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Ryan's Story: Leading by example

Eighteen-year-old Ryan has been attending Premier League Kicks sessions with Palace for Life since he was 13 and is now an inspirational role model to young players, volunteering his time to help them build their confidence.

When Ryan first joined Premier League Kicks sessions with Palace for Life Foundation, he was 13-years-old and struggling with his behaviour and confidence. A pupil at Beckmead School in Croydon, Ryan started playing football as a way to channel his emotions and quickly found a supportive community growing around him.

Five years on, 18-year-old Ryan is now volunteering at sessions to help younger boys build their confidence and was recently honoured with a Jack Petchey Achievement Award in recognition of the outstanding role model he has become. He was also selected as a Nike Changemaker for his work in the community, receiving the latest Mercurial Dream Speed Boots and the winter edition Nike Merlin Hi-Vis football.

“I wanted to give back and last year I wasn’t doing very much so thought why not help out. I started to realise that I was out growing the session too so it made sense to help the younger boys,” Ryan explained.

Alongside PL Kicks, Ryan has been receiving mentoring support through Palace for Life’s Breaking the Cycle programme, which helps young people at risk of being caught up in anti-social or criminal behaviour and helps them to find more positive pathways.

Ryan’s confidence has grown to such an extent that he has also started pursuing his dream to get into football coaching and management and has recently completed his FA Level 1 coaching qualification. In addition, he is working at Selhurst Park on matchdays as part of the stewarding team.

“When I first started at Kicks SNR I was a bit anxious about coming because of all the bad things that were happening in the area. I have become more social because of Kicks and because of this I am able to go around the area more freely as I know most of the boys from Kicks programme.

“I have to thank Q (Palace for Life coach, Qudus Popoola) for all the support and mentoring he has been doing with me through the Breaking The Cycle Programme, having a chance to meet up and talk to someone about my struggles has really helped me a lot and I thank Palace for giving me that support.

“If it wasn’t for the support, all my accomplishments this year would have never happened, I’m truly grateful and honoured to be a part of Palace for Life.”

I wish Ryan nothing but the best for the future and I hope this inspires young people with special needs to get involved and follow their dreams.

Palace for Life coach - Qudus Popoola

Palace for Life coach Qudus, who has known Ryan for seven years added: “I’m so proud of Ryan for everything he’s achieved, I started my teaching journey with this special young man and it’s incredible to see how he has developed over the last seven years, I wish Ryan nothing but the best for the future and I hope this inspires young people with special needs to get involved and follow their dreams.”

With his newfound confidence, employment and coaching qualification, Ryan is now looking forward to his future with optimism and excitement:

“I’m not sure what I’d like to do yet, but I would definitely like to do something within the football industry. Hopefully I’ll manage Crystal Palace one day, I’m allowed to dream big!”

Find out more about our Premier League Kicks programme here.

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