ROLE MODELS REACHING NEW HEIGHTS THANKS TO THIRTEEN
Teesside Lions are delivering an innovative social project called Role Models with support from Thirteen Housing Group. The project is active in Hemlington & West Middlesbrough and aims to provide positive sporting role models in the community.
Players and coaches from Teesside Lions basketball club engage with young people in the area through a variety of methods including schools basketball sessions and community engagement. Role Models works alongside youth groups such as The Junction and Links as well as Middlesbrough Neighbourhood Team to show young people that a life of crime is not their only option.
The project is funded primarily by CURV via Cleveland Office for Police & Crime Commissioner, with financial support from Thirteen & Teesside Lions themselves.
Community club sessions have been established at Kings Academy near Hemlington and Acorn Centre in Acklam with a key objective of reducing serious violence and knife crime. The Cleveland area was recently marked as the worst area in the country for knife crime per capita.
James Thomson is chairman and a basketball coach with Teesside Lions. He is also the architect and director of Role Models. The 43 year old has been involved in community basketball development for more than 26 years and believes the project is a significant one for the area, stating:
“Basketball is a unique sport in its ability to embrace diversity. It has an association with music, fashion and skill that makes it appealing to young people and an exciting game to watch.
“At Teesside Lions we are able to engage people in a way that authoritarian figures such as police, teachers and parents may struggle, and our hope is to influence them away from a potential life of serious crime and violence, and into positive activity.”
Schools sessions have themes around topics such as respect, teamwork, anti-scoial behaviour and even altruism.
“Altruism is my favourite theme. It’s a word that not many are familiar with, so it sparks interest, and when we associate it with a fun game that encourages selfless behaviour to help others without reward or payment, it tends to have a positive impression. We then encourage them to practice the week’s theme and review at the following session.” Added James.
Young people within the project can access training sessions and even progress into teams.
Rewards of free family tickets to watch Lions professional basketball games encourage families to come together in an era where we are becoming more and more separated and disengaged.
Community engagement has led to groups coming together to play on outdoor courts in the area and while the project is still in its infancy, the impact is a positive one which is growing.
Lyndsey Coe, Community Resilience Manager for Thirteen Group, said: “Thirteen are proud to support the Role Models initiative. We actively support and fund many community projects to help improve social issues and create thriving neighbourhoods across the North East, North Yorkshire and the Humber.
Many young people in these communities are unfortunately becoming involved in criminal activity. The work of the Teesside Lions to support and connect with young people is fantastic. We are really pleased with their approach and desire to make a positive difference.
We were keen to introduce the Role Models project into Hemlington and West Middlesbrough, as we know there is a demand for more support for young people. We hope that by connecting with positive role models and providing greater access to sport, the project will give young people new opportunities to thrive.
Thirteen Groups is one of the largest landlords in the UK serving 72,000 residents across the 32,000 properties in the North East and Yorkshire.
“Thirteen are committed to working collaboratively with communities and partners to create places where people want to live. When problems arise, we are pro-active in our efforts to improve situations, and Role Models is an example of creative solutions to improve things now and for the future.” Added Lyndsey.
The multi-pronged approach of early intervention via schools and targeted engagement in the community is key to reducing crime in the short term but crucially preventing crime in the long term, according to James.
“The provision of basketball players in the community shows that we care. We talk with young people, listen to them, play some games and offer them opportunities to access new opportunities to improve their wellbeing and direction in life.
“School engagement is key, especially with our ability to connect with young people. If we can engage with young children who may be on the periphery of criminal activity or anti-social behaviour then we are confident of having a positive result that will influence many youngsters to follow a more positive path.
‘We can often deliver messages due to being different. We are not teachers or parents, and because we stand 7 foot tall, or can spin the ball on your finger, it opens young eyes and ears in a positive way.”
For further information about the Role Models project or basketball opportunities for young people email Roar@TeessideLions.com and quote Role Models.