Nottinghamshire Police is using the power of football to enhance the lives of young people across the county.
The force has organised a grassroots tournament designed to open doors for youngsters and show the different opportunities available to them.
Around 200 people aged between 13 and 17 are expected to take part in the seven-a-side football festival at the Forest Recreation Ground, Forest Fields, on Saturday (21 May 2022).
Current world featherweight boxing champion Leigh Wood is set to hand out medals to the winning teams, who will then advance to the national finals in London on 10 July, where they will get the opportunity to play in front of professional scouts.
In addition to helping fulfil sporting dreams, the ‘KICKOFF@3’ event offers a great opportunity for teenagers to learn more about different further education and employment opportunities.
The event also provides a means for the police to positively engage with young people in a sporting context where they may feel more comfortable and allow them to see that police officers are normal people behind the uniform.
Sergeant Jemma Connor-Iommi, who has organised the event, joined Nottinghamshire Police four years ago following a career in football that saw her captain Nottingham Forest Women and become a Republic of Ireland international.
She said: “The reason I’m so passionate about this event is because I know the true value of sport and the opportunities it can provide to young people.
“I went to a football tournament like this one when I was 15 and it led to me gaining a scholarship to play football in the USA while continuing my education and then having a professional football career afterwards.
“Sporting events like this are such a good way of engaging with youngsters and making them aware of various opportunities, including those people who may not typically interact with the police.
“These events can make a big impact, whether that be giving young people the platform to succeed in sport, or providing the information and inspiration needed for them to go on and join a college course they might not have been aware of before.”
KICKOFF@3 is a national initiative that provides police forces with the blueprint of how to run community events that can make a difference to their areas.
In addition to the football, teenagers who attend will be able to find out more about how to write effective CVs, available employment opportunities, and how to apply for jobs and college courses that appeal to them.
They will get also get the chance to discover sport, dance and music clubs run by different community groups in the area.
Sgt Connor-Iommi added: “The biggest message I want to get across to these young people is, no matter what your path looks like, you have a stage and somewhere to succeed.
“Football can turn anybody’s life around, as it did for me, which is why I want other people in Nottinghamshire to be provided with that same opportunity.”
The event will take place between 2pm to 7pm, at the Nottingham Forest Sports Zone, Forest Recreation Ground, with anyone wanting to access the engagement opportunities able to do so by attending on the day.
Teams will be competing across two age categories on the day, with kids aged 13 to 14 and 15 to 17 coming up against each other.
Nottinghamshire Police will be joined at the event by partners from Nottingham College, Nottingham Forest, Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, the RAF, Nottingham City Council, Nottingham City Homes and Nottinghamshire Live.
The event has also been partially funded by Nottingham and Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), which is a partnership that brings together specialists from local government, health education, policing and criminal justice to help reduce violence by tackling its underlying causes.
Natalie Baker-Smith, Head of the VRU, said: “This is a fantastic event that will provide an opportunity for young people from the City to engage with the police through sport, enabling them to have positive interactions and build trusting connections and relationships in a familiar environment.
“Furthermore, sport has been shown to have an impact on outcomes for children and young people who are at risk of, or may have already been impacted by serious violence and exploitation.
“It provides an opportunity for diversion away from negative pathways and builds positive mental and physical wellbeing as well as trusted adults and a positive peer group.
“Kickoff@3 has positively impacted hundreds of young people across various communities in the UK through its many initiatives, campaigns and workshops and I know that this event will build on that success in Nottingham.”
Nottinghamshire Police would like to thank all of the sponsors involved in Saturday’s KICKOFF@3 event:
- Nottingham City Homes
- Nottingham City Council
- Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service
- Nottingham and Nottinghamshire’s Violence Reduction Unit
- Nottingham College
- Royal Air Force
- Nottingham Forest
- Nottinghamshire Live
- Nottingham Industrial Cleaners
- World Game Changers
- The Skinny Food Company
- UFC Gym Nottingham