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Celebrating One Year

An Open Letter from James Ellis.

"It's hard to believe that it has already been one-year since our very first session.

It was actually about three years ago that I had the idea and desire to set something up locally. Back then, I didn't really have a vision of what I wanted it to look like - but I had been involved in a multitude of football environments, and I knew what I didn't want it to be.

It was from the thought of what I didn't think was positive in grassroots football, that the idea began to become reality.

Youth football, from my experience - has a tendency to fall into a toxic nature. It can become elitist, and many young people fall out of love with the game. With that said, I have also seen some exceptional youth football environments across Essex, London & Bournemouth - the three main areas I have been based.

Throughout the 10+ years I have been involved in a whole host of football environments, I have managed to pick up a lot of excellent best practice. I believe that the best coaches are often the best thieves - stealing things that work really well - and then adapting them to work for your own unique context and meet the needs of the particular group you work with.

The difficult part of that is when, as a coach - you're not willing to objectively analyse yourself and truly be able look at what you're doing well, what you're not doing well with & things that are okay, but could be made even better.

I believe that over the last year - as a team, we have been able to do that & now have arrived at a point where the services we offer, really are excellent.

The very first session I delivered, was to 8 young people in a block of six delivered weekly. We now have risen that capacity to 68 young people per week - currently at the time of writing, at 96% capacity. With new participants starting in the coming weeks, that reaches 100%. Further including our AdHoc work through clubs, schools and other organisations - we average engagement over 100 young people per week. We're already developing further opportunities to double that by the end of this calendar year. Most importantly, our reviews are consistently excellent which is so pleasing to see.

Perhaps the reason for this is because as an organisation, we listen to feedback, regularly asking our members to anonymously tell us what they like and don't like - and we commit to never standing still, always seeking ways to improve excellence even further.

Engaging young people in the game, whether it's their very first time - or as a supplement to their existing consumption - is by far the most satisfying part of all of this. Seeing our participants genuinely excited for their next session is why we as coaches, love what we do.

We want to keep rising our capacity over the next 12 months, so we can create more opportunities for the above to happen. We have built somewhat of a small community between our coaches, parents, partners & participants - and that's exactly what grassroots should be. We have codes of conduct, non-negotiables and a set of standards that have to be adhered to.

Grassroots football should be for all, a place where each individual motivation can be catered for - whether that's just seeing friends outside of school, or striving to play at the highest level possible. I believe that with excellent coaching, both can work in the same environment.

Thinking back to my time playing grassroots football - I remember individual coaches, not for what they were teaching me or whatever the topic at training may have been, but how they made me feel. We will relentlessly strive to make sure our participants feel in love with the game of football, and have a lifelong relationship with the sport we all love.

I can't thank all of the parents, carers, guardians & participants who continue to trust us as a team to make sure this happens".

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