AFC Wimbledon Foundation Provides Kickstart for Young Coach's Career

Maddi Sweetman gets her dream job with help of government scheme

Maddi Sweetman

A young woman has got her dream job thanks to the AFC Wimbledon Foundation and the government’s £2bn Kickstart scheme.

Maddi Sweetman, 22, from Timbercroft in Surrey, is kickstarting her career as an Assistant Community Coach at the football club she has supported since she was a child.

Maddi, who was in receipt of Universal Credit, had found it hard to secure employment due to the pandemic - and had battled with her mental health after losing work during the lockdown.

But, supported by her Work Coaches at Epsom Jobcentre Plus, Maddi has been able to overcome mental health problems to land her dream role at the community-focused part of the League One football club.

She said, “My mental health has always been a struggle. Finding a job is so much harder when you believe you’re not good enough.”

Work Coaches Julia Longobardi and Emma Gowar stepped in, supporting Maddi and helping her to overcome an initial reluctance to apply for Universal Credit. It proved the change she needed to develop her career.

Philip Rudling, Foundation Director, Emma Gowar, Work Coach, Maddi Sweetman, Fiona Sutherland, Community Development Manager and Julia Longobardi, Work Coach
L-R - Philip Rudling, Foundation Director, Emma Gowar, Work Coach, Maddi Sweetman, Fiona Sutherland, Community Development Manager and Julia Longobardi, Work Coach

Maddi remarked, “I don’t know what stopped me from going on to Universal Credit. I told my work coaches Julia and Emma about my mental health and how it was a hurdle for me in every aspect – even being on the phone to them. They immediately calmed me and were so accommodating, conversational, humane and easy to talk to. I felt like I finally had someone who I could talk to about finding the job right for me that not only understood and listened, but heard and helped.”

Maddi’s persistence paid off when a Kickstart position for an Assistant Community Coach became available

Kickstart aims to get young people aged 16 – 24 on Universal Credit back into employment. The initiative sees young people being offered six-month work placements, with wages of up to 25 hours a week being fully paid by the government.

Reflecting on her experience, Maddi said, “I saw the role and thought instantly it was a dream opportunity. Julia did everything she possibly could to ensure I was able to apply for this job. I was accepted for an interview and got new clothes through the Flexible Support Fund. I was offered the job the next day. Between me and my family we could’ve filled a swimming pool with tears!

“To be able to have an opportunity – not only at the club I love – but just to get my foot in the door for a career in football is so fantastic. I’m so excited to get involved around the community. Helping is my passion, and to know everything I am doing is for a good cause – I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

Maddi’s work coach Emma added, “It was always such a joy to catch-up with Maddi on a monthly basis and to find out how well she had been excelling in her role at AFC Wimbledon Foundation. I knew that when I saw Maddi’s name in my diary for that day that I was going to have a good day. She would be over the moon telling me all about the additional training she had received, such as Mental Health training; First Aid training and even Domestic Violence training; and it was encouraging for me to know she would be well equipped for a career in Football Coaching after the Kickstart placement had ended.

“Maddi is the epitome of what a Youth Work Coach strives to achieve with Kickstart: pairing a customer’s passion with valuable paid work experience and additional employability support is what we strive to achieve. And to know Maddi has been kept on at AFC Wimbledon Foundation to complete an apprenticeship is the cherry on-top. I have no doubt that with Maddi’s drive and ambition to help younger people with their mental health, and channelling that through sport, that she has a very bright future. I can’t wait to hear more from Maddi in the years to come.”

Fiona Sutherland, Community Development Manager at AFC Wimbledon Foundation said, “Maddi has been a pleasure to work with since day one. Her enthusiasm is contagious and passion inspiring. She encourages young people to give everything a go regardless of their ability and puts her all into ensuring everyone in her sessions feels valued and included. We are so pleased to have her on the team and can’t wait to see how she continues to grow and develop throughout her career with us.”

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November 22, 2021