high end, contemporary, unique online male lifestyle bimonthly magazine that offers an insight into fashion, sport, restaurants, music, health & fitness and gadgets, for the professional male audience of Aberdeen, the North east of Scotland and beyond.
Denis Law’s Streetsport is well-known across Aberdeen and the North-East of Scotland. Originally created as a ‘Design against Crime’ initiative and aimed at combating anti-social behaviour in some of the city’s hardest hit areas, colloquially known as ‘trouble hotspots’, it is doing exactly that. It’s on course for 7,000 active participations in 2015 and it’s come a long way since its inception in 2006.
When the local Police approached the Communication Design Department at Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University (RGU) to explore solutions for rising levels of disorderly behaviour amongst youths, Streetsport was devised. Streetsport’s current Development Officer Mark Williams helped explain the success and extent of its expansion. Through the in-kind support and funding from a variety of organisations and corporate companies Streetsport has been able to invest in portable utilities which they deploy throughout Aberdeen city with vehicles donated by John Clark Motor Group, allowing them to easily move the activities to different venues. Streetsport has targeted over 35 locations across the Granite City offering free access to sports and other creative activities; participation has increased from 2000 in its inaugural year to over 6,000 annually. The biggest testament is its ability to help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour whilst promoting health and wellbeing within underprivileged communities.
One of Streetsport’s mottos is ‘no barriers’. Everything about Streetsport is free to access, meaning no charges, fees or travel costs are incurred…perhaps just one of the reasons why 25-30 kids regularly attend their sessions. But Streetsport isn’t only in place to prevent youths from ‘causing trouble’. It is also about the development and support of young people. Streetsport aims to ‘provide pathways and opportunities that lead to positive destinations’. For example if a participant is interested in sports coaching then Streetsport will enable participation in a variety of training courses. If someone wants to become an engineer then Streetsport will direct them to a relevant careers advisor or college course. It’s all part of a range of programs now being delivered by the initiative aimed at providing support for local youths in disadvantaged communities. Williams said, “Streetsport aims to support and benefit the local kids that need it most; kids with low self-esteem and low aspirations in life”. However, Streetsport can also assist in the development of other social groups too for example volunteering is a large aspect of delivery, with over 40 volunteers currently supporting a range of activities. As a volunteer you will gain valuable insight and benefit from the rewarding experiences which often help in other aspects of life and career progression for example in job interviews. If a volunteer wants to learn to drive but can’t afford it, then Streetsport can assist with funding in return for time and assistance in delivering activities. Streetsport has also helped the emergency services; if Police Scotland and the Fire Service have less trouble to deal with then that can save a great deal of tax payers money and over time the project has reduced the number of call outs and complaints in areas targeted by Streetsport.
As an example of its success let’s take two local youths who have progressed through the program. Calum Hutcheon and Martin Baker have attended almost every Tuesday session for over four years (since they were 14 years old). Martin wanted to go to college, so Streetsport helped get him there. He has high hopes of being the first member of his family to attend University and Streetsport will be behind him the whole way. Calum is learning to drive and will sit his driving test with the help of Streetsport. They have both completed the pathway programs and now feel more confident about their futures. Mark Williams said “It’s all part of the Streetsport ethos; if we believe in them then they will believe in themselves and we are committed to achieving a positive destination in life for both of them. We will go out of our way to make it happen.” Maybe another reason that the kids believe in and value Streetsport is the commitment of their volunteers and their dedication to the cause. The project is out and about every night in the city in all weather conditions, wind, rain and snow….50 weeks a year.
So what does the future hold for Streetsport? The project operates under the auspices of the Denis Law Legacy Trust; a local charity which sees huge potential in the initiative and has provided Streetsport with the opportunity to expand and meet increased demand in recent years. William’s said “Within our five year strategy we aim to expand with the support of Denis Law and a fantastic group of Trustees who commit a huge amount of time and expertise to the charity. It’s an exciting time for everyone involved.” Although Aberdeen’s very own Denis Law is our patron Streetsport also offers a wide variety of sports. William’s said “People often assume we only deliver football because of our association with Denis however it couldn’t be further from the truth for example Street-tennis is very popular.” “With the support and backing of Judy Murray (who will be attending a session soon), we hope to see more local youths take up tennis and emulate her sons.” Street-dance, Street-gym and a weight training courses in association with the North East Scotland College are all in the pipeline. Existing programmes such as ‘Denis Law’s Kickstart’ and ‘Positive Destination’s Torry’ will also complement the new ‘Goal Model’ program which enable Streetsport participants to have direct contact with their sporting heroes and features a range of professional athletes from across a range of sports such as Ben Kilner (Olympic Snowboarder), Rachel Corsie (Footballer for Seattle Reign/Scotland) and Viorel Etko (Wrestling Commonwealth Medallist). Other new programs are also in the pipeline which will ensure Streetsport continues to thrive for the foreseeable future.
With the Denis Law Community Football Festival also now taking place throughout June and July at Aberdeen Sport’s Village the Denis Law Legacy Trust is truly establishing a lasting legacy for Denis Law who was born in Printfield, Aberdeen and is still the only Scottish Footballer to have won the FIFA Ballon d’Or. William’s said “It’s truly remarkable that a young lad who grew up in a local estate in Aberdeen went on to achieve such success; at his peak Denis was the equivalent of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.”
“You never know maybe we will discover the next ‘Lawman’ of the streets of Aberdeen”.
By Gabriel Antoniazzi