Ahead of the season-opening FA Community Shield, we welcomed our FA Youth Leadership Academy class of 2019-20 to St George’s Park.
A record number of 60 young people began their year-long training 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.
Forty five of the attendees were nominated by their County FAs, with the rest invited by UEFA.
The Academy thus had a strong European flavour and focused on maximising the grassroots impact of UEFA Euro 2020, which takes places in 12 different countries next summer and ends with both semi-finals (7-8 July 2019) and the final (12 July 2019) at Wembley Stadium.
The staging of UEFA Euro 2020 provides a unique opportunity to highlight the potential of young leaders both in England and across Europe.
Wembley National Stadium Trust, which derives its income from events at the stadium, have recognised the potential of the programme and invested £600k to expand our Youth Leadership and Volunteering programme and the diversity of its participants.
“This is the biggest and most ambitious FA Leadership Academy we’ve ever delivered,” says Sarah Nickless, the chairperson of the FA Youth Council.
“I’ve seen this programme grow and evolve and the aim is to give future leaders tools to help change their local communities.
“We’re also focusing on UEFA Euro 2020. Last year, we enrolled two members from Jordan and saw a glimpse of the benefit of globalising the programme. They brought a different vibe and perspective.
“This time, with the support of UEFA, we’ve invited youth leaders from every host nation at UEFA Euro 2020.
“We appreciate their different viewpoint. At The FA, we encourage counties to help each other. Now we can get countries doing the same and this will have an impact on an even wider scale. It’s really special to see the FA Leadership Academy evolve in this way.”
Lipa Nessa is part of the new class of 2019-20 and represents Middlesex FA. She’s also a member of the Youth Sports Trust.
While studying at university, she frequently coached U10s in the Wembley area, but after stopping playing football for Kinja Football Club at Brent’s Arc Academy, she needed guidance and encouragement on how to stay in the game.
“I think, as a player, I didn’t understand the industry. A lot of young kids are the same and don’t really know what they can do away from playing,” says Nessa, who now co-hosts the popular ‘I Think She Is Offside’ podcast.
“What The FA Leadership Academy does is provide me with a bird’s-eye view of football. I now know the steps I need to take in order to become a leader.
“I came to the workshops very confident because I had done stuff like this before, but what was great was meeting all the different nationalities present and seeing them come out of their shells.
“I learned a lot from the youth leaders from Italy, Denmark, Germany and, outside of Europe, Qatar.
“The fact they are all going to make the effort to come back for graduation in a year’s time shows how quickly we all bonded and shared ideas.”
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.
“Being part of The FA Leadership Academy was life-changing,” says former Notts County footballer Beth Heath. “My local FA recommended it and I really didn’t know what to expect. But the workshops had me gripped from the very start.
“When the programme began I was at Notts County and I had the chance to coach their U9s side. One of the first workshops I attended was about trust-building in dysfunctional teams. Learning about what can go wrong really benefited me.
“Since then, I have moved to Leicester City Ladies as first team manager. I would never have the confidence to interview for that job if I wasn’t here. The FA Leadership Academy has helped shape my philosophy as both a coach and person.”
With UEFA Euro 2020 less than a year away, the 2019-20 FA Leadership Academy is a chance to emphasise on a global scale the importance of involving young people in the governance, organisation and development of football.
Investing in current and future leaders by improving their skillsets, will ensure a clear benefit to grassroots football in England in the build up to, and well beyond, UEFA Euro 2020.