Lola's story: PL Kicks helping me realise my dreams

6 Oct 2023
Premier League Kicks, Lola, Bristol City

How Bristol City Robins Foundation supported one participant during difficult times and is providing opportunities for a future career in football

Related Articles
Teamwork and camaraderie: Doncaster's journey to the PL Kicks Cup
Hus's story: PL Kicks is a big part of my life
John's story: I want my story to keep kids out of trouble

For almost half of her life, 16-year-old Lola has felt the benefit of Premier League programmes and Bristol City Robins Foundation.

This support has not only nurtured a love of football but helped her through the pandemic, encouraged her to take up volunteering and opened up the possibility of playing in America.

"Premier League Kicks means so much because it's brought me to where I am today," she says. "It's going to help me improve further, throughout college and wherever I go in the future. I'll always remember the memories I have had from Kicks."

Her journey with the Robins Foundation began when she was in Year 5 and started taking part in the Premier League Primary Stars programme, which uses the appeal of football to inspire children to be active and develop essential skills.

"I've not always liked football," she says. "I grew up playing a lot of sports but I didn't play football until I was around 10. When I started playing, I enjoyed it.

"PL Primary Stars was a great opportunity, every lunchtime the coaches would come and put us into matches. It was a great environment and a lot of fun."

Lola, Bristol City, Premier League Kicks

When her time at primary school came to an end, another footballing pathway with the Foundation opened up through Premier League Kicks.

It was there that her footballing talent started to show through and her progress was recognised as she began to attend The FA's Girls Advanced Coaching Centre in Somerset.

But when the COVID pandemic hit and lockdowns were introduced, Lola, like so many other young people, struggled with her mental health.

"Coming out of COVID, she went from being a really strong player to then feeling like she was nowhere near the level that she can be," says Robins Foundation lead PL Kicks coach Jon Pinches.

"That really affected her. She would have anxiety around playing and develop panic attacks. There was even a point when she said she didn't want to carry on playing."

When she needed their support, Jon and the other Robins Foundation coaches were there for her.

During lockdown they would call to check up on her and when PL Kicks sessions were able to resume, they offered a safe space and time for a chat when things got too much.

"It was disheartening when I thought I couldn't do it anymore," she says. "I was sad about it but then I found a way back and learned over time how to cope with things differently.

"The coaches are always there to talk. They always listen and give great advice. That help I had was so important. I think I would have still been at my worst now if I didn't have that support.

"It made me feel like I was in the right environment and safe. It made me comfortable to talk about anything."

Lola has not looked back. She began volunteering and coaching on PL Kicks sessions, becoming a role model for younger participants coming through the programme.

So far, she has clocked up more than 1000 hours of volunteering and last year won the prestigious Bristol Young Hero Award for her commitment to supporting others.

As well as being on the Ignite Youth Council that helps shape PL Kicks sessions, Lola has taken the lead on the council’s social action project and is a member of the national group that is working on the Premier League Charitable Fund's Protect the Planet event in November.

Lola is working on getting her FA Level 2 coaching badge and when she's completed her education with the Robins Foundation, she is hoping to gain a football scholarship at an American university.

"I am a little surprised with how much I've enjoyed the coaching," she says. "I'm quite a shy person, I have come out of my shell a bit more and I interact with people better.

"When I was younger, I always used to look up to the coaches and now I'm a coach, it brings back memories. I relate to them; I know how they feel.

"After lockdown, because I was isolated for so long, I was a bit lost. When I started volunteering, it brought me back to where I used to be and reminded me how to have fun and enjoy life."

Premier League Kicks, funded by the Premier League through the Premier League Charitable Fund, uses the power of football and sport to inspire young people to reach their potential, in some of the most high-need areas in England and Wales.

More than half a million people have benefited to date.

Latest Videos

More Videos