My name is Harley Hewitt, I’m 18 years old. I’m volunteering for The Sports Creative, and this is my story.

I grew up in a very suburban county called Devon on the south-west coast of England. I’ve lived there since I was 6 when I first joined the primary school and my first football team. 

I didn’t know anyone in the village when I first moved here. Still, the local football club, Braunton FC, had been recommended because of its super positive environment for children, and it was where most of my classmates played football. 

I remember how nervous I was, 6 years of age, standing in front of the team and coaches, being welcomed as a new player. Since that day, to the age of 18, I haven’t stopped playing for that club, and my love for the game has grown. 

What football gave me socially was huge, as the benefits gained from sporting activities can be life-changing.

I remember returning to school on Monday with a sense of belonging in the community and the confidence to speak to my classmates whom I recognized from the football club. Those players I stood in front of at the age of 6 on my first training session became my mates (friends), and we are all still friends to this day.

My happiest memory of the sport was when I scored the winning goal in the final of our cup tournament at 13. I’ve always had dreams and visions of such moments, but they’ve never captured the disbelief and pure joy I felt when I scored that day. 

The coach we had then was called Mark, my favorite ever coach, purely due to his constant positivity, love for the game, and kindness towards us as young aspiring players. He never shouted at us or got annoyed and wouldn’t let us go home after a loss, blaming it on ourselves. I was about 14 when he left after having had him for 6 years. 

That’s when I was introduced to the emotional bond that football is capable of building. Tears were shed by all players and staff, proving that strong connections can be made through sporting opportunities and that the emotional bond between coaches and players can be special.

What I love most about football is how the game is played and loved by so many people worldwide. I remember going on holidays and always playing football with the local people on the beach, in a park, or a football cage. Most of the time, we couldn’t understand each other, but the understanding of football internationally allowed us to play and enjoy a game without even being able to communicate fully.

”What team do you support?” I always loved this question as it was understood by everyone there who loved football, and the reactions I got when replying “Tottenham Hotspur” was always a laugh. It’s a conversation starter that gives people the confidence to talk as everyone is passionate about their team.

Now, at 18, I have finished college and am on a year off, traveling to different countries before I start university. 

I’ve always been interested in sports, and seeing how much it can help improve children’s livelihoods is fascinating. This is why I started writing this story at The Sports Creative pitch in Philadelphia, America. I have been volunteering as a Coach at both the Philadelphia program, and the La Piña program in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. 

This shows the crazy journey that football can take you on. Running football drills for the kids today was a fascinating experience I will never forget. 

Seeing the community’s younger members come together to play sports, no matter their background or lifestyle, and making new friends with others in the same community is amazing and truly the aim of The Sports Creative project. 

Allowing children access to a quality football pitch and support from coaches can improve the lives of many children. 

From that first training session in Devon at the age of 6 to watching aspiring young ballers playing in Philadelphia and the DR with the same love for the game I had and still have, it is a pleasure to see. 

I hope this inspires more young people to take up sporting opportunities to experience the life-changing benefits. 

I’m Harley Hewitt, and this was my story as a volunteer for The Sports Creative.