By Richard Byrne

Sports coach Steve Smith got more than he bargained for when he invited Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin to visit his football club Make Things Happen FC.

Mayor Brabin came along to see how the Fartown-based sports academy uses football to support young people with life skills, building confidence and resilience.

And the energetic mayor was quick to join in the action, tackling an agility course Steve had set up for the kids and volunteering to don goalie gloves and face Steve’s sharpest shooters at penalties.

Steve Smith, lead coach and chairman at MTH FC, said: “Tracy came to have a look at the project, she met the kids and I told her about the journey we are on.

“We were having a great laugh with her. I’d set up an agility run for the players and, as soon as she saw it, she wanted to do it. Then, when it was time for penalty practice, she stood and watched for a bit, then she said: ‘Right, where are the goalie gloves? I’ll go in next!’

“The first penalty, our player pinged it hard and fast in the top corner, I thought ‘she’s gonna get hit in the face. I really don’t want the mayor to get hit in the face…’

“So I got some of the players to take penalties with their other foot, some of them I moved the ball back a bit, I was so scared!

“But she was great, she was a good keeper and got stuck in. If we do a charity match at some point we’ll make sure we give her a shout and see if and she fancies it. I’d certainly be happy to have her in goal.”

The Mayor’s Safer Communities Fund helped MTH FC run a two-week programme offering free places to children to learn football, self-defence, dance and all-important life skills.

Steve added: “AT MTH FC we are building children’s confidence, using football as the main vehicle. It’s not about the football, it’s about developing the person, the individual, the mindset to keep going and learn from your mistakes. Our players are building up their social skills, building up resilience.

“Players make great progress here, on the pitch, in games and around the other players, our teams are doing well.

“But a big part of my focus is to help them take the techniques they learn here and in matches, to deal with pressure, disappointment, anxiety and take those into school with them.

“In a game, when you’re facing a big moment, you’ll feel anxiety and that’s fine, you have to learn to deal with it, with breathing techniques, calming exercises, the stuff the pros all use.

“Then when they’re back at school, they can and they do use those techniques. I’ve been into schools to talk to staff working with some of my players and told them what they’ve learned here and it’s really worked, they tell me what a great week they’ve had at school.

“I’m so proud when I hear that one of my players has had a big improvement in their experience of school.”

Steve is now looking for help to take MTH FC to the next level and said: “To develop the club, we need to establish a secure base and develop a strategy for the next three to five years.

“Really, I’m looking for a mentor, someone to help me put together all the knowledge, wisdom, contacts and ideas I have, harness our energy and hold us accountable to make things happen.

“It’s a big ask but I’m looking for someone who’s a combination of the football manager Jurgen Klopp and the business entrepreneur Steven Bartlett. I’m a huge fan of Jurgen, the way he focuses on finding the underdog, developing players, fuelling their passion.

“The energetic high tempo football and the way he communicates with the crowd, bringing everyone together – the fans, the players, the backroom staff. He understands a football club is about everyone.

“And Steven’s a young vibrant entrepreneur, with business nous, an intricate thinker with great attention to detail, but also someone who understands that you’re investing in people. He’s the kind of person can galvanise people to move mountains.

“If there’s anyone out there who thinks they might be able to help us in this way, we haven’t got many pennies but we can guarantee you a good time!

“The smiles in this club are infectious and the feeling you’ll get watching our young people develop is the best.”

To find out more and see how you can support Make Things Happen FC check out their Facebook Page and email offers of support to