Teamwork was the most important message that came out of a Blackburn Rovers delegation's visit to the Olive School.
An Under-23 squad quartet of coach Damien Johnson, assistant coach David Dunn and rising stars Lewis Hardcastle and Willem Tomlinson were joined by Blackburn Rovers Community Trust's Gary Robinson at the school's special award ceremony for the first half term of the year, recognising the children's efforts across a range of subjects.
Robinson led a presentation of the importance of teamwork, leadership and the many values that come with working as a collective, tying in with the latest theme that the school is promoting to its pupils. He then facilitated a question and answer session with the four stars that combine as a team to make the club's Premier League 2 squad a success, before the star guests handed out prizes for achievement over the opening weeks of 2017.
Though based in Preston, the school - which is part of the Tauheedul Education Trust - draws many of its pupils from the Blackburn area, and principal Majid Ditta was delighted to welcome guests that have enjoyed some great achievements during their careers, so that they could help to draw parallels with educational topics.
"We have a half-termly 'Big Star, Little Star' assembly, which is to recognise the achievements of the young people over the course of each half term," he explained.
"At each assembly, we try to have a prominent big star, under the banner of our star values, and this half term we were very fortunate to have representatives from Blackburn Rovers, both former and current players, as well as people from their Community Trust. They were able to take in the assembly; they took questions around the concept of teamwork and football, before presenting the awards and certificates to the children for the different categories that we recognise.
"Teamwork is absolutely imperative when you're talking about character development, because the concept of where you stand amongst a group of people and your role in that group is really important. It makes you self-aware, as well as developing concepts such as sharing.
"It was very pertinant that Gary Robinson had said that there are 11 people on a football pitch and without one of them, there is a gaping hole within that squad, whether you're the goalkeeper or the striker. Without one, there is a gap, so together they are a team. Without one, they are at a loss."
For the players involved, it was a chance for them to reflect on their own efforts, with Tomlinson explaining:
"It's nice to see that they're all achieving and doing well - it's great that we can come and help. It looks like they've got a really good group here with good leadership. It was a really enjoyable evening to be part of.
"I've played in a team with Lewis for the past seven years and teamwork is one of the reasons we've succeeded over that time.
"You can't achieve much on your own - you have to achieve everything as a team. That's what you find out later on in life."
Assistant coach Dunn was also able to make a personal connection with the school that provides a specialist education based on Islamic principles, adding:
"Both me and Damien have young children ourselves, so we obviously appreciate the effort that everybody has gone to by putting on such a wonderful assembly.
"A real credit goes to all the staff and parents, but more importantly the young kids that have taken everything that they're trying to learn on board."
Robinson concluded by explaining the valuable connection between the school's work and the mission of the Community Trust that he leads.
"This was a really enjoyable and unique visit, tying in perfectly with our community engagement strategy," he explained. "Through our work, we aim to help create a cohesive society, which involves working with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, so it was a pleasure to be able to work with the school's children from an Asian heritage, many of whom travel over from the Blackburn area.
"There was definitely a keen interest being shown in Blackburn Rovers and a definite recognition of who we were, so we're pleased that we've been able to strengthen connections with an all new audience that we've not met before, and hopefully they'll be thinking of us as their team, matching up nicely with the message that we helped to bring to them at the assembly."
Schools who are keen to engage further with Blackburn Rovers Community Trust's regular work in a wide range of local schools are encouraged to visit www.brfctrust.co.uk
to find out more about the many projects that could be of benefit to them.