On Tuesday (20th March) all 72 EFL clubs came together to demonstrate the positive impact football can have in changing young people’s lives. Notts County Football in the Community (FITC) had its focus on one of its Premier League Girls sessions, based at Rushcliffe School in West Bridgford.
The session, which attracts nearly 30 girls every week, aims to provide opportunities for girls aged 11 and over to take part in regular football sessions, helping them grow in confidence and develop their skills while training in a supportive local community setting.
The programme also supports women and girls to progress on a pathway as a player, coach or match official.
The Notts County legend Mike Edwards alongside two of Notts County’s best development players, Alex Howes and Sam Osborne, came to see the session and get involved.
Edwards said: “It’s been a great session, a lot of effort being put into it. Coaches delivered a brilliant session and it’s great to see football being used and not just the case of putting a ball out there – it’s about learning different skills and getting everyone involved.”
Summa Betts, Year 10 pupil, first attended the session 4 years ago. She said: “When I first came to the session it was just really fun. We did a couple of drills, met new people and I’ve carried on ever since.”
At the age of 14, Summa was put forward for England trials Under 16s team. She admits part of that opportunity was thanks to the PL Girls programme:
“Unfortunately, I didn’t quite make it but it was experience of a lifetime. I’ve learnt so much [from this programme], I’ve taken things that I learnt back to my club and have focused on my weaknesses.”
“It would be an honour to represent my country when I’m older but I’d definitely do coaching if that doesn’t work out; I have to have some back-up plans,” she added.
Mike Edwards encouraged the girls to follow their dreams. He said: “In any walk of life you do get knocks and its one of them – when you fall and you land it’s about picking yourself up again. I’ve had 20 years of it where I’ve been doubted and it’s that sort of determination – if you’ve got that just keep going and keep working hard.”
FITC’s Project Manager, James Lake, said: “It’s a fantastic day to celebrate the success our programme has had on some of the girls on the programme. Whilst some are really talented footballers who aspire to progress through the playing pathway, there are also those that you can imagine taking a route into coaching, and that’s the great thing about the project, there’s something for everyone.
“I think the event has helped boost their confidence and recognise how much they’ve achieved through the scheme,” he added.
EFL chairman Ian Lenagan said: “Football continues to support its communities seven days a week, 365 days a year through our unique network of club community trusts.
“Bringing all 72 together on one day for the EFL Day of Action highlights the special role the EFL has in society and our collective ability to make a positive and lasting impact to the lives of millions of people.
“It is fantastic to see so many managers and players across England and Wales coming out in support of the excellent work being undertaken by their own club right in the heart of their own community.
“There are few sporting organisations that can deliver the scale of innovative and groundbreaking activity we do via our network of clubs across so many important areas, including inclusion, charitable causes, community engagement, education or health.”