Working Creatively With Vulnerable Young People – Using Football to Engage Young Men in SRE ‘Scored Project’

This case-study explores the award winning 'Scored project', developed by the Young People's Health Project in East Birmingham, which uses football training as a method to engage young men in sex and relationships education (SRE).


The 'Scored' project was developed in consultation with young people out of school, with high levels of truanting and on part-time timetables. The project targeted the Shard End ward, which is in the top 5 per cent of deprived wards in England and ranks fifth in the country for low educational attainment. Shard End also has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Birmingham.

The project aims to raise awareness among young people about the responsibilities of engaging in a sexual relationship, safe sex, the consequences of unprotected sex and the role, responsibilities and rights of fatherhood. Ultimately the project hopes to contribute to reducing teenage pregnancy rates and reducing the risk of long-term social exclusion of the participants.

Why the connection between SRE and football?

Football was suggested by the young people consulted as something they wanted to do. Providing one-hour football training sessions thus provided a means of engaging and retaining the interest of participants and offered a platform for practical-based delivery of SRE. The project was originally aimed at young men, and while the majority of participants were young men it has also attracted young women to the group. The project is adaptable and can engage with both young men and women.

The football theme was used creatively as a source of analogies about 'fair-play' on and off the pitch. For example use of the yellow and red card system for behaviour which supported creating a safe learning environment and set boundaries. Skills developed on the pitch could also be transferred to relationships, such as communication, negotiation, decision-making and team-work.

Learning outcomes of the project

  • Knowledge of sexual organs, awareness of the body and its different functions
  • Knowledge of STIs, how they are transmitted, how they affect the body and how they can be tested for and treated
  • Knowledge of local services providing sexual health advice and information, contraception services and testing for STIs
  • Awareness of all the different types of contraception, their reliability, pros and cons, methods of use, what to do if the contraception fails and where to get emergency contraception
  • Awareness of pressure and improved decision-making skills around sexual health situations and drug/alcohol situations
  • Recognition of the complexities and responsibilities of parenting, the financial costs and the social stigma experienced by young parents
  • An understanding and assessment of the impact having a child has on personal and social life, as well as educational and long-term achievements
  • The young lads will have the option to look after a reality baby
  • Improved football skills
  • Development of social and personal skills - team building, meeting new people and making friends


Each activity had a sexual health focus but then related the principles back to football. Two sample activities are outlined below.

Example activity 1

Know your bits - Why it is important to know your sexual organs and how they function? Why is it important to know the rules of football?

LEARNING OUTCOME: Knowledge of sexual organs, awareness of body and different functions

Know Your Bits - Using familiar objects to explain parts of the body

  • Cream Eggs or Kinder Eggs - Ovaries
  • Banana - Penis
  • Plums - Testicles
  • Liquorice laces - Fallopian tubes
  • Pear - Womb
  • Condom - Vagina

The following are example of links between knowing your body and knowing the rules of football:

  • So there's no fouling or unfair play
  • You know if something's wrong
  • To stay safe and not get hurt, both on the pitch and when having sex
  • To understand the game rules, the rules of your body and how it functions and to know if something's wrong
  • To acknowledge the enjoyment aspect and about having fun
  • To feel confident about your body - being in control on the pitch, protecting yourself in a sexual relationship

Example activity 2

Relationship pitch - Different types of relationships, based on the three different actions in football. Who do you defend, tackle and attack in a relationship? The importance of communication on and off the pitch.

LEARNING OUTCOME: To be able to identify qualities and skills for a healthy relationship and identify pressuring situations and unacceptable relationships

Example discussion

If you 'attack' (are aggressive or angry towards) your friends what's bad about that and how do you support that? Are you able to support that friend if you're attacking them? How you defend your friends and look after them as well as be just good friends. What are the friendly aspects to friendship? How do you tackle problems in a relationship?

Achievement - accreditation

This project was accredited through the National Open College Network at Level 1. Participants were also able to achieve the St Johns First Aid Certificate - 'Emergency Life Support for All Ages'.

Key themes to ensure success

Using sport in this way ensures that any work on sexual health starts where the young people 'are at' and uses language and concepts that they understand and can relate to. Important to the success of the project was:

  • Consultation with young people - and working creatively with where they are at
  • Flexible approach - ability to adapt the programme
  • Partnership work - Teenage Pregnancy Coordinator and PCT
  • Links with school nurses, schools and library
  • 'Coachright' having a professional football coach
  • Support from managers

The 'Scored Project' won the national Pamela Sheridan Award for SRE in 2008.

Further details of the award can be found at the FPA website

For further information contact:

The Young People's Health Project
Karina Bowkett, Michelle Thompson and Chris McCabe