Whenever May approaches there’s always the question of what to do in the football off season — those three long months of pre-season but no games.
I do love a good crowdfunding platform, and Pursuit is my most recent find. It’s a site that allows amateur athletes in Canada the chance to gain support to achieve their athletic goals.
Athletes can create a profile, share their ambitions and experience and then offer something, called a ‘Give back’ for their supporters on a sliding scale. This could be anything from a signed poster to a personal training session with them.
For athletes trying to go pro that may not have the financial stability to quit working, or the backing of large commercial sponsors, Pursuit offers them a chance. And I think it’s ace.
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have sport in my life. I’ve also been lucky to have a really supportive mum (and aunt) who drove me to practises and games, made sure I had the right equipment, nutrition and encouragement. I’ve also always been given the opportunity to play. Where I grew up, there were more sports activities taking place than I had hours in a day. And I had equal opportunity to play. Yet, in so many other places, both in Canada and in the world, this is not the case.
I’d like to introduce you to Hackney Laces, a group of fabulous young women I have the privilege of spending time with. Speaking of fabulous women, the super talented and painfully modest Zoe Quirk made this video for us. In her spare time she edited hours of footage to make this little video as an introduction to Hackney Laces.
Beginning November 1st, I started a 7 week pilot for the project formerly known as ‘Just Another Football Club‘.
It took me a while to decide where I wanted to run the pilot – more importantly, which area lacked sport and community based opportunities for young women (between the ages of 13-17). I met with football folk in Hackney, Camden, Islington and Haringay. After meeting
Pete Blackwell, the London Manager for ‘Reachout!’ a mentoring charity, I was sold on Hackney.
Pete agreed to partner with me and provide pitch space at Petchey Academy where he runs Reachout FC.
Now that the 7 weeks have ended, I’m stoked to say that it has been a success.
– 21 different players on the register, 10 who consistently come (3 or more weeks)
– 7 text messages, all from different players that read:
“You’ve been sent this message by 07xxxxxxxxx asking you to call them back as they are out of credit. (Normal charges apply)”
– 4 players who have been there every single week. Amazing dedication.
– 3 brand new shiny players who have never kicked a ball in their life
– 2 weeks of standing outside Petchey when school got let out with flyers, spamming random school kids with leaflets about the session (note: this was on the advice of the school’s groundsman told me to stand outside at 330pm and hand out some info. He said this will be a surefire way to boost numbers. So this is what I did. I stuffed flyers into the hands of school kids with with my email and phone number. Aside from me feeling like a stereotypical overly-enthusiastic North American, it was good. Numbers doubled after doing so. Result.)
– 0 footballs/equipment of any sort lost (I’m pointing this out because it’s normally very rare)
One thing that really surprised me was despite some brutal weather, players would still rock up. As a footballer myself, I know all too well how demotivating it can be playing in the cold, wet British winter.
I could ramble on forever about all of the great stuff that has gone on in the pilot but I’ll stop here and save that for a later post.
Here’s what’s next:
– I’ll be continuing with the session, Tuesday nights at Petchey (working towards a friendly 7-aside match against a nice, beginner to intermediate level side)
– There’s a website on the way alongside the branding, partners and all that jazz
– The membership scheme will be finalised so you and anyone you know can become part-owner of this club for the tiny fee of £10 per year. What a bargain.
– I’m making a rota of footballers (male and female) come out and help with sessions.
– Getting a few of the older girls (16 year olds) on a coaching Level 1 course.
Trying to get something off the ground is hardwork. Really. And without certain peoples’ support this would likely still be something I’d only dream about doing. So here is my first honour role of lovely people – and there will be plenty more to be added to this. It’s only the beginning.
– Naresh Ramchandani, who aside from having top notch football banter, basically convinced me to quit working for him to pursue this. Oh and did I mention he has re-named and branded it?
– @nataliedoyle82 from the London FA for spreading the word
– Pete Blackwell and the crew at Reachout for being crazy helpful and encouraging.
– Orlando from Actis, my newly found mentor. He didn’t bat an eye lid when I pounced on him at a mentoring matchmaking night put on by Unltd.
– Keisha Graham Benjamin (her initials are KGB – funny, right?) for rallying together all the teenaged girls she knows in Hackney. Including multiple members of her family. And a few circus performers.
If you or anyone you know would like to get involved, please do get in touch!
Ps- I gave Glove Love to the team as a Christmas present. It was very well received.
PPs- Apologies for the pictures quality. They were taken on a borrowed Blackberry in the rain.
When I was ordering kit for Laces CC a few weeks ago, I searched for ethical footballs. I was looking for something outside of the usual football suspects (Nike, Puma, Adidas), and I came across Fair Corp. After reading about their supply chain and their impressive values, I ordered 7 of their ‘Ethletic’ balls.
At first I was dubious as they came in a small box deflated. Once I put air into them, they looked and felt like standard footballs but were a bit bent out of shape. But then after a few kicks and knocks they were broken in and are just perfect. See?
