Michael Kinsella's return to the beautiful game

“I’m just happy doing what I do”

As a young man, Michael Kinsella was regarded as one of England’s promising youth football prospects, playing alongside Jamie Carragher in the Liverpool youth team.

But like so many other young hopeful professionals, after failing to break into the Liverpool setup and subsequently finding himself being released by Tranmere Rovers at the age 20; Michael found himself falling into a life of crime, dealing drugs and going in and out of prison. It was during a seven year sentence in HMP Rye Hill that Michael discovered education could help him return to a successful career in football.

Michael applied for funding from PET in 2007 to study a Personal Fitness Trainer distance learning course. He credits this decision to embark on his educational journey as the turning point in his life.

“It was my 4th time in prison when you helped me to get my life back. I needed to educate myself to change my life”, says Michael.

With PET’s support he continued studying, completing a Sports Psychology course and then an Open University Introduction to Sport, Fitness and Management. These courses helped him to come up with a unique business model for OnSide, a UK based education and coaching company which has helped 200 young people since Michael founded it after leaving prison in 2012.

OnSide aims to provide academy players and released young footballers with meaningful education opportunities geared towards employment as a plan B if football doesn’t work out. And for some, he has helped them stay in the game, getting jobs as coaches or in management.

Michael is driven by a desire to stop young people from making the mistakes he did. “I wasn’t stupid but I left school with no qualifications. All I ever knew was football and drugs,” says Michael.

But discovering education in prison has meant he could realise a new dream, and has kept him in an industry he loves.

Michael believes that football clubs in England should be doing much more to provide young people with a solid educational foundation, to prevent them from getting caught up in crime and that’s where OnSide comes in. The company has recently partnered up with a league two football club’s youth academy to ensure that its young players are engaged in other pathways and have the full scope of employment benefits available to them outside of a successful football career.

Michael says that without the help of Prisoners’ Education Trust throughout his sentence, he would not have been able to turn his life around.

"You gave me something to focus on, it wasn’t a nice time being in prison and I wouldn’t be doing what I'm doing now without those courses,” says Michael.

Find out more about OnSide.