Wednesday 03 October 2012
The winners of this year’s Kickz Cup sampled facilities similar to those enjoyed by professional footballers when they attended a unique training-day experience at the Nike Academy last week.
Under-18 winners Crystal Palace, Under-16 champions Watford and Under-18 girls winners Newcastle United triumphed at the Kickz Cup 2012 at Barnet Powerleague at the end of July and the trip to Loughborough University was one of their prizes for coming through the competitive finals day.
The day involved the winning teams being given a presentation about the Nike Academy and the partnership with the Premier League before being taken on a tour of the facilities.
"It's actually inspired a few of the young people to want to go to university and do something similar"
Watford's Carlan Edgar
Afterwards they took part in two training sessions, which included various drills and matches, with all 18 Nike Academy players also taking part.
"It was a fantastic experience for everybody concerned," said Newcastle United Foundation Sports Development Assistant Lisa Bell. "It’s been the end of lots and lots of practice at the weekly Kickz sessions, and travelling to Barnet Powerleague to play in the Kickz final, which fortunately we came out on top of.
"To come to the Nike Academy and witness at first hand how the squad of 18 boys take part in football every day it’s been inspiring for them and they can probably leave thinking, ‘I would like to be part of that’ if that opportunity for girls ever arose."
Carlan Edgar, from Watford, said the training day would inspire the youngsters in the future.
"It has been a really great experience for the young people, they have loved every minute of it," he said. "It's actually inspired a few of the young people to want to go to university and do something similar and be around these sorts of facilities."
As well as giving players the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques, the event was also a valuable experience for the coaches, says Crystal Palace Kickz Project officer Kieran Connolly. "The training was really good," he said. "I learnt quite a bit from what the coaches were saying.
"The facilities are excellent, some of the best I have seen. It was a great opportunity for the young people from our project, who I know aspire to be young professional footballers, to get an insight into what it is like on a day-to-day basis."
"We were particularly impressed with their technical ability"
Nike Academy Head Coach Jimmy Gilligan
The Nike Academy was established three years ago and is a dedicated pro-level football development programme - founded and managed by Nike and supported by the Premier League – which aims to help and support highly skilled and committed young footballers to reach their potential and make it as a professional.
Nike Academy Head Coach Jimmy Gilligan, who played for Swansea City and Portsmouth, led the training day and praised the quality of the players taking part.
"The Nike Academy were pleased to be able to offer this unique opportunity for the successful Kickz teams,” he said. "Hopefully this experience will encourage the young people who attended to continue to keep developing as players as we were particularly impressed with their technical ability."
The fourth running of the Kickz Cup featured over 700 players with all 44 Kickz clubs entering teams in the Under-18 and Under-16 age groups for the regional qualifiers in June.
The aim of the competition is to give youngsters the opportunity to meet people of their own age from other areas and break down barriers.
The competition is part of the Kickz scheme, a programme which began in 2006 and uses the power of football in some of the most deprived areas of the country to create safer and more respectful communities.
Hannah Smith: "I really enjoyed it we met lots of new people and the lads were dead canny – always encouraging us during the training and matches."
Lauren Driver: "I felt like we were treated like professionals - everyone encouraging us and making us feel relaxed."
Aaron Abbott: "It was great to see the daily stuff the Nike Academy does; we were introduced to new drills and small-sided games."
Courtney Pinnock: "I learnt a lot what the Nike Academy was made up of – they are nice guys and made us feel very comfortable, it was good to see how we compared."
Corey Johnson: "Training with the Nike Academy was an intense day. It was a great experience to come up to Loughborough University and see how the lads train and what they do every day in their lives."
Rex Kimona: "It was great to meet and be coached by high quality coaches like Jimmy Gilligan."