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RISE started in 2016 with an annual Charity Football Match to raise awareness and funds for local homeless and disadvantaged youth, and after the success of these events, they have branched out to further help the local community.

They have established a football academy and community outreach organisation that aims to provide all-inclusive social games such as Street Soccer and Walking Football, and that also provides development of young players who may not necessarily be able to access expensive training programs, while engaging them to help in their community outreach programs. We spoke to Matt Snell about the programmes and what they’re hoping to achieve.

Hi Matt. What is RISE, where did it all begin, and what’s it all about?

 RISE – Coffs Harbour Incorporated (“RISE”) is a not-for-profit incorporated charitable association recently created by locals for the benefit entirely of our local community. The original concept was tabled almost 20 years ago in discussions with a very dear friend of mine, John Reynolds, and further encouraged by two other dear friends, Cliff Guy and Sandi Salidu, who all still inspire me to this day with their selfless, generous spirit. 

In 2016 we conducted our first annual charity football match, played by mostly retired footballers, to raise awareness and much-needed funds for our local homeless youth. All funds are donated entirely to the local Wesley Youth Mission Service, to be used for developing life-changing programmes and support for local homeless youth and, on the back of this success, we established RISE, a year-round football academy and community outreach organisation. 

The RISE model will be the first of its kind in Australia to combine community outreach inclusive programmes with football, to enrich the quality of life for any individual who engages with RISE.

Unlike a lot of charities, RISE focuses solely on the local Coffs Coast community. How much has been raised so far, and how has it helped our community?

 Yes, that is true; our constitution states that we focus on our local community stretching from Macksville in the south, Dorrigo in the west and Corindi in the north but, we are hopeful of reaching out beyond those boundaries as the programmes develop. 

However, we are very mindful that as we develop our programmes, they must have enough substance to be a long term asset for our local community and ensure there are tangible positive outcomes for all involved. 

Our four annual charity football matches have raised over $80,000 to date, and as a direct result of these funds raised, we have achieved wonderful outcomes – such as enabling 22 young local disadvantaged adults to obtain their driver’s licence to greatly boost their job prospects; we have assisted 30 young local people transition from crisis accommodation to independent living by purchasing furniture, whitegoods and kitchen appliances; and we have also provided at least 50 crisis packs at Christmas time, providing much needed personal care items for local disadvantaged youth.

Through RISE, an opportunity has arisen for an Australian-first free academy, which will not only aid footballers looking to pursue a career in the sport but others who may only enjoy the fun of the game. How is this achieved, and how would someone enrol in the academy?

 RISE is unique, for the simple fact that we make it accessible to all members of our community, able-bodied or not so able-bodied; our core is ensuring that everyone in our community is included. Our initial facility, generously provided by Key Employment, is located behind Key Employment (the old Catholic Club) 61 West High Street, Coffs Harbour and caters for the very popular street soccer and walking football games, plus other tailored games/programmes we are developing for clients of local NDIS Services, local schools and sporting bodies. 

We regularly publish our “open to the local community sessions”, which are great fun for anyone to come down and join in, and other scheduled events on our website: risecoffsharbour.org 

We will start reviewing nominations for squad players before Christmas this year, and the details for nominating for enrolment will be detailed on our website soon. 

Earlier this year, we visited the United Kingdom to establish mutually beneficial relationships with world-renowned football clubs Glasgow Rangers and Liverpool, together with the inspirational Kinetic Football Academy in Croydon, London, who have all enthusiastically endorsed our model to open a pathway for all of our respective participants to be involved in regular site visits to each other’s facilities, to share ideas and experiences about how community and football can engage and positively change lives.

What is expected of someone and families who enrol in the academy?

 RISE will be open to all socio-economic, cultural and ethnic groups, and over the coming years, we will develop and sustain at least 12 football squads, six male and six female squads aged between 12 to 17 years of age. As well as all squad players refining their football skills under the supervision of our Technical Director, Gary Phillips, the primary aim of the RISE football squads will be to produce well balanced, resilient, community-minded young adults. Rise will support and guide the social awareness and responsibilities of our participants as they move into adulthood while learning to engage with their local community.

It is well documented that young people who have early involvement helping their community develop an altruistic trait to continue to do so throughout their lives. Every squad player who is nominated and then selected by RISE to join the programme will need to review and consider acceptance by them, together with their parents or carers, of the terms and conditions of a personalised RISE “Memorandum of Understanding” (“MOU”) or “Life Journey Programme”. Each MOU will be carefully drafted by RISE specific to the individual circumstances and background of the squad player and their family. This will ensure that we do not set up any individual player for failure with an unreasonable or unachievable MOU, so there will be no stringent standard precedent form MOU for all.

The RISE academy isn’t solely about football. What sort of training and life experience will someone get from the academy?

 Every squad player at RISE will participate in not only football activities, but a wide range of life-skills, educational and outdoor leisure activities at no expense to them. In return, under the terms of their individual MOU, each squad player will commit to an annual minimum of 26 hours’ volunteer assistance/engagement in our community outreach programmes, working closely with organisations such as Wesley, Meals on Wheels, Legacy and the like. Likewise, their parents, families and carers will also commit to an annual minimum of 52 hours’ volunteer assistance/engagement collectively in our community outreach programmes. We will provide one on one mentoring and guidance to all of our squad players and their families/carers as per their individual MOUs.

Why is this different from other academies out there? 

Well, probably most importantly, our football academy is open and available to all young members of our local community, regardless of their background, at no monetary expense – provided they accept the terms of their personal MOU and actively participate in our community outreach programmes. We also do not sell dreams; less than 1% of the football playing population across the world make a living out of playing professional football, so we develop realistic goals for all of our players to ensure, in particular, that their mental health, together with their physical wellbeing, remains their most important priority.

Community is the heart of RISE. In what ways are you getting the community involved?

At RISE, the common link is football, but the binding principle is community. As such, RISE will conduct a range of community-focused activities and programmes aimed at promoting physical and mental wellbeing – especially to those within our community who for whatever reason find it difficult to participate in conventional, mainstream community or sports activities. 

At RISE we have developed street soccer and walking football programmes to be all-inclusive, open to all members of our local community. Street soccer is an incredibly successful global phenomenon and is normally a small-sided game aimed at quickly improving your football skills. Walking football is a very low impact activity normally aimed at the less mobile and less able-bodied amongst us who are up for an organised kick-around at a manageable, friendly pace or, any member of our community who would just like regular social, friendly engagement. 

We are also aware that there are many community members in our region who are geographically more isolated, but who would enjoy and benefit from our activities, so we will be holding outreach football clinics and street soccer/walking football events at more remote schools and playing fields as our resources permit.

What can our community do to get on board and help?

 With the assistance and participation of local community members and businesses, RISE can continue to develop life-changing programmes for the youth and less fortunate of our community. 

If you wish to volunteer or make a kind donation, just contact Matt on 0405 386 165 or email: matt@risecoffsharbour.org

Thanks, Matt.

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