Sport & Thought Programme

Through the Sport and Thought programmes we work with school age children with behavioural difficulties who are at high risk of exclusion. The programme blends psychodynamic thinking with football training to help young people develop the emotional and cognitive skills they need to participate actively in their education and reach their potential. By taking part in the programme young people develop greater self-awareness, emotional control, communication skills and confidence.

The Sport and Thought Approach was developed by Daniel Smyth in London. It was during one our study visits to London that we had the opportunity to see at first hand the delivery of the Sport and Thought Approach with marginalized young people in an inner-city London school. We felt that such an approach would be very beneficial to the young people we work with so since 2015 we have been working very closely with Daniel in developing and delivering this approach in Northern Ireland.

In 2016 we delivered a series of sport and thought sessions to over 200 young people in both primary and secondary schools. These pilot sessions proved very successful with over 96% of participants stating that the sport and thought sessions made them think more. Some of the reasons that young people highlighted on how the sessions made them think more included:

“Made me think about my actions”

“I had to think before I did something”

“I learnt how to keep calm”

“It made me concentrate more”

The young people not only learnt something from the sessions but 99% of the 200 participants stated that they enjoyed taking part in the sessions as well. There also was a lot of positive feedback from staff of the organisations who brought young people along to participate in the sport and thought pilot sessions and who had the opportunity to see the sessions being delivered.

Some of the comments included:

“It’s the most young person centred innovative and realistic piece of theory which works 100% in practice that I’ve seen in 16 years of social work”  Barry Traynor, Social Worker with Cedar Grove Foundation, Newry

“There is a growing problem with young males in particular who have anger management issues which impact upon their educational attainment. This cognitive based approach, which seems to blend elements of school based PMDU and the “mindfulness” approach would seem to be a way of addressing this. The fact that it is being deployed in inner city London and is succeeding is very encouraging. This project potentially could be a piece of the jigsaw that it used to deal with behaviour management and underachievement in schools” Conor Farrell, Vice Principal at St Joseph’s Primary School, Newry

Since the pilot programme delivery in 2016 the Respect Project have delivered a series of Sport and Thought Programmes to young people in primary and secondary schools as well as community-based programmes.