The girls love the spots on them and I like telling people about them when I’m asked what make they are. If you’re ever in need of ethical fashion and sports equipment, have a look at Fair Corp. They’re good ‘uns.
Since November 2010 I’ve had an idea brewing in my head. Often obsessing and sometimes losing sleep over it, this summer I finally got my act together and pitched it to Unltd (a fund for social entrepreneurs) for some start-up cash but mostly for something to kick me into action.
So (drumroll please) this is where I officially announce the beginning of Just Another Football Club. Yes, it’s exactly what the world needs. Another football club.
The idea is to create a community football club for girls between the ages of 13-17. The issue I’m trying to tackle is retaining girls in the game, as there is a really high drop off rate for girls in this bracket. And research has shown that this correlates with two things: a lack of funding for girls and women’s clubs and lack of support.
I’ve always solicited my friends for money via bake sales, pub quizzes, football tournaments, half marathons, and more, to help support the football teams I’ve coached and played for. While I love events and my very generous friends, there has to be a better more sustainable way.
The second issue, a lack of support, come from limited or no opportunities outside of actually playing the sport. Sport has been known to increase self-esteem, develop leadership skills, build relationships and much more but what if a player loses interest in playing – can they still be a part of the team?
The players will have opportunities to get involved in lots of different stuff – not just playing, but coaching refereeing, organising events and other activities.
To tackle these issues and create the best football club ever*, my goal is to build a football club that would be owned and supported by the community. This won’t be an FC, it will be a CC. A community club. Anyone can become a member for a £10 share. All members are equal. This membership lets people to help make club decisions, receive special offers and discounts at local shops as well help fund a grass roots football movement.
If you have ideas or skills to lend, know girls that want to get involved or just want to be one of the first members of the club, get in touch.
The pilot starts tonight and will run every Tuesday night for 6 weeks at Petchey Academy in Hackney from 6-7pm.
*solely my opinion, and likely mine alone.
Last week I went to a fabulous event, put on by The School of Research and my friend Charlie Tims. For the past year, Charlie has been working on a project with A New Direction’s Biggest Learning Opportunity on Earth programme (Biglop), which brings together artists and cultural organisations with schools across London to explore the London Olympics and Paralympic Games.
The aim of the project was to look at what the Olympics means to young people in London and to use creativity to explore historical, cultural, social and economic value of their city. Here’s a lovely video that shows some of the kids’ findings.
I think this programme is ace. (I even asked Charlie if I could have his job. He said no). With all of the Olympic ticketing scheme drama, huge commercial sponsorship deals, doping athletes and massive infrastructure overhauls in host cities, the Olympics feels really far removed from the community, especially young people. What the Biglop is trying to do is engage with kids to inspire them to be creative, curious and involved in the games and the city in which they live.
Another really cool part of the night was learning about the Olympic truce. The Olympic Truce “calls upon humanity to lay down its weapons and work towards building the foundations of peace, mutual respect, understanding and reconciliation”. It dates back to the 9th century BC, in Ancient Greece and asks for people around the world to be free to participate and travel to and from the Olympics in peace. Sadly this truce hasn’t been observed since 1993.
Embarrassingly I didn’t know such truce existed. The first I heard of it was via Lord Bates on a pre-recorded Skype call at the event.
Lord Bates is a man who believes so deeply in the need for the truce to be honoured that he is walking from Athens all the way back to London. He’s walking 3,000 miles in order to gain support from other world leaders and the public to honour the truce once again. Crazy inspiring.
I’ve never lived in an Olympic host city until now. I came quite close for the Vancouver winter games but left just as the construction was beginning. Now with London 2012 only one year away I hope for two things:
1. The Olympic Truce is honoured (You can show your support here).
2. That there will be loads of opportunities for young people – and anyone – to get involved and aspire to be good at something.
As certain teammates of footballer Gary Neville make headlines for their off the pitch activities, not limited to failed super injunctions and hookups with prostitutes, Neville is currently in the spotlight (and worthy of it) for some of the good he’s done and for his imminent retirement from professional football.
Neville, who has the most caps for a right back for the England squad, and who was captain of Manchester United’s captain for five years, played his last match tonight at Old Trafford. His testimonial match versus Juventus saw the reunion of other footballing legends, like David Beckham and Peter Schmeichel, to play alongside Neville in his final game.
Apart from his football skills and sport legacy, Neville deserves kudos for his green credentials. Yes, he’s quite environmentally sound. Not so long ago he was granted planning permission for building an eco-bunker. And for his testimonial match tonight, he insisted that the entire match – from the floodlights to the energy used for boiling water for tea – come from wind energy. It was one of the first ever football matches powered by wind energy. Also, something that deserves a mention is the fact that some of the £2 million raised tonight will be donated to charity. Good stuff Gary, way to be an actual role model.