Essex’s Alfie Davidson and Gemma Stubbles were amongst a record 60 ‘Young Leaders’ from across England and Europe who joined the FA Leadership Academy at St George’s Park from Monday 22nd to Thursday 25th July.
Their year-long training began with four days of workshops designed to improve their leadership skills so that both now, and in the future, they can make an impact on the organisation of football in this country. 45 of the attendees were nominated by their County FAs, with the rest invited by UEFA.
Alfie Davidson from Frinton & Walton YFC, who is also a referee, was thrilled to have represented his county in Burton-upon-Trent: “I’m very grateful to have been given this very special opportunity! I was lucky enough to be nominated by the Essex County FA to take part in the FA Leadership Academy, and was then selected by the national FA Youth Council!”
“I thought the facilities were world-class at St George’s Park and I was very lucky to stay there. I loved the experience. I learnt from my fellow young leaders, but also the mentors leading the workshops as the vast majority of them had been in our shoes at the academy too.”
“Most of the days were taken up by workshops which were interesting, engaging and beneficial. I really enjoyed active reflection, where we would be in small groups discussing further about the day, but also our thoughts and feelings which we took out from the workshops.”
“I took away lots of different things which will help me for the future. They ranged from what I can do to help others, how to get others involved with football and how I can develop myself. All of this was extremely interesting and important as this is what will help football grow positively!”
A feature of the FA Leadership Academy is the graduation ceremony whereby leaders from the previous year return to receive recognition for the work that they’ve undertaken since. Many graduates had impressive stories to tell about the impact that they’ve subsequently made on football in their communities.
Romford’s Gemma Stubbles, Vice-Chair of the Essex County FA Youth Forum, attended as a mentor having enjoyed her time as a participant last year. She recalled: “I wanted to help the new year of cohorts enjoy the experience and take as much out of it as I did! My main activities were to facilitate conversations between youth leaders and to ensure everything went to plan.”
“All of the staff arrived at St George’s Park on the Sunday to get to know each other and have a training day to ensure we were all clear on the running of the event. Also on the Sunday, we did a lot of the prep in order to set-up the rooms and bags of kit and goodies. It’s a very impressive facility! It was great to be in the place the England teams train!”
“Throughout the camp, we met Baroness Sue Campbell, who gave a keynote speech regarding the Women’s World Cup and her thoughts and reflections on the tournament. For me, as a female football fan who went to the World Cup in France, it was great to hear her stories.”
“In order to branch out of the programme, the FA National Youth Council also invited 13 other international youth leaders from countries such as Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland and Hungary. This was very insightful to hear their experiences of youth football and youth leadership in their respective countries.”
“It was also a good opportunity to show them what we do, potentially allowing them to grow it in their country. The main thing which I took away from the camp was the ability to believe in myself some more. After attending as a participant last year, and still being only young, I was worried about how older participants would react.”
“Come the end of the week, regardless of age, the youth leaders had a lot of mutual respect for the staff members who took their time out to attend the camp. Always take up any opportunity which you can, believe in yourself and often you surprise yourself.”
“I had a great experience overall. It was fantastic to see the individuals in my mentor group grow throughout the week. From showing-up on the Monday morning all shy and nervous, they then blossomed into confident, young, independent youth leaders inspired to make a change to youth football in their counties.”
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