The 26-year-old set up Capital Titans basketball club to deliver basketball and help young people with their mental health awareness and first aid training, providing classes during lockdown.
“Growing up was challenging,” said Matthews, who was speaking to Epping Forest Guardian. “I got involved in things I shouldn’t have, so that’s why I now try and run the club and try and make sure more kids don’t go down that path.
“On paper, I’m the basketball coach, but I obviously do a lot of mentoring and support work outside of that, making sure they have access to courses, making sure they’re being trained up and they’re exposed to opportunities that they need going forward.”
During the pandemic, Matthews and two of his support coaches delivered online basketball sessions, which developed into one-to-one talking sessions. When demand increased, a professionally trained counsellor came on board to assist the club.
“Lockdown was tough because we couldn’t go and see any of the kids anymore, and they couldn’t come to us. We did a lot of online workshops and online sessions.
“We had a whole week planned where we did strength and conditioning on Mondays, skill work on Tuesdays, mental health on Wednesdays, lots of online workshops.
“At the start it wasn’t as easy as there wasn’t a lot of guidance on what we were allowed to do and what we weren’t allowed to do, but it was very important as those kids just needed help and needed people around them they could trust.”
At this year’s London Sport Awards, Matthews was nominated in the Inspirational Young Person of the Year category, which recognises young people who are achieving incredible things through their work, voluntary or paid, within their local community, club, team, group, project or organisation.
The Youth Sport Trust Youth Board member believes that if he hadn’t created the Titans, many young people would be worse off.
“If this wasn’t here for them, they wouldn’t be involved in sport. They wouldn’t have the opportunities that they have. I don’t think many other programmes in this part of London actually do what we do when it comes to sport and young people.”
Former basketball player Daniel Szatkowski coaches at Capital Titans and recognises the positive impact Matthews has had on the young people who attend.
Szatkowski, 35, said: “Those kids often come from backgrounds similar to Kieran. He quite often stays after hours, spends countless hours over the phone to make sure no boys are getting in trouble.
“This kind of day-to-day work which Kieran does helps him have a great relationship with the boys and directly impact their lives. Having him rewarded is just a testimony to the things he does on a day-to-day basis.”
The London Sport Awards shines the spotlight on the unsung community heroes helping Londoners of all backgrounds to enjoy the benefits of physical activity and sport.
Main image credit: © London Sport/Beat Media
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