West Coast Eagles FC inspires high school students in the Pilbara with "Kicking Goals", a curriculum-based mentoring program

In 2005, West Coast Eagles launched Kicking Goals, a curriculum-based mentoring program, in partnership with BHP Billiton and Swan Districts Football Club. The program was designed to inspire and motivate high school students in the Pilbara towns of Port Hedland and Newman to achieve better educational and employment outcomes.

The regional township of Port Hedland had been struggling to attract and retain long-term residents due to the poor reputation of its only secondary school. Issues at the school included a high suspension rate and levels of truancy, difficulty in recruiting and retaining high calibre teachers, threatening behaviour by students towards teaching staff, and lockdowns of classrooms due to violence. These issues spread into the wider community, affecting crime rates and a fall in volunteer rates for the community. Many employees of the main employer in the region, BHP Billiton, as well as critical services employees started moving away in order to find a more positive lifestyle elsewhere.

The Kicking Goals program is delivered to students in Years eight to 12.  It uses a rewards and incentives system, whereby students are required to maintain key standards to be eligible for various incentives, including popular visits to Hedland and Newman by current West Coast Eagles players five times a year. Not only do students get to meet their heroes, but also get to communicate via video conferencing, discussing all aspects of education and life. The program also offers students the chance to develop expertise in the football industry, including coaching, umpiring and certificates in First Aid. Students are encouraged to utilise these skills to volunteer in the community and support the growth of football participation in the Pilbara.

Inputs:

  • Cash: $60,000 per year
  • Time: 10 player visits to Newman and Port Hedland each year.
  • Support also contributed through fundraising initiatives and the donation of signed guernseys and merchandise

Outputs & Impacts

The program has grown from addressing one community’s issues in 2004 to an extended community program reaching 120,000 students a year in 600 schools across Western Australia.

  • 94% increase in juniors involved in the program aged 10-14 years;
  • 68% increase in football participation;
  • 35% decrease in criminal activity in Port Hedland;
  • Improvement in numeracy and literacy among participating Indigenous students;
  • A marked reduction in anti-social behaviour in both participating schools;
  • Port Hedland Senior High School ranked number one in Vocational Education & Training schools;
  • The Pilbara region saw a 68% increase in football participation in 2012 and another 34% increase in 2013, the V Swans game development model is having significant benefits for delivery on behalf of the region and WA Football Commission;
  • In 2013, the Kicking Goals students volunteered over 700 hours between them;
  • School truancy levels dropped to their lowest since 2006.

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 “As part of the Kicking Goals Program, Jamie spoke about his work with the David Wirrpanda Foundation and the opportunities available to him in terms of education and employment as an AFL player. This enabled the young people to envision a future for them that went beyond fame and fortune as an AFL player to a future where they could build all parts of themselves and be valued in multiple contexts. Contact with inspirational mentors such as Jamie Bennell provide an invaluable opportunity to motivate students to strive for their personal best in all learning areas within the educational environment.”

- English Teacher & Year 10 Coordinator at Newman SHS