Chelsea Academy scholars played a key role in launching an exciting collaboration with the Foundation’s Chelsea Champions programme last week.
Our Under-17 players split into four groups and visited different schools in the local community to deliver workshops focused on National Fitness Day, which takes place today (Wednesday 26 September).
The Chelsea Champions initiative began earlier this year, placing full-time Foundation staff within secondary schools with the aim being to increase physical activity, support leadership qualities and improve emotional wellbeing and resilience of students through a number of universal, targeted and individual measures.
Pupils from Thomas Bennett Community College, Pimlico Academy, Chelsea Academy, Clacton Coastal Academy and Fulham College Academy Trust were invited to Stamford Bridge in April to officially unveil the planned project. Our scholars were then invited to engage with the prorgramme, initially planning the content of their first visit with the Chelsea Champions at Cobham before heading to their respective schools.
At Fulham College Boys School, Dynel Simeu joined Jake Askew and Marcel Lewis in talking to a group of pupils ranging in age from 11 to 15. After the visit, the defender explained its purpose and the impact they were hoping to achieve.
‘It’s so important to have a healthy lifestyle because it makes you a happier person,’ he said. ‘You look good, it means you can participate in more sports and you can do everyday activities with more ease.
‘We’ve been talking with the students about what a healthy lifestyle looks like, what types of food you should eat and giving them tips on how to make sure you’re in the best shape possible. When you’re young, you just think junk food is fine to eat all the time but we can pass on some of our experiences to help them.’
The main aims of the partnership are to inspire young people from different areas and backgrounds to engage in a healthy lifestyle and improve educational performance, through the delivery of interactive and engaging sessions. The scholars are responsible for devising the structure of their workshops, with classroom-based theory followed by more practical work outside.
‘We’re aiming to bring the Under-17 scholars into these schools as part of their own apprenticeship,’ explained Joanne Tighe, lead of the Chelsea Champions programme.
‘We want them to inspire and engage with young people across various national and international days, such as National Fitness Day or World Mental Health Day next month. The Chelsea Champions work with a range of different students, some with behavioural issues or low self-esteem, others who have poor attendance, and the aim is to bring in the players as role models so they can help raise awareness of these different subjects.’
A short walk from the Bridge towards the river took another group to Chelsea Academy. Tino Anjorin, Jordan Aina and James Clark were the players present, creating several exercises to find out about students’ eating habits before leading some football drills on the outdoor astro pitch.
‘It’s been nice to be involved,’ said Clark of the visit. ‘The kids were so excited to see us so it meant a lot to just come and talk to them about nutrition and fitness. We found out a lot of the students skip breakfast and generally don’t eat well so we talked about our eating habits as young footballers, what we eat and why it’s important to eat that.
‘Obviously we want young people to be interested in football and want them to come and play. The sooner we can educate them in the right things to do and ways to do it, the better.’
Three further visits will follow throughout the academic year, with the scholars returning to the same schools to help build relationships with both staff and students.
‘It’s really important that our students get to meet the Chelsea scholars, who are just a bit older than them but who can show them a model of success that is really important for young people to see in society,’ explained Michael McDermott, assistant head teacher at Fulham College Boys School.
‘The tie-in with Chelsea is key because it promotes the idea of being successful and showing how you can achieve that by working hard. We’ve had less incidents of behaviour concerns among the students involved in the programme, they’re taking on more leadership roles and they’re more positive about coming to school.’