A couple of months ago the presiding “call” for parents and communities was to make sure that children spent time playing outside with their friends and not sitting inside stuck on their consoles. Suddenly this has shifted to keeping them indoors and not socialising.
KickOff@3 have been sport community leaders for a long time, bringing a great sense of purpose and family to communities in and outside of London. We got in touch with KickOff@3’s co-founders Michael Wallace and Ashley Levien to discuss the message that they are sending to the members of their sporting community. Also to touch on how teamwork and focus is the key to winning this game.
JUST ANOTHER CHALLENGE
Ashley, who beyond the realm of KickOff@3 is a bus driver in London and has been working throughout the lockdown says, “I think it is a difficult and trying time where many people are feeling helpless with the situation,” he explains, “However it is something that we are more than capable of getting through.”
He highlights how their community, which he co-founded with police officer Michael Wallace as a direct means of getting children off the streets and into sporting games, has always been highly sociable. Since they were founded in 2017 their entire approach has been centred around bringing different area codes and communities together in unity. Their use of football (and also basketball with TipOff@3) and their tournaments have proved a highly effective tool for bridging the gap between communities and the police authorities within those postcodes.
However, like many industries and organisations that have based themselves on getting children and young adults playing sport and more active outside, they’ve never had to face a crisis like the global covid-19 lockdown. Ashley reveals however that he was not surprised at how resilient their community proved to be.
“It is just another challenge,” he says, “We work with some communities where knife crime, domestic violence and gang related trouble are all part of people’s lives. Sport has brought them together and made them very tough. The work we’ve put in on the field has made them stronger off it.”
SAME MESSAGE, DIFFERENT FIELD
There are a few things that have had to be managed. KickOff@3 had a focal point on football because the founders grew up playing the sport, but there was just as much chance it could have been rugby related or volleyball. At the core of their community was the messages that they gave to their members.
This has defined the success of the group, installing philosophies that hard work and patience pays off. That a person’s health is more valuable than any amount of money and that we are all responsible for our own happiness. Now that they aren’t able to use a good kick-around or a tournament to do this and with many of their future tournaments now being rescheduled, the message has had to be related in a different method and this has seen the founders and ambassadors turn to social media.
“We founded KickOff@3 in 2017,” he says, “So we have always used the power of social media to connect with our ambassadors, members and organisers. It has always been an invaluable tool. What has changed though is that we need to get our messages across to young people and it’s difficult to engage on the same level.”
Their social media message has become one of reinforcing key messages of keeping safe and healthy. One of the main things for Ashley is the importance of educating young people during this time. The schools aren’t opened so they need to be educating themselves and keeping their minds active. He also thinks this is the perfect opportunity to teach young adults some important things that they won’t learn in the classroom.
“Some other areas I think that would be perfect for kids to be educated on right now are fundamental life skills,” he says, “Things like money management, which is not generally taught at school. Taxes, the importance of saving and how to prepare for job interviews. The sort of important things that many of these kids will need when they are looking to get jobs.”
A pragmatic approach, taken by parents, to structure their children’s days will help them greatly in making this lockdown a productive period. Otherwise, a lot of young people will just be stuck at home on their consoles. Not that Ashley is against the idea of children playing video games.
“One of the things that I used to do when I was running my own social inclusion organization,” Ashley recalls, “Is we used to get young people together, whenever the weather was bad and we would play FIFA, in a classroom with a projector. Doing stuff like that can be very beneficial as it keeps young people engaged and has that fun factor. They’re still engaged, competitive, mentally active and social. Especially at times like this it’s important that we do whatever it takes to keep sane.”
MANAGING THE WORKLOAD
Delivering the right message across social media and making sure that their presence is properly felt is a massive undertaking. Co-founder Michael Wallace has found himself balancing his time between his role as a community police officer and a key figure in KickOff@3. He explains that they have been working with a number of key members and partners as well as Black Wallstreet Media. Working with this company they have been channelling many empowering stories through social media to their various members to encourage and inspire and create engagement.
“The main messages right now are staying safe and doing whatever we’re told to keep the curve down,” he says, “Keeping a positive mindset and being as tolerant as possible.”
According to Mike the response to their social endeavours has been very good, but it is a full time job and they can’t do it alone. With this in mind, he reveals that Covid 19 has proved to be a great way to test the resilience and commitment of your partners.
“Times like this help galvanise strength and support,” he says, “It shows how much someone believes in you and what you are doing by the way that they support you and your mission. We’ve seen some partners really pushing the message on our behalf and others who have not.”
He adds that as revealing as this is, it is understandable and that there can be no hard feelings. Everyone is doing what they can to get through this period of global uncertainty.
“Another part of our communication strategy involves releasing daily videos filmed by our ambassadors,” he says, “These include the likes of Paul Canoville, Rodger East, Marcus Gayle and Shane Sandiford who have made themselves available to champion our vision. Also, in all our areas in the country we’ve been using police leads. These officers know their communities better than we do and they have been recording videos and extending the messages about staying safe, staying at home, channelling your health, exercise, mental health and well-being.”
ALWAYS CONNECT WITH EXPERTS
The Thrive Programme and the Ollie Foundation Charity have been lending support to the communities to help keep the levels of mental health high. KickOff@3 have been signposting people to them because they offer easily accessible online assistance and training. Mike explains that this is a good time for them to use their influence and channel people through to the experts in different fields.
“Another thing,” he adds, always keen to highlight those important businesses that they work with, “Our football tournaments are all postponed, however the Brent Factor which is a music platform for young people have stepped in an offered a competitive edge. Many of our members are multi-talented with many of them being good at music and natural performers. We’ve been putting them in touch so that during this time of isolation they have the cause and motivation to develop these other skills.”
Members can get involved by uploading a video of themselves singing and performing/dancing and the judges have been judging these online. Their platform and the included performers have attracted attention from New York, and it has proved to be a fantastic way to engage the minds of young people and prove that they can still do something.”
KEEP MOVING FORWARD
This may not have been the footballing vehicle that Mike and Ashley had envisioned for 2020 , however as ever, the message is as important as the vehicle delivering it. Currently they’re operating with an entire fleet.
“Engagement and activity is important,” Mike says, “To help with this we’ve been making full use of some very talented volunteers to write for us and our platform. Allowing them to gain experience in writing for an audience as well as to discuss any topics that are on their minds.”
KickOff@3 will continue to find new and interesting ways to keep their community message reaching as wide an audience as possible. This is a difficult time, but it is also a unique chance for them to open up as many new doors as possible both in UK and beyond.
“Who knows, this could be the opportunity for us to start making an international difference too,” Mike says, “Now that would be something cool to kick off.”