Darren Cheesman is an ex-England and Great Britain field hockey player International who is now a High Performance Coach for England Hockey. Darren also recently made his England coaching debut as England Under 16 Assistant Coach V Holland.
Arsenal has been a constant presence in Darren’s life from an early age. He embodies the values and the aims of The Arsenal Foundation which sees young people in challenging circumstances being supported in a variety of ways.
Ultimately, it’s up to the young people we support to make the most of the opportunity which gives them a chance to envisage a better future.
Darren started his love affair with Hockey at the age of 11 years old when Arsenal came in to take his PE classes. He was introduced to Hockey by the Arsenal in the Community team and he soon started Hockey classes after school.
Reflecting on his journey, Darren said, “I had friends in gangs from different estates and they were getting into trouble and stealing mopeds, but the Arsenal in the Community coaches and the older boys I played with really looked after me. I was an only child and they were like big brothers to me."
"At Old Loughtonians there were junior age groups and because we were all from Islington we used to play in Arsenal kit. That was cool because we really stood out, but gradually it was feeding us into a club that wasn’t about football. By the time I was in the Under-13s I was representing Old Loughts, not Arsenal.
"I’ve gone on to play in the Premier League, for England and for Great Britain. I made my debut for Great Britain in 2010 and I started coaching a couple of years later on the England Pathway programme, working in Regional Performance Centres with boys and girls from Under-15s up to Under-18s. Two years ago I was asked by the FIH – hockey’s equivalent of FIFA – to work as a high-performance coach, and I started working with national teams and juniors in places as diverse as Wales, India and Ghana.
"Then a job came up with England and since September I’ve been assistant coach to the Under-16s. I’m back at Lilleshall, where I trained as a kid, so it was surreal to go back there in full England kit and remember my own journey.
"It wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Arsenal and I’m so proud to be an ambassador of The Arsenal Foundation. It’s given me the opportunity to work with charities such as Freedom from Torture and local community groups, mainly talking to people to show them that, if you stick with a programme and give everything, positive things can happen.
"I was just a boy from Islington, but I trusted the club and took the opportunities they gave me and was motivated by the support they offered unconditionally. The Arsenal Foundation - using the power of the Arsenal name - provides a crucial sense of belonging and that’s exactly what they did for me. I’ve always felt part of the Arsenal family.
"The Arsenal Foundation is an organisation that changes lives through the projects it supports. Whilst Arsenal won’t tell you what to do or do things for you, it gives you the scaffolding to help you change and make over your life. It’s a beautiful thing."
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