In trouble with the police and on a path to ending up in prison, 19-year-old Jason Smith, or Jay to his friends, has completely turned his life around. And he owes it in part to sports charity StreetGames, funded by ParkLives from Coca-Cola GB. Here, we tell Jay’s story…

Jay grew up in the Scottish town of Clydebank in West Dunbartonshire. Unfortunately, he drifted into anti-social behaviour from a young age.

“I was involved with bad people and doing bad things,” Jay says. “It was obvious I was going to end up in jail.”

He found himself upsetting his mum and scaring his younger sister. “I was always in trouble with the police,” he says. “They were lenient on me, because of my age. But they were always coming round and taking me away.”

“Jay admits it took time for his attitude to change. He did have some bad days”

When Jay got kicked out of school, the problems escalated. Without an education or a job, he spent his days on the street causing trouble. “I never really belonged anywhere,” he says. So I think getting involved with local gangs was almost inevitable.”

Under pressure from his mum to support himself, Jay eventually got a job. Sadly, his anti-social behaviour didn’t stop. It wasn’t long before he’d lost his job and was back causing trouble on the streets again full-time. Jay needed something in his life to change…

How StreetGames changed Jay’s life

StreetGames is a sports charity that Coca-Cola GB has been working with since 2010 that now receives funding to help deliver ParkLives.

“Things started to get better when I was offered a job with StreetGames,” says Jay. “It was only a 22 week placement. But it was the start of me turning my life around.”

StreetGames Jay Smith

Being a troublesome youth, Jay was known to Y Sort It, a youth project supporting young people aged 12-25 years in West Dunbartonshire, which is part of the StreetGames network. They recommended him for the placement with StreetGames.

StreetGames brings sport and physical activities for young people into disadvantaged communities and offers volunteering and coaching opportunities. Jay was excited to have the chance to get involved with the organisation and help motivate young people much like himself. He became involved with running sports clubs and activities, and supporting young people

“Things started to get better when I was offered a job with StreetGames”

Being part of a team gave Jay a real sense of belonging. He was also grateful to be earning money and gaining qualifications, like certificates in multisport, dodgeball and football. 

“It was much better than I thought it would be,” says Jay. “In fact, it was brilliant. At one point I thought, ‘When are things going to go bad again? This is too good to be true’. Deep down, it was hard for me to think I deserved this chance.”

Never giving up

Jay admits it took time for his attitude to change. He did have some bad days. “Once I refused to do dodgeball at StreetGames. I said it was because I was wearing new white trainers and didn’t want to get them scuffed,” he says. “In reality, I just wasn’t that confident about meeting new people. So I walked out.”

StreetGames Jay Smith

Mark Oliver, a fieldwork manager at StreetGames, went after Jay and offered him some sympathetic words. He got Jay to open up and encouraged him to get back involved with StreetGames.

StreetGames didn’t give up on me,” says Jay. “Mark brought me back into the team and taught me how to get out of my comfort zone. It was a real game-changer for me.”

Where is Jay now?

Even though his placement has ended, Jay still volunteers for StreetGames and as part of that he now delivers ParkLives sessions in Clydebank. The really great news is that he is in the second year of an apprenticeship at Y Sort It.

Jay continues to push himself. He wants to use the skills he’s gained with StreetGames and ParkLives to support other young people. “I’d like to help people the way StreetGames has helped me,” he says.

When his apprenticeship finishes, Jay has his sights set on becoming a permanent member of staff at Y Sort It: “I’ve got so many training qualifications now, I’d have a good chance of getting the job,” he says, beaming with confidence.

StreetGames Jay Smith

Jay’s hard work and achievements are already being recognised. He’s now been nominated as the 2016 SVQ candidate of the year, an award run by his apprenticeship organisation.

“My ma’s really proud of me,” he says. “I put my family through a lot. But I can now say I’m a positive role model to my 10-year-old sister. You can’t really compare where I am now to where I was just a few short months ago.”

Want to read more success stories? Check out Sue from ParkLives Nottingham.