By John Bell, Shell Twilight Basketball Mentor
When I first started working with Declan he was a member of the Irvine Twilight session and the existing staff members had picked him out as someone I may wish to keep an eye on, I was told a story of Declan throwing a bottle of water during a session that was very close to hitting a youth worker that was present, I was then also told of the possibility that he may also storm out because of his problems with controlling his anger and emotion.
I was to witness this very quickly.
Orrin, the coach at Irvine, and I had a chat about a way forward, Orrin having done some previous work with Declan on his issues agreed that us working as a team and being united on what was acceptable behaviour from Declan but also letting Declan know what he could expect from us was the best way forward.
Declan did show immediate signs of responding but was still having occasional incidents of anger and was still disrupting the session on a less frequent basis, progress was slow but myself and Orrin were determined to get the best from Declan and his obvious love of Basketball.
We were then asked by Twilight Basketball to speak to the session about the up and coming ambassador programme, Declan was immediately eager to be involved, this however presented us with a big problem, with Declan still having occasional bursts of anger we did not want other young people at the session seeing us to be rewarding or condoning this type of behaviour.
The same night three members of staff met to discuss the situation, such was the debate that it was taken to a vote to see if Declan would be put forward, and the vote fell in Declan’s favour by two votes to one.
Orrin and I told Declan the following week that we would be willing to put his name forward as long as we saw an improvement in behaviour at the Irvine sessions.
To his credit Declan began to improve on a weekly basis and was indeed put forward for the ambassador programme.
It became apparent very quickly on the weekend ambassador residential at Kilgarston that we had made the right choice in giving him another chance. Declan was now mixing with strangers and also actively encouraging others to take part. As a worker it was joy to see, it was decided that weekend that I would become Declan’s mentor.
I sit here writing this today and can honestly say the transformation in Declan’s behaviours and attitudes both within our session and outside of it is nothing short of phenomenal , this young man when I first met him could justifiably be described as withdrawn, angry, prone to outbursts, unwilling to listen and extremely difficult to work with. (I should know my job is a youth worker with North Ayrshire Council).
Today I would describe Declan as helpful, willing to take part, a team player, a good communicator, a delightful person to be around and a vital part of the Irvine Wolves Twilight Basketball Session.
Declan has actively helped me to deliver Educational timeouts on subjects ranging from LGBTQ+ rights, the white ribbon campaign against domestic violence, bullying, bigotry and racism.
He now attends the Glasgow Rocks college programme in Glasgow and is an independent self-assured young man, we love having Declan at our sessions and really admire the hard work he has put in to transform his life.
The last thing I will say about this nomination is this, when I first attended the session some of the young people wanted Declan removed, 14 months later and the group democratically and by a huge margin voted for Declan to receive this nomination.
Declan is more than worthy of this award.
Just in case Declan should not win this award I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all the wonderful staff at Twilight Basketball and Scottish Sports Futures who have actively supported us in this whole process and have been a constant source of knowledge and understanding to our specific needs.