FC Halifax Town are delighted to announce a partnership with Virtual Learning UK, whereby the football club will be working with school-leavers who aim to get that break into football, whilst also having the opportunity to go to University to continue studying if desired.
The programme, managed by Steve Nichol, has been given a major boost heading into the next academic year (or football season), as they have received a grant from The Community Foundation to help pay for facilities that include laptops for the youngsters.
Alongside facilities, the grant is also helping to stabilise the programme, with the hope that the numbers of participants grow over the next few years.
Nichol is delighted with the help from The Community Foundation. He said: “When I first started here, we looked at the youth team, and the programme we provided and thought about what we needed to do to have more time with the players. So we came up with a project in partnership with a company called virtual learning UK.
“They provide us with an education programme that our players work towards. But, in order to run that programme, I had to get the players into the football side, but we needed to be funded to pay for laptops for the lads to work with. We applied to the community foundation and they support us with a grant, which contributed towards paying for the laptops.”
The youth programme would appear to be something of the best of both worlds for those young people who have a talent in football, and those who are undecided with what they wish to do with their future. As said by Nichol, the programme is becoming more demanding, but those who take part will soon reap the rewards with an application of hard work and determination.
“They have left school. They are 16/17 year olds and are based full time here. They have around 12 hours a week of education and ten hours per week of football. They also have their matches each week, which they take part in the Football Conference Youth Alliance and the FA Youth Cup as well.”
The programme has been running for some time, but it had become crucial that it competed with other football clubs and other colleges. By football clubs, Nichol is hoping that Halifax’s scheme can improve to become on par, or overtake, many football clubs.
He said: “At the beginning it was very important from two aspects. One, it helped to get the scheme up and running, and two, from a social point of view, the lads are young people reaching the age where they want to go off into different paths, and not go into education, or employment. It was a way, through football, to nurture the talents and give the players an all round development, in terms of a great football education and a great academic education as well.
“I believe that the academic side of our programme is better than what they could be getting at a professional club. The scheme is far more demanding and the lads will be in far more each week. It is like a full time job, sort of nine to five. But, at the end of it, they could have a qualification that could possibly get them into university if they tried hard enough and wanted to go down that route.”
This project was taken on by Nichol, and has excelled within the last few months since his appointment. The idea regarding this project was born when watching a particular film, as revealed by the man himself.
He said: “My inspiration for this project came from a film called ‘Coach Carter’, which is basically about a student athlete. It is a great film as well. We want to support the players on both aspects. Yes, our ultimate intention is to operate a strong football programme, and in time, I want to develop a programme that will compete, or if not, be better than what a lot of professional football clubs have.
“We are a long way of doing that now, but this year we have made a lot of progress when compared to where we were this time last year. The education side of it is as equally as important, as I think that it teaches good values to young people. If they do well on the programme, not only could they move forward with their football, it will help them to move forward in other aspects of their lives.”
Steve Duncan, Chief Executive Officer at the Community Foundation, is also happy with the grant that has been given, in the hope that it can change young people’s lives for the better.
He said: “We like to support grass roots sports, and one of the biggest clubs and sports in the area is football. We were looking to break into grass roots sports in any way that we can. Our input is to allow groups, in this case, FC Halifax Town, to get on to doing what they do well.
“When we give money, we give a grant and effectively that money is then gone. But when you find out that it changes so many young people’s lives, it is a big bonus for me. We have got some amazing, generous people in Calderdale who give us, in some cases millions of pounds, and we are able to channel that to where it is most needed. We are delighted with what FC Halifax Town are doing with it.”
FC Halifax Town are currently holding opening sessions for the next intake of players from April 30, so if you are interested, contact the club for further details.
Read more posts by Kelly Gilchrist