What are you leading?
At Just For Kicks, we leverage the power of football to develop critical life skills among children attending under-resourced schools. Today, 6 out of 10 high school graduates are unemployable due to lack of life skills. This is the gap we’re aiming to fill through our work at Just For Kicks.
Today, Just For Kicks is operating in close to 100 schools across various regions of India impacting 3000 children. 45% of the entire cohort comprises of girls. We’re currently in 5 urban cities - Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai alongside 1 rural region of Dharwad, Karnataka. We have close to 95 facilitators/ coaches on our roll along with a backend team of 14 members.
Just For Kicks utilizes a unique state-of-the-art curriculum developed in-house wherein life skills coaching blends in with football learning. We follow a minimum 3-year program cycle, starting at an early age of 8. About 80% of these children continue to be part of the program beyond the 3-year cycle extending up to 6 years. Our facilitators who are trained on the curriculum and philosophy deliver up to 48 sessions in-school through the year. At the end of the year, children participate in an intra-city league that extends for 2-3 months, providing children the necessary social exposure. Children between the ages of 8-16 are placed in homogenous gender-specific groups of ten each.
Vikas: Neha and I are co-founders. I work on all major verticals of the organization with majority of the focus on fundraising, strategy, and marketing.
Neha: My focus is largely on the operations and the curriculum design
How did your experiences as a fellow inspire or prepare you for what you’re doing now?
The origin of Just For Kicks lies within a Teach For India classroom. As a group of fellows, we were consistently struggling to develop long-term character traits of our children within the walls of a classroom. In an effort to find solutions to this problem, we experimented with the idea of using a sport like football. In no time, the attendance rates skyrocketed, children began to display a lot more confidence, it became easy to communicate with them as teachers due to the out-of-classroom bond, and they also began working collaboratively as one unit. Just For Kicks wouldn’t have taken birth had we not had the first-hand experience of the problems faced by children attending under-resourced schools.
While these changes were at the core of why we started Just For Kicks, it was not until an incident in early 2012 that we began perceiving this as a serious project. One of my students, Sayaji who was all of 8, arrived very early on a Sunday morning to play a local league game we had organised as part of the program. None of the other students had turned up yet but Sayaji was there, all decked up and ready to play. He was unusually silent but went about warming up and even helped me prepare the pitch . A while later, there was a commotion outside the school. It was Sayaji’s family members who had come to question why Sayaji was in school at such a ‘grave’ time. It was only at that point I realised that Sayaji had lost his father just a couple of hours before. I went up to Sayaji in complete shock and told him he needs to go home to be with his family. But he looked up at me firmly and said “Bhaiya mujhe khelna hai, please khelne do! (Bhaiya, I want to play, just let me!)”. I let him play and he expressed himself freely on the pitch taking the team to a victory. It was as if he forgot all his worries on the pitch. This truly testified our belief in the project.
All our initial expansion was also driven through the Teach For India network as we gathered interested fellows to run the program within their schools by themselves. We wouldn’t have become a full-fledged organisation had it not been for the initial support the network provided us in proving the concept of our project and taking it to new schools and locations.
We are driven by the mission to take our program to at least a million children by 2025. While it may be ambitious, we have a three phased approach towards this. Phase 1, up until now, has been about conducting pilots and developing a well-rounded program. Phase 2 is about replication, wherein we aim to quadruple our outreach year-on-year and Phase 3 is about influencing policy decisions that will help take this to more than a million children.
In 2018, we’ll be working with close to 6000 children across India and beginning a pilot in another developing country in Asia. We’re also working on building a larger entity that’ll not only offer football-based life skills coaching but also other creative mediums like music which’ll come to life in April 2018. The new entity will use different vehicles like football, music, LEGO, among others to achieve the same results.
We’ll operate with a budget of over 1 Million USD with a coaching staff of 150 and backend staff of close to 40 members, come April 2018. In 3 years, we wish to be the de-facto organisation in the life skills development space consolidating all the efforts in the space under one umbrella.