The Hunslet Club CEO explains why sport is a "must" for Leeds children post-lockdown
The Hunslet Club was formed to keep young people off the streets during one of the biggest crises in history - World War Two.
As Leeds tentatively emerges from another major crisis, 81 years later, the club's CEO said sporting activities are more vital than ever in supporting the city's young people.
The Yorkshire Evening Post's Saving Lives After Lockdown campaign is looking at ways to prevent an upsurge in knife crime post-lockdown, highlighting the tireless work of community groups to provide diversionary activities in Leeds.
There more than 90 activities held at The Hunslet Club every week - including football clubs, dance groups and boxing classes - which relaunched last month after weeks of being held over Zoom.
The Hunslet Club's CEO, Dennis Robbins, said: “50 kids attended the first session, which tells us immediately there’s a massive need.
“Lockdown has had a hell of an impact on the young people because they’d been isolated since March, they’d not seen their friends."
The activities give children a chance to form positive relationships and those at risk of issues such as serious violence can be identified and provided with the support they need.
The "beauty of sport" is that it brings young people from all walks of life together, Dennis said.
He added: “On one of our Zoom football sessions over lockdown, one young person had a 3G pitch in his garden with football posts and floodlights, it was an amazing set-up.
"On the same Zoom call, there was a child playing football in the stairwell of his block of flats. It just tells you how sport brings people together from so many different backgrounds, it creates friendships for life.
"These kids have played together since they were five and will carry on until they’re 17. That’s the beauty of sport and coming out of lockdown, more of that is needed.
"Getting back into sport is a must.”
While the activity centre and sport provision are a major part of The Hunslet Club, the team have recognised a need to provide a wider net of services for their 2,000 members.
They have recently recruited six new youth workers and specialist intervention workers, who can support young people who may have developed issues over lockdown.
Dennis added: “We recognised we needed some additional support, particularly in terms of mental health.
“Bringing in these qualified people, we can now signpost the children to people within the building to deal with any issues. It’s an exciting project.
“In the biggest crisis, during the Second World War, we were formed to support young people.
"80 years on, we have the next major crisis and we’ve relaunched back to what we were - a youth club."
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