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England football International Mary Phillip visited youngsters at Southend United F.C. last week to take part in a Question & Answer gathering at the Blues' Extra Time Study Support Centre before conducting a training session at nearby Priory Park as part of the F.A.'s 3 Lions Learning Centre Scheme.
The Arsenal defender, appearing prior to her nation's departure for the FIFA Women's World Cup in China this September, was involved in the event which sets out to ensure all children, whatever their circumstances or abilities, should be able to participate in and enjoy physical education and sport. After being tested by questions from local children, Mary then posed for several pictures with the F.A.Cup and the F.A.Women's Cup, both sponsored by E.On, and orchestrated a fun session alongside Essex's new band of Skills Coaches.
This was on one of five days the programme was scheduled for, other activities throughout the week including practical skills training, speed stacking, dance mania and further tasks related to this Autumn's World Cup. At the end of the week, Shrimpers Manager Steve Tilson and goalkeeper Steve Collis presented certificates and goody bags to the children, who largely had little previous experience of playing or involving themselves in football.
Two sets of twins were wrapped up in the fun, and they shared similar positive feedback on the projects. April stated: "I enjoyed the Speed Stacking and arranged fifteen cups in just twelve seconds! I played a bit of football at school clubs but may play more now and might even join a team as I've enjoyed the week." Her sister, Danielle, continued: "I loved winning the Dance Mats challenge. We have goalposts at home which we use every day and we are always competitive when we play against each other!"
Speaking from United's modern Study Support Centre facility, Mary explained: "I always enjoyed kicking a ball around when I was young. Now my kids do what they want to do and I'd never push them into playing football but they do both play and take part in basketball as well because they enjoy it. I hope more youngsters choose to get active and involve themselves in sport." The final word, however, was reserved for the second set of twins, Reece and Connan, who relayed: "The penalty shootouts were great. We haven't really played much football but we think we might sign for a team now."
This is the second year of the project, which to date has been run as a pilot scheme. Thanks to its resounding success, all concerned are looking to continue its expansion and seek sponsorship to ensure it's a permanent fixture on the Essex football calendar. Further information on funding or the event itself can be obtained from the E.C.F.A.'s Lana Bond on (01245) 393073 or via e-mail at email@example.com.
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