From struggling with managing his emotions to becoming a volunteer sports coach – Issa’s story

When Issa was around 11 years old he began feeling self-conscious and struggled to manage his emotions. Haqueq Siddique (Aki) manager at West Bowling Youth Initiative (WBYI) based in an inner-city ward of Bradford, met Issa at a local sports event around the same time: 

“I was doing the register and noticed he was pushing a few kids around, because of his size.” said Aki. 

Familiar with street cricket and encouraged by Aki, Issa joined the cricket club’s Under 13’s junior group, and with the support and tuition of the coach he quickly went from strength to strength. 

WBYI is a small charity and local voluntary sector organisation, established in 1991 by local people, to work with predominately 13 to 25-year-old British Pakistani Muslim men. The project focuses on those who are at risk of offending, in an area of high antisocial behaviour and gang crime. 

Guidance and motivation 

Aki encouraged Issa to volunteer at WBYI and he went on to lead afterschool sessions, coaching the younger cricket and football members at Parkside Sports Centre. Now 18 years old, Issa has become a lifeline for his younger peers. As a trusted mentor he understands, from his own experiences, their homelife situations and the challenges they face at school. 

The youth club engages hard to reach young people, including those excluded or struggling with education, ex-offenders, those in the criminal justice system and others facing a difficult transition to adulthood.  

Peer Mentor 

Providing sports coaching helps motivate young people to define their goals and build their determination and resilience to pursue them. Issa enjoys inspiring them to do what he has achieved, he explained: 

“Many young people have challenges at home: they might not have a father, or a mother, – it can be really hard for them. And they don’t have those qualities being taught that should come from home. Football distracts them from all the negative stuff.”  

When Issa finished school Aki instilled the self-belief in him to pursue further education in sport. Issa combined his work and his studies to build theory and practice, which has helped him progress at college. He is currently studying Level 3 Sports Coaching at Bradford College and aims to move onto a degree course, then explore PE teaching or a sports development role as a career. 

Role Model 

Issa is now a qualified level 2 football and cricket coach and has progressed to a paid youth work assistant role at WBYI – developing youth sports and leisure programmes with peer groups and new holiday activity programmes for 6 – 10-year-olds. 

“We teach the younger members to respect others, be positive and engage with the activities. It’s our job to instil respect and the right values.” Issa shared. 

“We like to grow our own young people. We’re putting back into the community. We have a strong track record of developing young people and Issa is the next in line. It’s my role to put my arm around young people and help build the capacity of the community.” said Aki. 

Issa’s dream is to set up a football club within West Bowling, supporting and driving the young people by helping them maintain a positive mindset. 

“I am really looking forward to my future because Aki has given me that boost to think, I can do this. It’s a big step, but I’ve taken so many steps so far, I feel like I can take this one as well.” said Issa. 

Issa also supports the food parcels programme delivering essential basics to those most in need and the onsite Willow Café project. He is a role model for young people in the local area and said: 

To want to be someone better – that’s what it is. Even if you’ve had a poor week, football can really boost your thinking.” 

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