More Than Football Award 2024 Longlist: Big Hearts Community Trust – Switching play

8 July 2024

More Than Football Award 2024 Longlist: Big Hearts Community Trust – Switching play

The European Football for Development Network (EFDN) is proud to present the Big Hearts Community Trust – Switching play project, which has been selected for the longlist of the More Than Football Award 2024.

Switching Play is a project designed and delivered by Big Hearts, the charity of Heart of Midlothian FC in Edinburgh, Scotland. The project started in the Spring of 2023 with the ambition to help local young people who are not attending school reconnect with peers in their community and gain essential life skills to build a brighter future for themselves.

Big Hearts discovered in fact that the main challenge faced by young people between 13 and 16 years old is school disengagement. Switching Play provides an alternative to school, by offering disengaged pupils the opportunity to spend one day a week at the Hearts’ Stadium.

The sessions are running once a week for 6 weeks (same length as the school term). Big Hearts designed the sessions so they can be interactive, engaging and fun – to show that it is possible to learn and gain new skills whilst having a good time.

By spending one day at Big Hearts per week, the young people build their confidence, social skills and overall wellbeing, which helped significantly to a progressive return to attend school more often. In addition to that, the Switching Play participants got to volunteer, prepare for job interviews and learn about accepting other people’s differences – by taking part in the ‘Show racism the red card’ campaign.

Main project objectives

  • Improve emotional wellbeing and self-esteem
  • Create friendships and new social connections
  • Gain volunteering experience to help with further education and employment
  • Build trust in figures of authority, ie. the police and school teachers
  • Learn essential life skills, ie. cooking, budgeting, problem-solving, stress management