On 28 March 2019, OnTarget and Sheffield Wednesday started some intervention work with a small group at Springs Academy, every Thursday. OnTarget ran various workshops and activities before Sheffield Wednesday ended the day with some football and multi-sport activities.

Staff from both organisations noticed that having the sporting side to finish off with in place helped massively, as it gave the young people something to look forward to and finish the day off with in a positive way. Week by week, the overall behaviour and attitude of the young people started to greatly improve as their relationships with the staff increased.

One student stood out, not only because of his positive attitude during the workshops and activities, but his love for sport and football. Cole Fisher impressed the Sheffield Wednesday coaches during the session, with not only his skills, but with his high levels of attitude and respect. As weeks went by, the Sheffield Wednesday coaches had a word with Cole, and invited him to the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club development centre session (the first step into the Sheffield Wednesday Academy set-up). The following week Cole attended the development centre session where he continued to impress.

Paul Hebda, KICKS Coordinator for Sheffield Wednesday said: “From the first week attending Springs Academy and running some football sessions, Cole stood out massively. Not only with his footballing ability, but his positive attitude also.

“Cole is a fantastic lad and it seems that he mixed with the wrong group who may get in trouble for whichever reasons. I was so happy to see that Cole had started to attend the development centre session, as this will not only develop his football skills, but will hopefully give him something to look forward to and help with his overall behaviour.

He added: “It’s always fantastic to see a young person’s journey, and what they can achieve. Cole is a fantastic example of this and has the skills and attitude to go very far in life with whatever he may choose to pursue.”

Cole was referred onto OnTarget’s 9-week programme by his teachers in order to gain support and guidance from our team of student volunteers. During the 1-to-1 mentoring sessions, Cole was given the opportunity to communicate his aspirations and set ‘SMART’ goals. This entailed specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based goals, meaning Cole’s progress was more focused.  As the sessions progressed, Cole became notably more confident, leading the conversations with his mentor and taking some control over group-based activities. Furthermore, one of the teachers noticed Cole, as well as many of his peers, becoming more confident after observing a presentation they produced as a team. One teacher said: “The boys would never have stood up and presented in front of an audience 4 weeks ago. I can’t believe it.” This is something that OnTarget hoped to achieve: a skill that could be applied in later life as well as increasing engagement at school.

Another aspect of the OnTarget programme, involved the Springs Academy students taking part in group-based-challenges. As a result of these activities, we were pleased to identify that Cole is a team player on and off the pitch and well-liked by his peers. The progress made with the OnTarget team as well as SWFC will hopefully have a lasting impact on Cole, for years to come. This shows that every student, with the right guidance alongside school, has the potential to thrive. Due to the positive outcome of the project, OnTarget wishes to expand its reach to schools across Sheffield, in partnership with SWFC.

Norma, Cole’s grandparent said: “Cole enjoyed himself very much playing football with reference to OnTarget Programme at Springs Academy on Thursdays. He appreciates being selected and I’m sure he would recommend anyone who is selected for the next programme.  I don’t know if you know much about Cole, but he lost his mum over a year ago and as you can imagine the devastating news and impact it has had on him.  As a grandparent to see your grandson going through a lot of pain it has been heartbreaking, but Cole has done his mum proud with his attitude and has had soldiered on at his own pace. I feel this has helped him to try and move on but that will take time and he is a credit to his family.”

Cole added: “I have enjoyed playing alongside pupils selected for the programme and have found it very helpful. It has also helped me to move onto Friday night where I am mixing in better with the other players as we are able to call out to each other, now we have learnt each other’s name.  The benefit of the programme has helped very much and I hope to carry on training with SWFC as long as I can. I would like to thank everyone from SWFC who has helped me along the way.”