TJ's Story: Dreams of a Career in Professional Football
TJ was studying for his GCSEs whilst living in overcrowded conditions with extended family. He was sharing a bedroom and there would often be someone staying on the sofa. TJ played a lot of sports after school and on weekends, so he would try to stay out of the house wherever possible, but this wasn’t always easy and he often felt like an inconvenience in his own home.
The Centrepoint Bursary
When he was first referred into Centrepoint via social services, TJ was found it challenging to navigate the system. But his key worker Rhys was on hand, and helped TJ understand what he was entitled to in terms of benefits, grants and bursaries.
“Rhys always helped me get things done really quickly. He was able to get me access to a bike really quickly and helped to explain which external bursaries I was entitled to, as well as the Centrepoint Bursary.”
TJ, whose passion is sport, wanted to start a course in football coaching and scouting. The Centrepoint Bursary were able to provide £600 for TJ for the Professional Football Scouting Association (PFSA) Level 2 Talent Identification in Football course, which is an industry leading, internationally recognised CPD accredited certification. It has been taken by many ex-professional footballers and current Heads of Recruitment to further their knowledge of Talent Identification. It is the only Level 2 across the globe that is confidently and exclusively endorsed by Instat, the world-leading provider of scouting analysis software to elite clubs across the globe.
Working as a Scout
“After completing the course, I was hoping to get an internship with Cambridge United and although that fell through, I actually ended up getting work with Queens Park Rangers and I really don’t think that would have happened had I not had the scouting course on my CV. At the time, that course was not affordable at all, so I was immensely grateful to the bursary for helping me. The fact that I was able to get help and have now been working at QPR, that would not have been possible without the support I had.”
TJ is now in his first year at university studying Football Coaching and Management, but is transferring to a different university for his second year. For the duration of his studies, he will be supported by the Bursary, which provides a termly fund for every young person who is supported by Centrepoint and at university.
TJ hopes his passion for football management, coaching and scouting culminates in setting up his own football academy in the future. But TJ also plays rugby - something that he's always wanted to do professionally.
“Professional rugby has always been a dream, even when I was young - I'd say probably 70% of the boys that I went to school with, our goal was to be pro athletes.
"I'm still following that dream. I’m going to give it another few years. In terms of football, I am doing a lot of networking with clubs at the moment, to get to grips with how running your own club works, and what you need. It would be nice to say that in five years' time I'm running my own club, but I’m just happy to see where things take me to be honest. I don't have any worries for the future, I’m just doing everything I can to put myself in a good position; to be well qualified and connected.”
Nurturing a love of sport
For TJ, his love of sport goes beyond keeping fit - he is fully aware of how much football and rugby also protects his mental health, particularly as a form of escapism from the troubles he's faced.
“Sports are very time consuming. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it and the more other distractions in your life just kind of disappear. It's always easier to remove yourself from any situation just by going out and kicking a football; it also keeps you out of trouble. I've definitely found that where I was living, trouble was constantly popping up. Our way was always just play sports. That was it.”
Whilst at Centrepoint, TJ met other young people who also had a talent and passion for sports, and even managed to help one resident carry his passion through to his working life.
“I've seen people in Centrepoint accommodation who are really talented footballers. I met one 19-year-old who was a very talented goalkeeper. After talking with him, I put him in contact with some people and he's now playing semi-professionally.”
That is the power of the work done at Centrepoint: giving young people the opportunities they deserve, whether that's putting a roof over their heads or providing them with the funds to get through university, means they can reach their full potential, and help others to do the same. And TJ is hugely grateful to all the support he’s received from Centrepoint that's allowed him to realise his dream:
“I've just been really appreciative of everything that Rhys and the rest of Centrepoint do to support young people. It seems that it might seem a small thing to say that you’ve helped a young person by paying for a course, but that course took me so far, I wouldn't be where I am without it.”
Thanks to TJ for sharing his inspirational story with us!
If you'd like to make a donation to Centrepoint and help support young people like TJ through the Centrepoint Bursary please visit our donation page.