NRMA Insurance funds an indoor Twilight Soccer Program in Sydney’s western suburbs in conjunction with Bankstown City Council. We talked to Council Project Officer Youth Crime Prevention, Melissa Semeri, about why the initiative is so important.
How long have you been running the twilight soccer program?
“It’s been running since September 2012. We did a trial run and then started the first tournament the following year. It was actually a couple of the girls in our team that came up with the idea, we were already running a twilight basketball team and we wanted to do a different sport. Soccer is such a popular sport around Bankstown, it seemed a natural fit.”
How many kids take part?
“The maximum we can take is 62 and we’re pretty much full each time! Boys and girls aged 12-16 years old can sign up. There are two six-week tournaments a year – one in February and another in August. On the first night they register, we put them into their teams – there are six in total that compete. Then they play every Friday night at 6.30.”
Is it just about the soccer?
“The soccer is the biggest part of the program but there are other important elements. It’s also about learning teamwork and life skills such as anger management. In the first week they choose their team name together and do their own code of conduct. In it they outline how they’re going to behave during the tournament and cover subjects like respect and team building.
During the program they also learn about road safety and cyber-safety. On one evening we have the local police come and run a workshop for them as well. At the end the winners get a trophy and we give prizes for a 100% attendance, which is at least half of the kids."
What’s the motivation behind the initiative?
“We work in partnership with a lot of the youth services in our area and mainly the purpose of the Twilight Soccer Program is to provide a safe place for the kids to come and hang out with friends and to meet new friends outside their normal peer groups.
It’s also something for them to do over the weekend, so they don’t get bored and perhaps get involved in activity that’s less constructive. It’s a free program and even includes food. We start the evening with a dinner - we provide a hot meal for them and then we have two to three matches and then a life skills workshop.”
How does NRMA Insurance get behind it?
“NRMA Insurance has supported the program financially, almost from the beginning. Apart from funding it the NRMA Bankstown staff came down to the last tournament and gave us a Western Sydney Wanderers framed shirt that we are going to auction off for fundraising.”
What makes the program so valuable?
“The kids really look forward to coming. They get so much out of it. We get many of them coming back year after year, as well as new ones starting. We’re now in our third year, and it’s lovely seeing the kids grow up and now we have some of them coming back as volunteers. It’s a totally worthwhile project.”
For more information on the Twilight Soccer Program visit the Bankstown City Council website.