“I want to help out, the way I’ve been helped” | Raymond Sharp, Aberdeen

Street Soccer’s player pathway is in motion in Aberdeen, with newly appointed sessional worker Raymond Sharp reflecting on his progress from player to staff member.

Raymond, who has been with Street Soccer since 2019, has recently secured a role as a sessional worker at our sessions in the north east after showing leadership qualities in his time as a volunteer.

“I have always felt like that I have strong communication, I’m vocal and feel like I can introduce good ideas to the group. All of that helped me with my choice to give back. I want to help out, the way I’ve been helped” he says.

Street Soccer players have the opportunity to develop as part of our player pathway, with voluntary roles available in all of our locations across Scotland. With many of Street Soccer’s full-time staff having come through that very system, players such as Raymond know that the pathway can help individuals to become more ambitious and motivated.

“I have benefitted from the player pathway and I always tell the other guys that they can work towards that too if they want it enough. I would love to help the guys here to take advantage of the opportunities that come through Street Soccer.”

Raymond first came to Street Soccer as a casual player and highlights how the warm welcome made his transition in to the group far easier than expected.

“I first came along to Street Soccer two years ago and immediately felt the warm welcome. I enjoyed the first few sessions and could tell we had a good group of lads, so ever since then I’ve been keen to do more.

Since starting as a player, the football and the connection with others has really helped my mental health. I started volunteering because I was passionate about the sessions and developing with the group we have here, Peter saw that in me and took a chance. We’ve had some real progress since then.”

Working alongside programme co-ordinator Peter Wood, Raymond believes the sessions in Aberdeen are starting to reach more in the community that can benefit from our support.

“We have a strong community. Its like a family and we often spread the word about how close-knit the group is and how that can help others. Everyone is welcome and I am sure that is well acknowledged. I think we can all see the benefit the football has on our mental health, particularly after lockdown.”

With a growing focus on mental health, players in Aberdeen can benefit from one-to-one time in Goals Aberdeen’s lounge areas as well as having designated time for personal development as part of our Tuesday sessions.

 “All of the guys here get on well. I feel like I have a decent level of trust with the players, which is important now that I am in the sessional worker role. The players know they can speak to me in confidence if they have any problems and I can try and help where I can.

It’s important that some of the players can come and tell us if they are having a bad day or if they are feeling a bit down. I can lean on my experience to do my bit and help them enjoy the sessions. We all know its important talk to one another.”

Having that support system is significant for all players at Street Soccer, with players in Aberdeen hailing from all walks of life. Raymond highlights that despite differences in backgrounds, cultures and ambitions, players can enjoy their football in a safe environment.

“Sometimes, you can recognise if a player is struggling and Peter and myself can work with one another to support them. It’s a safe space here.”

Having Peter to learn from has given Raymond a new found confidence, with the former highlighting that “he continues to learn and develop. He is understanding his role, daily and I know that his back story has been very challenging but his ability to adapt and understand our vision has been at times commendable.”

With revamped roles and rewards to be rolled out across Scotland as part of the John Lewis Foundation Volunteer Programme, we hope to prepare more players for positive destinations. This programme is still in development and will be rolled out to more locations across 2022.

More players are finding appetite to progress now that restrictions on our programmes are hopefully a thing of the past and Raymond is one that is keen to keep developing, whilst encouraging others to get involved.

“I think by being a volunteer, you can really develop your communication skills and become more organised, confident and self-aware.

In the future, I would love to become more confident with using some technology. I think that would benefit me in my role and is something I’ve always been keen to do. You can never stop learning.”

Our key drop-in sessions in Aberdeen are on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Goals Aberdeen. We also have Street45 women’s only programme on every Friday. To learn more about these sessions head to streetsoccerscotland.org/play or contact Peter Wood on 07487603708 or [email protected]

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