As part of the Plymouth Pathfinder work, a group of young people who go to the activity youth club at YMCA Plymouth are playing indoor football with support from the group leader.

How Our Plymouth Pathfinder Work is Supporting Young People

Plymouth Pathfinder is a Sport England invested piece of work that we’re delivering for and with Plymouth City Council. It aims to deliver better outcomes for two groups of vulnerable young people: young people who have experienced childhood trauma or (and) young people who have special educational needs. It does this using physical activity. We are helping young people to build their resilience, supporting them into adulthood and as such supporting future generations to enjoy being active.

The activity youth club at YMCA Plymouth is a great example of how we’re collaborating with partners in Plymouth to support young people through our Plymouth Pathfinder work. Below is a video that shows this work and the impact it’s making, along with more information about our approach and learnings.

Getting the Activity Youth Club at YMCA Plymouth Up and Running

Through Plymouth Pathfinder and wider initiatives, we’ve worked with Plymouth City Council, Argyle Community Trust and YMCA Plymouth across a number of years. Following a conversation around local need, storying with young people involved in Plymouth Pathfinder and the lack of activities for young people in the local area, we identified the need for the following:

  • A fun, informal environment where young people aged 12-14 could be active after school.
  • A provision that offered something to eat and drink at the end of the session to support parents/carers through the financial crisis.
  • An activity that was free or very affordable at the least.

The YMCA was keen to work with us, Argyle Community Trust offered to lead the sessions and the active youth club was good to go. Not only is YMCA Plymouth based in an area where many Plymouth Pathfinder students live, it also benefits from a newly designed café whose owner was happy to support the club.

Planned activities included a mixture of indoor sport and informal games for young people. Activities included football, bench ball, climbing on the newly refurbished wall and when possible, use of the new indoor spinning studio.

Developing and Expanding the Activity Youth Club

We started in January 2023 and on day one, we had six participants – but the feedback was great. By week three, this increased to 20 participants and by the end of term, 41 different young people had attended, and the average number of participants at each session was 23. Very quickly, this became one of the Trust’s most popular activity sessions. Initially the club was intended to run only for one term, but in view of the popularity we agreed to continue supporting the sessions until schools broke up for the summer.

Despite the success, some problems were identified. At one-point young people started arriving at 3.45pm for a 6pm session and they had to be asked to go home then come back again nearer the start of the session. We learned from this how much the club was needed and how popular it was. When it was explained that space for them to wait around for that length of time was limited, they saw sense and the issue resolved itself.

With funding coming to an end and in the spirit of true partnership working, YMCA Plymouth and the Trust were approached with a view to continuing the club longer term. As the club had become one of the most popular sessions the Trust was delivering across Plymouth, they were keen to continue it under the banner of PL Kicks (Premier League Kicks). PL Kicks is funded by the Premier League through the Premier League Charitable Fund. Whilst it’s predominantly a football-based programme, the Trust has expanded this to include a variety of informal activities and the YMCA youth club has proved to be an exciting addition to the offer – being the first indoor activity in the city of this type.

Commercial sponsors supported the facility costs for a further six months and the council’s youth service stepped in with the offer of a youth worker each week to support any young people who needed someone to talk to.

This model proved to be really successful and nine months on the club is as popular as ever.

The Active Devon/YMCA/Argyle Community Trust Activity Youth Club confirms many of the findings of the 2021 Public Health England report on inequalities in physical activities, which concluded that, in order for interventions for young people to be effective there should be:

  • Informal focus, supporting self-confidence and independence.
  • Local opportunities, accessible and within existing familiar facilities.

 So, What Have We Learnt?

  • Having fun is paramount!
  • The participants love the post-activity food and drink.
  • What game they’re playing isn’t key but having the right coach, who is supportive, is.
  • Right time, right place will mean participants keep coming back.
  • Activities need to be hyper-local for some young people.

Future Plans

Going forward, the Trust has been granted funding from The National Lottery Million Hours Fund for the partnership work to continue for two years. This will include the sports activity, food and youth work offer, as well as 20 hours of one-to-one mentoring provision. This wouldn’t have been possible without the success of the pilot and of course the time, energy and dedication from all the partners involved.

Finally, we think this is a model that should be replicated across the city. Do you agree? Either way, we’d love to hear your thoughts. We can then use this insight ahead of future considerations for our work with young people in Plymouth. To get in touch, please email Active Devon’s Karen Jones via hello@activedevon.org.