When Caitlyn Pearce attended Wigan’s Athletics’ Premier League Kicks weekly sessions back in 2019, she lacked the confidence to talk to anyone and would often choose to sit out of activities. But, today, Caitlyn is six months into the Community Trust’s Level 3 Football and Education programme and is displaying confidence that she never thought she possessed.
“I was shy and I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I’d just sit on the side and watch everyone else,” Caitlyn admitted. “The first few times I cried because I was that nervous, but now I turn up to Kicks and talk to anyone and everyone.
“It started with just one Kicks session with Wigan Athletic Community Trust, then two Kicks sessions, and now I’m in education with them which is going to give me a career.”
Since launching its Kicks programme in 2007, Wigan Athletic Community Trust has delivered almost 8,000 free sessions across Wigan and the surrounding areas with activities including football, sports, dance and workshops on equality, inclusion, youth violence and knife crime. The positive impact that the programme is having on the local community, and some of the most deprived areas in Wigan, is exceptional, with Caitlin’s journey epitomising what the Trust is all about.
Lots of the Community Trust’s initiatives present different opportunities, and for Caitlyn, the turning point came amid the pandemic, when she was involved in a virtual programme, ‘Kicks @ 6’, in which she co-presented an online show for young people.
Wigan Athletic’s Head of Community, Tom Flower, has enjoyed seeing Caitlyn’s personal development over the last three years, saying: “Caitlynis just one example of a young person we have been able to give an opportunity to, and they’ve taken it. That’s all we can do really as a Football Club with projects like Kicks is give young people these opportunities.
“To see that her confidence has increased from being involved in the programme to now being in education with us and going on to helping other young people is brilliant and a great testament to her commitment.”
Her ambition to become a sports coach was Caitlyn’s main reason for enrolling on the Trust’s blended education programme and she is grateful for the support that she has received since commencing her full-time studies in September.
“It is important that this programme is funded because, for people like me, who used to be shy, very timid and did not want to talk to anyone or who have not had the easiest home life, there is support now. You can come, have fun, release your anger, stress or worries.”
LFE provide support to each learner, who, like Caitlyn, will take part in an Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) funded study programme, designed to enhance their knowledge of the sport and apply this to the practical element of their programme to improve their technical, tactical and physical ability. Upon completion of the course, learners can then progress to university or full-time employment.
Wigan Athletic learners can utilise the club’s impressive facilities, including the DW Stadium and Wigan Athletic Youth Academy. Furthermore, students will have the chance to gain valuable work experience in schools and other community settings, gain FA Level 1 and 2 qualifications, transition into further education or even move into paid employment with the Trust.
The Community Trust Study Programme (CTSP) is designed to optimise a learner’s chance of building and maintaining a career within the sports industry. Through the Transition support programme, LFE will equip learners with the information and skills necessary to identify and achieve these careers.
And while the post-study career support is a huge benefit of the CTSP, for Caitlyn it is the influence it can have on physical and psychological well-being, as well as uniting a local community, that makes it such a valuable initiative.
“It definitely has a big impact on your mental health, your physical health and building a stronger, safer community. It just brings everyone together – there is no divide,” Caitlyn said.
Tom Flower added: “It makes a huge difference to young people. We’ve achieved some really great outcomes in that area of work with young people who have been involved in crime and after six months they are no longer involved, which is great.”
Caitlyn’s application and effort have been rewarded by the club recently, as she was named as Wigan Athletics’ ‘Local Legend’ as part of the Premier League Kicks 15-year celebrations.
Commenting on Caitlyn’s personal growth and her academic achievements, LFE’s CTSP Regional Office Laura Wentmoor said: “It is fantastic to see Caitlyn doing so much additional work in her local community, which is not only benefitting people in the area but is also developing her own personal skills such as confidence and communication. She is excelling on her education programme through the LFE and it was great to catch up with her in her most recent review where she had received glowing feedback from her tutors.
“Caitlyn is also starting to work above her target grade, which is great to see and is a testament to her hard work and the support of her tutors. Everyone at LFE is really proud of the work Caitlyn is doing and we look forward to seeing her progression over the next 18 months of her course.”
To find out more about the CTSP and how LFE supports the programme, click HERE.