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Willesden's Track Academy subject of ITV documentary on how it keeps kids from crime

PUBLISHED: 15:20 23 April 2019

Confidence Lawson, who trained at Track Academy, with its founder Connie Henry.

Confidence Lawson, who trained at Track Academy, with its founder Connie Henry.

Archant

"If you don't give a young person something to aim for - a focus, a drive, a determination, enjoyment, something to do - they will find their own focus. They will find their own group to belong to."

That is the warning from Connie Henry, founder of the Track Academy in Willesden, whose charity work is the subject of a one-off television documentary.

Run for Your Life, which aired on ITV on Tuesday night, focuses on the charity and the impact it has on turning young people away from crime.

Produced by Golden Egg Innovation, the documentary features contributions from sports stars including Lord Sebastian Coe, Dame Kelly Holmes and Daley Thompson.

The programme also hears from Paul Barnes, father of 15-year-old Quamari Serunkuma Barnes, who was stabbed to death by a boy his own age outside Capital City Academy in 2017.

Soon to begin volunteering as a mentor for the charity, he said: “What they do is really good – they help get kids off the street.”

Connie, a former Commonwealth Games triple jump medallist, hopes to win government backing for more qualified PE teachers in primary schools around the UK as she strongly believes sport can offer positive opportunities.

“Sport works,” she said. “We know it works. It's been working for decades. If we know it all works, why don't we have qualified PE teachers in every primary school in the country?

“If we rethink the idea of old fashioned PE teachers [...] we could almost be nipping the problem in the bud.”

Connie launched the charity in 2007, operating out of Willesden Sports Centre in Donnington Road.

Asked if she thinks knife crime has got worse, she said: “When I started Track Academy we had none of it. I'm stunned we've got this far and only recently has one of our students been a victim of knife crime.

“Something has happened in society. I do not understand. All I know to be true is, if you do not give them something to do, they will just find their own – their own gang, group, adrenaline rush.

“I know for sure sport will give a young person what they are looking for when they join these gangs – but that's all I know. That's my expertise.”

Run for Your Life is available to view on the ITV Hub for 28 days.

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