University College London Union

Dominic Putt

Dominic Putt is a first year BSc geography student. He currently volunteers for Arsenal Double Club for around 2 hours every week during the school year.

What do you do as a volunteer? Describe your typical session.
The Arsenal Double Club is an innovative education and football programme which offers a range of subjects, together with football coaching. The programme mainly runs as an after-school club in Primary and Secondary Schools. The Double Club format is also used in weekend homework/SATS revision clubs, during holiday programmes and in alternative education schemes. In all the subjects covered, football is the motivation, with all the resources used based on Arsenal specifically or football in general. The great thing about it is that you can choose whether you want to be involved with the football aspect of the club, just the literacy aspect or both.

Typically I arrive at about 3:30 when the children, in years 5 and 6, are split into two groups. I usually help out with one group doing the football coaching session for the first 45 minutes, while the other group do work in the classroom. Although there is an FA qualified Arsenal coach there to take the session, I am still usually able to get involved by thinking of new warm-up exercises and by also giving tips and advice to the children on their technique.

After the game, I head back inside with the same group to do some literacy work for the next 45 minutes. This session is taken by a member of the teaching staff from the school. During these sessions, the topic for the session is explained by the teacher before setting an exercise for the group to complete. Although Arsenal Double Club can cover a range of subjects, such as Geography, Modern Languages and Maths, the main focus in Primary Schools is literacy related exercises.

blank smallDominic Putt2

What were your first impressions when you started volunteering?
I was a bit apprehensive at first. It was also difficult not knowing the children’s names to start with as this made it a lot harder to make them listen to instructions and carry out particular tasks. I still really enjoyed the first week and I knew that it would become a lot easier to work with the children once they knew me a little more.

How do you feel about it now?
Now I can’t wait for every Monday’s session to come around. I thoroughly enjoy working there and it is great to see all the children having a good time, even if they are not too happy after losing a game at the end of the session! I have always had a passion for football and sports in general so I love any opportunity to get involved with anything sports related. Now that the children know my name and I know theirs, it is a lot easier to give instructions on the pitch and help with questions they have in the classroom.

What’s the best thing about volunteering?
The fantastic thing about working with children is that you never really know what they are going to do or say. They can have their moments of brilliance by getting the answer right to a particular question, or writing a very complex sentence. However, there are also times when you cannot help yourself but laugh at a particular joke they make when they are supposed to be getting on with their work. Knowing that you are making a difference in their lives is a great feeling.

And what’s the most challenging thing?
At times, some of the children can be very argumentative or over-excited, making it difficult for the other children in the club to respect you and for the session to continue. However, by having other members of staff and coaches there as well, it is much easier to get all the children under control again.

In the classroom, especially towards the end of the session, the children can often become easily distracted, making it difficult to get them to concentrate fully on the work at hand. However, the teacher taking the class has realised this and so usually provides them with a more fun activity towards the end, to keep the children interested in the topic.

How has volunteering changed you?
I have become a lot more confident working with the children in the classroom as this was an entirely new experience for me. My communication skills have vastly improved from when I started at Arsenal Double Club, by trying to explain definitions and punctuation in the simplest of forms.

By helping out with the football sessions, it has allowed me to pick up on some particular coaching techniques and skills sessions which I could possibly use in the future. As a reward for dedicated volunteers, Arsenal Double Club provides selected volunteers from the programme, the opportunity to gain a Level 1 Coaching qualification, which I hope to complete to improve my coaching skills for the following year.

blank smallDominic Putt3

What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?
It is fantastic to think that something I say or teach the children could help them throughout life, in their work or sporting activities. As the weeks have progressed it is evident how some of the children have improved both on the field and in the classroom. This gives me a sense of achievement that all my time and effort has really made a difference in people’s lives and that they have benefitted from all the effort I have put in.

Would you recommend the project to anyone else? If so, why?
I would thoroughly recommend Arsenal Double Club to anyone, whether they have an interest in football or not. It has taught me a lot about working with children and ways of dealing with particular children who are slightly more challenging. If you are considering a career in teaching, as I am, it is the perfect way to get a sense of what it would be like and whether it would suit you. As well as contributing to the local community, it also provides me with time away from my studies, where I can do something which is both rewarding and fun.