Connor Cook is a second year Physical Education BA(Hons) student and a Football 4 Peace (F4P) trained coach – he has recently returned from a study tour in Northern Ireland where he was involved in coaching using the F4P methodology at Easter football camps.
The camps were run by the Irish Football Association (IFA) as part of their ‘Let Them Play’ Youth Strategy. The IFA run 100 values-based camps a year for Catholic and Protestant children and they include the F4P values-based methodology within all their community and school prgrammes.
Connor’s reports on his experiences during the trip:
A group of five students from the University of Brighton and a senior leader that works alongside F4P were involved in a project to implement our training of Values-based teaching to areas where there is, or was, tension or a divide within communities. The beginning of the trip filled us with concern and anxiety due to hearing of an attack in the location where we were planning to stay.
My parents were reluctant on me completing this project due to them concluding I may be putting myself at risk. I spoke with my parents and after discussing for hours on end that I will still be involved in the project, I made a promise to keep them updated at all times.
So, the day came and we made our travels to Northern Ireland. The group knew very little about each other, so talk was limited to begin with, but this could have been due to fatigue and an early pick up time of 5:30am. However, by the end of the trip we would all consider each other as a good group of friends with incredible memories to carry throughout their lives and careers.
When we arrived in Belfast this was for many of us, our first experience in visiting the area and after having a wash and freshening up we began to explore our local surroundings. We visited Ulster Museum in the afternoon which was an eye opener and we experienced surreal feelings of emotions after seeing the ‘The Troubles’ Exhibition. And in the evening, we completed a tour of historical bars and buildings in the Cathedral Quarter.
On the Monday many us were still feeling fatigued due to the early wake up the previous day so we decided to rest and regenerate our energy levels. At 1:00pm we had the privilege to go on a Black Taxi tour of Belfast Falls where we visited the locations of murals and the peace wall which still divides two local communities (the gates are however open, but only until 7:00pm) and we gained insight knowledge of the politics and ‘The Troubles’.
On Tuesday we set out on our travels to Derry (Londonderry) via the coastal route and admired the astounding views. We then went to Giants Causeway and visited the formations of cooled lava from an eruption that had occurred, and we came to the understanding of why this was a popular destination for tourists. Later that evening we met with Kevin and Joe to plan where we were coaching, and we could begin to share our ideas of what we had planned for our sessions.
On 24th April, we all began our coaching projects in areas such as Strabane and Ballycastle. Coaching was successful, and we could see the participants were engaged and seemed to enjoy the activities they were involved from the laughter and levels of enthusiasm they were showing. Later that day we completed the Bogside Tour and the City Walls Tour which gave many of us a mixture of emotions and feelings.
The 25th and 26th April were our final days of the coaching project which we all completed successfully. We were treated by Kevin and his welcoming family with dinner and a trip around his local area which is placed within the Republic of Ireland and we could not be more thankful to them for giving us this experience.
Overall, it is a project that I will always remember and treasure. I will have stories that will stay with me throughout my career and that I can implement into my future teachings. Importantly the group would say we have made a strong friendship that will remain for many years to come.