Berwick Kicks brings out best in youngsters

A hugely popular football project in Berwick led by the Newcastle United Foundation is helping channel young people’s energy and talent into sport.

Bernicia extended its backing of the Berwick Kicks sessions with £11,500 worth of support from its Community Investment Fund.

The sessions led by coaches from Newcastle United’s official charity arm, regularly attract more than 130 youngsters aged eight to 18, providing them with a safe and supportive environment, diverting them away from anti-social behaviour by focusing their time and energy into football.

Bernicia is committed to working with tenants and communities to tackle anti-social behaviour, supporting ASB Awareness Week running from July 3 to July 9, empowering people to take a stand against behaviour which blights people’s lives.

Bernicia’s grant ensured the Friday night football sessions – led by coaches from the Newcastle United Foundation – continued throughout the 2022-23 season.

The Berwick youngsters are put through their paces by top coaches on pitches at the town’s Swan Centre.

While the theme of the sessions is very much football and the benefits of sporting exercise, the FA Level 1 accredited coaches are all trained to deal with issues which they may identify or be made aware of during the sessions, including children’s safeguarding, sexual exploitation, hate crime and ‘County Lines’ drugs dealing.

All the sessions are free – removing any financial barrier to local young people taking part.

Participants include Joey Nisbet, aged eight, whose mum said had struggled with anxiety issues when the Covid pandemic hit.

Since starting the Berwick Kicks sessions, Joey has made lots of new friends and coaches are thrilled to see his confidence grow massively as he mixes with other youngsters, transforming him once again into a happy boy.

Seventeen-year-old Sean Ferguson has been attending the Berwick Kicks project since it first started. He has transformed from a shy child into a confident young man, willing to help the coaches in any way he can.

In recent months, Sean has begun the process of moving into a paid role with the foundation, becoming a community coach in Berwick to lead on the sessions he fell in love with as a child.

“I started attending Berwick Kicks when I was 11,” said Sean. “I really liked the fact everyone there loved football as much as me, it was – and still is – a lot of fun.

“The comradery between players and coaches is second to none. The respect between everyone is brilliant and it’s refreshing to see.”

He referees games and organises youngsters into groups, helping quieter children overcome confidence issues.

Vicky Higginbottom, Bernicia Housing Officer with the Anti-Social Behaviour Team, said: “Bernicia has a long-standing partnership with the Newcastle United Foundation and we are delighted to continue our support of the Kicks programme.

“Their important work is helping channel the energy and talent of young people into sport with all its benefits – and away from anti-social behaviour and the negative impact it can have on them and local communities.”

Sarah Burn, Newcastle United Foundation Premier League Kicks Coordinator, said: “We are very proud to support and inspire young people in Berwick to play, learn and grow through football at our free Kicks sessions every Friday evening.

“We are incredibly grateful to Bernicia for their constant support of our charity work and thanks to their renewed funding, we can continue working together to create brighter futures for children and teenagers in Berwick.”