“I’m really good at picking movies.”

A boisterous 14-year-old, Thomas is chatty, loud and not afraid to show off his strengths. After a lesson, he proceeds to advise his SOHK mentors about what they should watch that evening.

However, their relationship was not so positive to begin with. When SOHK started working with Thomas last summer, they found him unable and unwilling to listen to instructions. Battles were faced both on the field and in the classroom. Thomas was distracted, disinterested and disruptive. Even the slightest trigger would elicit a strong defensive reaction.

An avid footballer who had never even touched a rugby ball before SOHK, Thomas struggled to understand what was wrong with his slide tackles and the occasional trip-up. Every small criticism would agitate him.

At school, he refused to contribute in class or focus on his work; his impulsive behaviour often leading to him being removed from lessons or suspended from school altogether.On one occasion, after acting out during an indoor lesson, Thomas was excluded from attending the next rugby session.

Despite his initial frustration, it was this moment that SOHK taught him his actions have consequences.

A slow and steady approach to connecting with Thomas through rugby was paying off. Since then, he has not missed a single rugby session and his behaviour has improved week upon week.

15 weeks into the SOHK course and Thomas has made great progress. The combination of 1:1 mentoring, personal development sessions and rugby has given him the space and strategies to learn how to control his anger and emotions effectively. His rugby skills have flourished, and he really enjoys playing it – though still not as much as football.

Learning rugby has encouraged Thomas to adopt a growth mindset, something which SOHK values hugely.

Whereas previously he had a fixed mindset, which often leads to the belief that temporary setbacks are permanent failures, Thomas now seeks out a challenge and looks to see how he can improve. He can reflect on himself and on situations without becoming overwhelmingly frustrated.

At school his teachers say that he is coping far better in the classroom environment and that getting kicked out of lessons is now an irregular occurrence for him. He listens and opens up to his SOHK instructors and mentors, even letting himself be vulnerable in group discussions.

He still dreams of being a footballer in the future although he now also has hopes to go to college and learn a trade.

When he discovered that SOHK was only with him until the end of the academic year, his response was “Can you stay until I leave school in S6?”.

SOHK hopes that they will get to return next year and continue working with Thomas and others.