As early as six months ago, PNE Kicks participant Travis was ‘in and out of trouble’, he was ‘disruptive’ and was even difficult to ‘engage’ with.
Fast forward the clock to now, Travis - in the words of one member of staff who sees him every week - has developed into his true character.
“Travis was very disruptive at the start and you couldn’t really get a session out of him” said James Stansfield, Community Inclusion Officer at PNE who organises the Kicks sessions at Inspire Youth Zone which Travis takes part in on a weekly basis.
“As time’s gone on - everybody will tell you how well he’s developed into his character, he’s really grown and he’s just a pleasure to be around now.”
James puts it down to the power of sport, a line which is used a lot at the PNE Community and Education Trust which looks to engage members of the community, particularly those who need it most by inspiring and improving their ambitions on and off the sports pitch.
“I think it’s his engagement with sport” James continued. “He was very apprehensive to get involved initially but sport has really made him come out of his shell - whether it be football or any other sport he gets involved in.
“He encourages people on the pitch. He’ll get the bibs out for instance – which sounds small but it’s the little things like that, that you would not have seen from Travis six months ago.”
Ryan Powell, Youth Sport Manager at the Youth Zone made similar comments when asked about Travis’ development.
“We did have some problems with Travis. He was in and out of trouble quite a lot, but in the last few months his behaviour has been fantastic; I think that’s down to the work Preston North End have been doing and the youth workers at Inspire Youth Zone.
“Travis is here every week and participates in the football. I really do think his change in behaviour is down to his engagement in Kicks. For Travis, it’s about becoming part of a team in football and also developing relationships with members of staff so he knows if he does have any problems he can go and speak to them.”
One member of staff who Travis can speak to, and does so often is volunteer at Inspire Youth Zone, Dave who has overseen Travis blossom in such a short space of time.
Dave describes that Travis still has that confidence and swagger about him, but does it in a far more approachable and responsible manner.
In the midst of a Kicks session one Friday evening, Dave takes time out to speak to the matchday programme, and explains how Travis’ engagement with staff has changed.
“As time’s gone on he’s much more engaged with the staff and approaches us in a far better manner” said Dave.
“He’s got lots of different aspects to him - he’ll do things that will make you laugh, and say things that will make you think. He’s still happy to challenge us but he does it in a much more positive way.”
But what about Travis himself? Does he himself think his behaviour has improved?
“I feel like I behave a lot better and I get less frustrated than I use to - so yes” says Travis when asked the question directly.
“In football sessions, when somebody would kick my ankles I would usually react and get mad but now I’ll walk away, shake their hand and get on with it.
“I’ve learned not to react and to take myself away from situations, some of it is down to me just growing up but I’ve loved playing football here at the Youth Zone and feel it’s helped me on and off the pitch.”
For more information about the free football sessions that PNE offer to young people, and to find a session near you, click here.