Big Hits programme educating the future
Salford Red Devils Foundation are celebrating a successful first year of the lottery funded ‘Big Hits’ Project, aimed to engage young people, aged 14-21 from around the Salford area.
The project which aims to support young people to improve employability prospects, manage personal finances, and avoiding the consequences of gambling, and to ultimately put something back into their community.
“They get the delivery of the finance and gambling because we believe it’s better to focus on preventing rather than trying to cure.” Said Neil Blackburn, who runs the Big Hits project.
“We run through gambling with them from a young age because if they are going to make it [in the game], then they’ll suddenly have a lot of money, and a lot of free time because they train full time, and it’s not like a fulltime job meaning they’ll have a lot of spare time.”
Words that should ring bells in the ears of Bradley, 16, from the Albion Academy in Salford, is contemplating whether or not to accept the education offer from the Red Devils to potentially progress onto the under 19’s rugby team.
“I started a year and a half ago, and I got into it because of my interest in playing rugby. Big Hits has allowed me the opportunity to play.” Said Bradley.
“I’d recommend it to anybody younger than me wanting to get into sport, as it gives you the opportunity to progress and try to get you to where you want to be.”
After some hesitation on being asked if he’s going to accept the offer presented, he concluded that he was going to “think about taking it.”
But for Neil, the determination to get him to stay on at the Red Devils is huge but admits it may be difficult to keep him from being swayed by other career pathways.
“Coming from an amateur setup, playing for school, he stands out head and shoulders above everyone else.
“He’s one of them that has the potential to be in the under 19’s but it depends on if he takes on the opportunity we’ve offered him, but he’s considering a different pathway through an apprenticeship.” Stressed Blackburn.
“We have a college that offers a BTEC level 3 course that he can do, as well as playing, so we’ve offered him that course and if he does take it he’ll be playing for us in the college leagues as well as training for the under 19’s.”
But for Big Hits, the funding received by the National Lottery has been crucial to getting the younger generation engaged with the program.
“The funding has allowed us to employ staff, and deliver accredited courses, so the fact we can afford to pay for these courses which are of more value to people as oppose to just the experiential courses we run.
“We can also do activities that are engaging too, for example we took the lads on a skiing trip as a reward for good work, things like that are funded by the lottery which we wouldn’t be able to fund if it wasn’t for them.” Admitted Blackburn.
Similar sentiments are summed up by Danny Doherty, who works as a Project Support Officer for the Red Devils.
“Sometimes to keep the kids engaged you have to give them a carrot, and the national lottery allows us to give them that carrot.”
“I’m from a footballing background, I never played rugby league competitively, but I’m now working for a rugby league club.
“I understand that my behavior was kept in line through sport, and it doesn’t matter what sport it is, it’s all about trying to use that vehicle to try to improve young peoples lives because we don’t want them dropping off.”
With the funding from the National Lottery set to end in January 2017, perhaps this is one of the finer examples of where other sports, where money is of much greater amounts, can take note and lead the way for young people to get engaged with education through sport.
By Arash Bahrami - University of Salford Journalism MA