London’s most dynamic and successful football academy Kinetic will celebrate its ten-year anniversary this coming June.
Harry Hudson, head of the Kinetic Academy, founded the Croydon-based charity following the London Riots, determined to use football as a vehicle for positive change after witnessing social unrest across the city.
Hudson said: “We’re ten years old this June as we were born out of the 2011 London Riots.
“When I came out of university, the London Riots demonstrated how much social unrest there was amongst young people and how they felt there were considerable barriers to what they wanted to achieve.
“Studying social inclusion projects and working at the Fulham Foundation on my gap year really opened my eyes into the importance of football for social change, so I went about creating my own model with Kinetic.”
Whilst recognising the work of other charitable organisations in promoting positive outcomes for young people, Hudson placed emphasis on building connections and rapport with youths.
Hudson said: “A lot of third-sector organisations do fantastic work delivering workshops with young people about the dangers of knife crime for example, but the impact is minimal as the young people just aren’t engaged.
“At Kinetic, we reverse the model. We prioritise the relationships and trust with young people by doing something they love in football.
“Once they drop the barriers between young person and adult, which is often negative when you think about the police and teachers, our work is far more impactful and we can treat the issues.”
Kinetic has three tiers to its programme: a community element, focusing on fun, engaging sessions during high incidence of criminal behaviour and deprivation, a part-time academy, and their biggest project, the full-time academy programme.
“We partner with the foundation to deliver our full-time academy programme for over 16’s. This year we have 200 young people and next year we could possibly have 300,” said Hudson.
“They study full-time, either three A-levels, a hybrid of an A-level and a vocational subject, a GCSE resit pathway or a trade-based course and still train five days a week.”
The programme has been a huge success since its launch in 2011 and in particular the last eight seasons, where several Kinetic players achieved their lifelong dreams of becoming a professional footballer.
Two of the major success stories to be born out of the Kinetic academy are Nigerian internationals Josh Maja and Joe Aribo, with Hudson referring to the differences in their football journeys and how Kinetic had to adapt to their individual needs.
Hudson said: “We’re pretty successful with boys getting signed. We had 45 boys in eight seasons being signed which is pretty much unheard of at grassroots level, especially at the age group we work with.
“Josh was always signed to an academy. A few years ago he took some time away from professional football and we really focused on maturing his body and his athleticism when he came to Kinetic.
“Josh was super talented, an elite footballer, by far the best player I have ever worked with.
“Joe on the other hand, was never at a club until he was 19 and was with us for almost four years.
“He probably didn’t believe he was going to make it because he never had that opportunity and had loads of aspects of his game to work on as well as socially.
“Fast forward to where they are now and they are both full Nigerian internationals. It’s just fascinating how different their needs were from a Kinetic point of view.”
Reading starlet Omar Richards, currently linked with Bayern Munich, 17-year-old wonderkid Kwadwo Baah and Welsh international Rhys Norrington-Davies are also products of Kinetic.
Hudson placed Kinetic’s recent success on professional clubs looking towards non-league and grass roots level football to uncover the next up-and-coming talent.
“There is so much interest in our country now from clubs trying to find the next unsigned talent that’s born off the back of the Jamie Vardy,” said Hudson.
“Vardy’s story has highlighted to clubs that there are players in non-league and grass roots that can make the telling difference.”
Hudson also believes professional clubs in England are starting to buy into a different type of player now than they did previously.
Hudson said: “If you look at the golden generation of England players, it was Beckham, Scholes, Gerrard, Lampard – they epitomised English football.
“Now it’s the likes of Foden, Sancho, Hudson-Odoi, they are totally different footballers and I think we have taken the leash off these creative players.
“Coaches are starting to value attributes that inner city kids have. They have that culture of playing on concrete pitches and it creates a certain type of player. We have always had those rough diamonds.”
You can read more about how Kinetic is helping players during the third national lockdown here.