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The Ascend Model

Working towards a sustainable change of behaviour using the passion for football


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Young Gouda is a youth work organisation mainly active in detached youth work in Gouda in the Netherlands and there they noticed that deprived young Moroccan youth, age 10 – 14 years, with a passion for football do not have the opportunity to become a member of a football club or in some cases their membership does not last long. One reason for that can be that the clubs have (selective) waiting lists. But mostly youngsters are not able to participate successfully in a club due to a lack of support from the parents.

Sometimes because the families are not willing or able to pay the membership fee and additional costs or youngsters can not handle the standards and values of a club like dealing with winning and losing, sportsmanship and respect and accepting authority. The latter mainly because they are educated on the street. On the other hand also the football clubs are not familiar with the life world of the youngsters.

Learn how to adopt new or different standards and values;

To enable those youngsters to participate successfully in a football club youth workers of Young Gouda developed a project they called “the Ascend Model”. The aim of the project is for the youngsters to gain a membership of and to participate successfully in a local football club. In order to achieve this youth work has set three learning objectives:

  • Learn how to adopt new or different standards and values;
  • Learn new competences and skills and adapt the ones learned on the street
  • Increase social skills and self esteem


Why this apparently sport activity is delivered by youth work:

  • It contributes to the enlargement of social participation of young people
  • It offers a meaningful alternative to spend leisure time (other than hanging around on the streets)
  • It aims at an enlargement of the third education domain ( first is family, second is school)
  • It challenges the negative influences from the street by offering positive role models
  • It aims at enlargement of parent involvement
  • It aims at enlargement of the social network from both youngsters and their parents
  • It strengthens the bonding between deprived neighbourhoods and sport clubs

The implementation of the “Ascend Model”

Twelve youngsters, aged 10 – 14, who were no member of a football club, attending school and motivated to become a club member are participating in the project. They have committed themselves to attend weekly football training sessions led by youth workers for a period of one year. This year is divided into 4 periods or phases.
During each phase the participants work on a number of social skills and attitudes during the training sessions, starting with basic skills in the first phase like being on time, correctly greeting the staff and fellow participants and dealing respectfully with material and facilities.
At the end of each training sessions the youth workers and participants jointly fill in a score form and discuss the progress.
When the group has successfully acquired these skills they are ready for the next phase.

Each phase is formally ended with a meeting with one or more adult family members to amplify the involvement of the family. This is extra important, not only because it enlarges the bonding between youngster and parents but also because, as a part of the membership of a sports club, parents are obliged to full fill voluntary activities every now and then like washing shirts, support teams or work at canteen shifts.
During these official meetings the participants get awarded with a coloured football shirt representing the successful achievement of that phase.

In phase two skills are added to the list like being sportive in the field, team minded and supportive for fellow players, participative in the preparing and tidying up the training area and accepting the instructions of the trainers and youth workers.

During each phase the participants work on a number of social skills and attitudes during the training sessions

These role models act as buddies

In the third phase skills are added like learning to take different positions in the team, delivering trainings themselves to the team, being responsible for the washing of the sport clothing of the team and acting as referee during football contests other youths organise with support of the youth workers.

During the third phase the training sessions are delivered by two players from the top team of one of the participating local football clubs. These players live in he same area as the participants, know their background and are positive role models.
This third phase has a formal closing meeting with the youth chairman of the football club. The participants are awarded with the official club outfit and they and their parents sign a (symbolic) contract with the football club. For those parents who have financial problems paying the membership fee, youth work arranges funding from the municipality.

During the fourth phase , the implementation phase, the participants act as full members of the football club but they are supported by the role models they know from the previous period. These role models act as buddies to ensure that the youngsters adept smoothly into a successful membership.

The pilot project ended in July 2017. From the twelve youngsters, nine ended the project successfully, one was admitted to a footballclub during the project, one chose for another sport and one could not attend the weekly sessions because he got an evening job.
All nine became a member of a local football club and are still active at that club. Due to the support of their role models at the club they participate very well and are appreciated members know. Their talents have developed more and most of them have been promoted to teams playing at a higher level in the competition than other players at their age.
The local football club decided, based on their experience in this project, to start a similar project where youngsters from the part of Gouda, where the club is based, are supported by role models from the teams playing on the highest semi professional competition level.

In 2018 a new Ascend Model project will start, aiming at youngsters from different areas of Gouda and involving more sport clubs.

by Dick Smit (2017)


has been working for Stichting JONG for over 20 years as youth worker, trainer and coach.

Photos © JONG Gouda


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