CEO's Blog - What football taught me about rowing

Posted on Tue, 16 Oct, 2018

Firstly, that I’m significantly better at rowing than football…and I was never that good at rowing!

An inability to kick a ball aside, I recently had a tremendous opportunity to head back to Feltham Young Offenders Institute and see the culmination of the Football Changes Lives course working with the incredible coaches from the Fulham Football Club Foundation.  The course harnesses the power of sport by developing a programme of activities that provides young adults in custody with a safe, friendly and positive environment for all. It is centred on improving literacy and numeracy levels while promoting health, wellbeing, life skills, equality and social inclusion with the long term goal of empowering these young adults with the necessary skills to gain employment.  This project aims to reduce re-offending and increase employment, training and education opportunities for those in custody and upon release.  The course centres on football and some of the learning points include:

  • Anger Management
  • Drug and Alcohol Awareness
  • FA Level 1 Football Coaching Qualification
  • Links with a professional local football team

Myself and partners from other Charities involved at Feltham were invited to play in a football match against these young men as a culmination to the eight week course and afterwards to their graduation ceremony.  I can’t describe how powerful it was to see these young men conduct themselves in such a positive, competitive way during the match.  It was easy to see that they were not only working on their communication as a team, but that they had a focus to win the match and were clearly putting into practice all they had learnt from the previous eight weeks.  The graduation ceremony was also a great experience with one of the young men delivering some of the best public speaking I’ve heard in a long-time.  It was easy to forget we were in prison and I could easily see him walking into most jobs if he could convey himself like that during an interview.

I was also bowled over with how the power of sport meant that for the hour we were playing football, the fact we were ‘behind-the-gate’ didn’t feature at all.  Both teams were there to win and by the end of 60 mins, all 30 odd players who took part were able to shake hands thanks to the respect formed through honest competition.  Where else can that lesson about how to earn respect be taught in such an effective way to those being re-introduced to society?  It was also obvious to see how hard all of the prison staff are working to genuinely rehabilitate these young men and help them bring their lives back onto a better course.  Hearing both the PT staff and Prison Officers speak so passionately about how happy they are for the improvements these young men are making to their lives was incredibly humbling. 

For me, it was also clear to see that there is a need for more sports to be used in prisons as a way to encourage rehabilitation, just as the Football Changes Lives course is doing.  I believe a structured indoor rowing course which is delivered in prisons would be an incredible teacher of the four key aspects of rowing we see on display every day at FRBC; namely focus, ambition, confidence and teamwork.  We’ll soon be exploring with the team at Feltham how we can help use the power of rowing to help better the lives of these young men.

Finally, there is an old adage in rowing; “Rowers can’t kick or catch.”.  Following my efforts on the football pitch last week, I can confirm this is still the case….


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