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The Colchester United Girls' Centre of Excellence has been 'hitting the road' in order to build links with the grass roots female football community in the surrounding Essex and Suffolk areas.
First up on Saturday 21st January was a visit to nearby Essex club Lawford Juniors FC where Under-13s head coach David Coyle and Under-15s head coach Tracy Doe put an enthusiastic group of young female footballers through their paces while Under-15s assistant coach and Colchester United Ladies FC first team goalkeeper Nikita Runnacles gave Lawford's budding 'keepers some useful tips.
Paul Barran, who co-ordinates the girls section at Lawford Juniors, commented: "It was great to have the Colchester United Girls' Centre of Excellence coaches here, they put on some great sessions and the girls really enjoyed it. We have made some real progress with our girls programme and building a strong relationship with our local centre can only help us offer more opportunities."
Next, Colchester's coaching staff paid a visit to the Essex County FA Girls' Player Development Centre at Shenfield School on Friday 3rd February to deliver an 'in-service' event working with the PDC players and staff to showcase some of the coaching ideas and philosophies employed at Colchester.
Colchester's Centre of Excellence Technical Director Steve Downey was impressed with the level of talent on display at the PDC commenting: ""The standard at the PDC was very high and you could see that the players had already learned a lot in terms of how to conduct themselves and get the best out of the sessions and it is obvious they are getting some great coaching at the PDC. There is no doubt that a number of the players have the potential to move further up the development pathway."
Essex County FA Women's and Girls' Development Officer Emma Burden added: "We are really pleased with how successful the PDC programme has been in its first year and building a strong relationship with our closest Centre of Excellence is vital if the full potential of the programme is to be reached. I really felt that seeing the Colchester Centre of Excellence coaches involved helped show the talent development pathway much more clearly and the players were excited to see that the door to the next step is well and truly open to them."
Two weeks later Colchester repeated the process at the Suffolk Girls' PDC at the Suffolk One facility as the programme looks to foster new links north of the Essex border. Again Colchester coaches worked with the three age groups at the PDC and Suffolk PDC Manger Matt Johnstone was pleased to see the partnership form explaining: "The Colchester United Female Football Programme has a great reputation and their Girls' Centre of Excellence is now the closest one for many of the girls in Suffolk so it is important that the link is made and our more talented players are aware of the options available to them. Hopefully we will continue to develop the relationship and see some of the players coming through the PDC move further up the talent pathway."
The visits have enabled Centre staff to assess first hand some of the great talent in the area and have also lead to some positive discussions between the Centre and local clubs as to how best to facilitate players moving up and down the pathway without causing ill feeling. In addition the Centre has welcomed coaches from local clubs such as East Bergholt FC and Colchester Town Ladies FC to training sessions in order to build a better picture for grass roots clubs as to what the FA Girls' Centre of Excellence programme is all about.
Colchester United Community Sports Trust Director of Female Football and Centre of Excellence General Manager Kevin Anderson highlighted the importance of building bridges to the grass roots community,
"We are in a great area for female football at all ages and ability levels with a number of clubs and programmes doing great work to develop participation and awareness," he said. "It is vitally important that we try and build relationships within the grass roots community not just so that we can help talented players to reach their potential but also so that we are doing our part to help grow the female game in the area.
"By working closely with local clubs, yes we may unearth a player or two that can make the grade as a Centre of Excellence player and beyond, but we can also help attract more young girls to the game and help ensure that more and more girls have somewhere to play."
The Colchester United Girls' Centre of Excellence will be continuing to engage in various activities at the grass roots level with a joint hosting of a Charter Standard Clubs In-Service event with the Essex County FA set for Monday 2nd April, further guest club coaching sessions and an 'Open House' planned for April to showcase the programme.
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