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Youth skills programme goes from strength to strength

The Estonian youth sports programme SPIN gives youngsters the chance not only to play football - but also develop crucial social skills that will help them in life.

The SPIN youth sports programme in Estonia
The SPIN youth sports programme in Estonia ©SPIN

The youth sports programme SPIN offers children from the ages of 10 to 18 the opportunity to play football and also develop the social skills they need in life. It was launched in 2015 and now operates in three cities.

The main values of the programme are activeness, openness and selflessness. Children can learn how to take the initiative, how to be considerate of others and how to be a thoughtful person and citizen. There are three sessions each week: two for football-related activities and one for other skills.

In 2015 and 2016 more than 450 children took part in the programme. Currently there are 12 groups in total in the capital, Tallinn, and the fifth-largest city, Kohtla-Jarve. At the end of January new groups were set up in the country’s third-largest city, Narva, on the Russian border.

Andrei Liimets, director of communications and development for SPIN, explained why the programme leaders decided to expand it there: “We opened three new groups in Narva, since Ida-Virumaa county, where Kohtla-Jarve and Narva are located, has been a priority for us since we started, because of the assessment of the ministry of the interior and the police and border guard agency. We are targeting regions with the fewest opportunities for extracurricular activities and the highest percentage of youth delinquency.”

The bar is set high and those in charge of the programme rely on a scientific approach to see results. “We gather a lot of information about the programme and the children’s progress. The programme has been running for a short period of time, but the initial analysis has shown that grades have improved by up to 7% and behaviour has improved by about 10% in the children who have taken part in the project for at least a year,” Liimets said.

“For detailed results we rely on coaches, schools, police contacts and parents for feedback. It has been mostly positive. Many schools have shared stories with us where children have been able to focus better and their behaviour has also improved. A lot of kids have started communicating more freely, and they have found the motivation to set up goals for themselves over a longer period of time. There are also a lot of good one-time stories, where kids have suddenly gained enough courage to perform in front of people or get on better with their parents.”

This article appeared originally in UEFA Direct No165