Artur Kurylchenko is the «Sports Mentor» program coach from Kharkiv and the founder of the «Kharkiv» football school. When the war started, he was forced to leave his hometown and his school but he kept on coaching in new conditions.
First weeks of the war
We felt that tension in the air, so we partially suspended our activities at the beginning of February and decided to wait until the end of the month. When we heard the explosions on February 24, we understood the war had started. I was scared, I won’t hide it. We decided to carry on online training for both children who left Kharkiv and stayed in the city. We had training three times a week, and the rest of our time was devoted to volunteer activities. We tried to help as much as we could when coordinating all our chats or assisting other volunteers.
We could transfer people to the train station by shuttle, and that was our goal to get as many children and parents as possible to evacuation trains. Now I understand that thanks to coordinated work, we could keep in contact with all of our 200 students and their families.
On March 3 the area located next to the place we live was bombed, it became extremely dangerous, so my family and I decided to leave Kharkiv.
How to stay determined and find strength
At the beginning of March, we left for our partners in Lviv. It was very difficult to get used to the new reality because the week before we were in Kharkiv completely immersed in volunteer projects. Then I moved my family to Ivano-Frankivsk. We resumed training I was immersed in sports and began to get joy and pleasure from it. Sports and training help a lot in such stressful situations. Sport helps to find yourself and find the strength to live the full life.
I was lucky, I founded my football school. It gives me strength and inspiration. When you see children who know nothing of football, the only thing you want to do is to teach them. And when in a month you see the results and enthusiasm of the child, it is a huge motivation to continue working, despite all the difficulties, to train children and let them enjoy their achievements.
New realities and the benefits of training
Sports and regular training are very helpful for children who became IDPs. Children feel relaxed, get to know each other, and train with joy. As coaches, we decided that our main goal was to give them positive emotions and good training instead of “iron” discipline. Training is always fun, we talk a lot, smile, and explain that although we are all different, we are all Ukrainians who should support each other in difficult times. We start and finish each training session with a positive attitude so that the children come to the next training session with a good spirit and with great desire. We also teach children that they have to go to the shelters when the siren sounds. The bitter experience of recent events confirmed that the air-raid siren should not be neglected.
The «Sports Mentor» program training
When we left Kharkiv, we set a goal to gather the boys in a safer place if it could be possible. My partners offered me to open a new football school in Ivano-Frankivsk to continue working with young players. Thus, I am eager to learn and to help everyone who needs our support.
Before the war, 15-16 children participated in the Parimatch Foundation’s «Sports Mentor» program, and thanks to this partnership, the children could travel to other cities for football competitions. Our students had great chances to achieve good results in sports. Therefore, they were invited to football academies and various teams. When we left Kharkiv, we agreed to gather everyone in Ivano-Frankivsk and continue training and developing social skills. We are planning to resume training according to the program from mid-August.
The Sports Mentor program helps children and teenagers to socialize and change their lives through sports. The task of the initiative is to demonstrate that sports and coaching support can help teenagers to achieve success in life.