Meet the face behind the Northampton sports group who is helping children steer clear of crime

Johnny leads the Northampton Street Sports project, which keeps kids on the pitch and out of trouble.
Johnny leads the Northampton Street Sports project, which keeps kids on the pitch and out of trouble.

One man, seven coaches and a team of big-hearted volunteers are attempting to change the fate of children in poverty by hosting free sports classes, with a job as the end goal.

Northampton Street Sports programme has been running now for over 10 years and is managed by Northampton Leisure Trust in partnership with the community safety team at Northampton Borough Council.

The sporting evening sessions take part in 13 areas across the borough and school holiday tournaments are organised for the children, free of charge, too.

The sporting evening sessions take part in 13 areas across the borough and school holiday tournaments are organised for the children, free of charge, too.

Back in 2005, the project was awarded £150,000 through the Football Foundation and started delivering football sessions in three areas of the borough. The project helps to provide young people, at risk of committing anti-social behaviour or entering the criminal justice system, with opportunities to participate in structured activities, which has a direct route to potential employment.

Now, the club hosts sporting sessions for more than 11,000 children, across 13 of the most deprived areas in Northampton, every year, which includes Bellinge, Kings Heath and Blackthorn.

Sport delivery development officer Johnny Yates oversees the project, he said: "In a sense, it's like a youth club. It has that youth club feel to it. We have had statistics to prove it does work. We work closely with police. They have said at the time of our sessions it lowers anti-social behaviour. I believe it has had an impact.

"They are good kids, they need something to go and do."

The lack of transport to facilities, or for younger participants the absence of an adult to take them to a venue can prevent many of them from taking part. But Johnny and his team are taking their sporting skills to multi-use games areas so children of all backgrounds can play together.

Johnny says that many households in the disadvantaged areas have just as little as £2 to spend on leisure activities a month after they've paid their bills, so providing these opportunities for them to play, free of charge, is essential.

He added: "It's great to see them build their confidence, health and skill. Also, it's really good to see the young people build friendships and respect their communities."

Since the project was launched it has seen former West Ham striker Jaanai Gordan take part in sessions at the Racecourse and Preston North End forward Callum Robinson at Far Cotton matches.

But the organisation, which is self-funded, is trying to shift its focus away from football and is allowing the children to take the lead with introducing new sports to the court.

Northampton Street Sports, which is for both boys and girls aged eight-18, has recently launched a sports employability course for NEET (Not in Education or Employment Teenagers) youngsters to learn about coaching while developing the skills needed to get a job.

Last months Heart of the Community Award winner, James Richardson, participated in the project and completed over 350 hours of voluntary work to a level 1 FA coaching qualification.