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Everton and England centre-back, Michael Keane, and Brighton & Hove Albion’s Adam Webster, were the first Premiership footballers to make guest appearances on Zoom Ballers – a series of free online football HIIT sessions for kids aged 5–15, run by Gavin Dutton from Chichester, West Sussex.
Set up during lockdown to help keep kids active and engaged in sport, Zoom Ballers is also raising money for three children’s charities close to Gavin and his wife, Kerry’s hearts – Chestnut Tree House, The Sussex Snowdrop Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust.
Gavin runs the live online HIIT sessions for children via Zoom five/six times a week, combining fitness and football skills training. They are attracting an increasing number of 5–15-year-olds, and now also Premiership players keen to help make a difference. Michael Keane’s Q&A on Zoom Ballers on Friday 22 January was followed by an appearance by Brighton & Hove Albion’s Adam Webster on Thursday 28 January.
Now, Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount is set to join young fans to answer questions after the 5pm Zoom Ballers training session on Tuesday 2 February, and more players have already been in touch with Gavin to say they want to get involved.
“There has been a lot of talk about children’s mental health during the pandemic, with schools being closed and sporting, social and leisure activities unable to take place,” says Gavin Dutton (pictured), an Operations Director, children’s football coach and the man behind Zoom Ballers.
“Some young people are really struggling during lockdown, and parents too as it’s hard to know how to motivate youngsters. I wanted to stay in touch with my youth teams and continue training, so had to think outside the box. I also know how challenging it is for charities right now, so wanted to do something to help them too.”
Gavin has been coaching the U7 and U12 Chichester City Youth FC teams for the last seven years, but due to COVID-19 they are currently unable to meet in person. “I passionately believe that sport helps support children’s mental, social and physical wellbeing,” explains Gavin. “I started Zoom Ballers in the first lockdown last year with 20–30 players from my Chichester City Youth teams joining in via Zoom twice a week. When the latest lockdown was announced, I decided to open the sessions up to all local children.
“Close to 100 children are taking part in each session and numbers are going up all the time. I like a challenge and I’m so pleased Zoom Ballers is keeping kids active and engaged. People have been really generous with their donations to our chosen charities too, which is great; and I’m excited that some big names in the sport are getting behind Zoom Ballers as this will motivate and inspire the kids to keep playing.”
Zoom Ballers is free for children to take part in as Gavin wants to ensure the sessions are accessible to all, but parents are asked to consider making a charitable donation.
Explaining how he and his wife selected the three charities to support, Gavin said: “It was an easy decision really. Kerry and I are long term supporters of Chestnut Tree House so we always support them whenever we can. It’s our local children’s hospice and we know how important the care and support they provide is to children with life-shortening conditions and their families. The Sussex Snowdrop Trust is another charity very close to our hearts as they helped us when we lost our son, Luke, who was stillborn in 2009. Finally, we wanted to support Teenage Cancer Trust as a young lad we know has recently been diagnosed with cancer.”
Explaining what the support means to the charity, Tracey Shaw from Chestnut Tree House said: “We are so grateful to Gavin and Kerry for choosing us as one of the beneficiary charities. Zoom Ballers is a wonderful initiative to engage children during lockdown, keeping them active at a time when many of their usual activities aren’t possible.
“Fundraising has been challenging during the pandemic and support from our local community has been invaluable. But this is about so much more than that, as we hope that Zoom Ballers will also help to raise awareness of Chestnut Tree House and the importance of children’s hospice care. Thank you to everyone who has donated and got involved – it really does make a difference.”
Mason Mount was recently announced as a Patron of Together for Short Lives, the UK charity for seriously ill children and children’s hospices.
Mason will be joining Zoom Ballers for a live Q&A after the 5pm training session on Tuesday 2 February.