From County to National Camp FA Young Leaders

Between 12th - 16th July 2010, 103 Young Leaders from across England descended upon Walsall Campus of the University of Wolverhampton for The FA National Leadership and Volunteering Camp 2010.

Cumberland FA was asked to nominate their two most promising young leaders (one male, one female), aged 16-17 years old to attend camp. Liam Jackson, (Carlisle City and Northbank) and Melissa Clarke (Carlisle City) were given the honour of representing the County FA following their attendance at the County Young Leader event in March.

During the week, 10 workshops were delivered, each with the focus on leadership, giving them the opportunity to develop their leadership skills in different settings. The workshops delivered included; Refereeing, Futsal, 5-11 Skills Coaching, Working with the Media and Equality. This was complimented by a comprehensive evening activities programme, a careers afternoon and a football festival on the final morning.

The guest of honour from the final day was Howard Webb, who attended less than a week after refereeing the World Cup Final between Spain and the Netherlands. Howard gave the Young Leaders an insight to his career, all the way back to the time when he took up the whistle as a 16 year old, and his World Cup experiences. On closing, he said 'coming here today has reassured me that football in this country is in safe hands'.

Following their attendance at the National Leadership and Volunteering Camp Liam and Mel kindly gave us more information on their experiences and thoughts on the programme.

Liam and Mel have been part of the County Step into Sport programme and attended the County FA Leadership camp where they were successfully nominated to attend the national weeklong event. The pair have been assisting in their Charter Standard Clubs as well as becoming active referees in Cumberland over the past couple of years.

Liam became involved in coaching around 2 years ago when he was asked to help with an under 7 boy's team. From this point on, he had the bug and enjoyed it so much he got in touch with Cumberland FA and attended a Junior Football Organisers course (an accredited course for 14-16 year olds involving coaching, refereeing, media and tournament organisation). Following the course Liam signed up to the Step into Sport programme and continued to give up his time to coach the boy's team at Carlisle City.  At the last count, Liam has so far volunteered over 300 hours to football activities in the county culminating in winning the North West Young Volunteer of the Year Award for 2010 beating off competition from Manchester and Liverpool volunteers amongst others.
Not content with coaching, Liam also undertook the Referee Basic course and is now regularly refereeing in the local youth leagues. This season, Liam was selected to referee the U13 Tesco Cup County Cup Final.

Liam found out about the County FA Step into Sport programme through the website and his involvement meant he was given the opportunity to attend the 'life changing' national camp. Liam's thoughts on the camp were "The course exceeded my expectations as we covered so many football related topics and went into so much detail. It was always fun and enjoyable but I have gained some great knowledge and it was an unbelievable experience I will never forget!" Liam found the skills coaching for 5-11 year olds workshop the most enjoyable; the session was relevant and gave ideas for Liam to go back to the club and deliver more fun sessions with added confidence. This session involves a number of elements from the newly launched Age Appropriate Modules which have recently been rolled out through the County.

The camp wasn't just about coaching however, with the psychology and disability workshops showing the importance of communication and body language amongst other things. Liam believes these workshops as well as the Referee workshop will support his development as a referee as he strives to follow in the footsteps of Howard Webb.

The camp was a tough week with lots of hours and plenty of new people to meet. According to Liam, the life changing experience was a great environment to learn so much more about football.

Helen Aitchison, Girls and Women's Football Development Officer said "Liam and Melissa were both great ambassadors for Cumberland at the national camp; they were a credit to themselves, their clubs and the county." 

Melissa was chosen to attend the national camp at Walsall along with Liam following the county event. Mel has also been involved in volunteering within the county. Mel has so far concentrated more on the referee side of things, having taken up the whistle following a girl's only referee course run through the Longhorn Girls Youth League. Mel has been gaining experience in both the youth league and through the Cumbria Girls Centre of Excellence fixture programme.

Mel got involved in the county scheme following information received her club and has assisted the county in the running of the annual Charter Standard Football Festival.

The Futsal session was Mel's favourite workshop during the week. Having never played Futsal before, Mel soon realised how the speed of the game and technical skills needed could be invaluable to any club training session. The goalkeeping session was another workshop which gave great insight into the training drills which can include both goalkeepers and outfield players - something Mel believes will be a great tool back at her club.

Mel's assessment of the week also shows the impact that the scheme can have on young volunteers "it was the best week of my life so far!"

We asked Liam and Mel if they had any advice to give to any young coaches or volunteers who were thinking about taking up coaching and refereeing and below were their replies:

"If you are thinking about taking up coaching or refereeing you should just go for it! It gives you amazing skills and confidence; volunteering has changed my life, I am a new person. The benefits of coaching and refereeing are huge."

"Whatever the opportunity you get take it with both hands, as both refereeing and coaching are great ways to participate in sport. With coaching you are able to see players improve which gives great satisfaction.  Also one of the advantages of being a referee is that you are able to achieve different levels at which you perform, meaning you can do this at your own personal pace." 
The next step for both these young leaders is to gain more experience and put into practice what they have learned. Both will be attending the Level 1 Coaching Course with Liam attending the league based course at the moment while Mel is waiting for the female only course later in the year.

The grassroots game can only function with the willingness of volunteers, and the county programme can help to support young volunteers by giving training opportunities and guidance. The programme for next season is currently being finalised and with Liam and Mel involved in the process the elements of the national camp as well as feedback from previous events will help shape the programme. League based Junior Football Organisers Courses are also being lined up.

For more information on being part of the programme please contact Helen Aitchison on or 01900 872310.

To show an interest in applying for the female only Level 1 course please contact Helen Aitchison.