A young coach from Port Talbot is putting the fun into football thanks to a scheme from the Football Association of Wales (FAW).
Jordan Edwards, 19, of Port Talbot Town Community Sports Ltd is running a series of soccer sessions at schools across the town, made possible by funding from the FAW and Vauxhall Fun Football Programme.
With the first major football tournament taking place in Wales over the summer – the UEFA European Women’s Under-19 Championship – the emphasis has been placed on increasing participation from girls and disabled children in particular. To aid this, clubs can now apply for investment from the FAW of up to £3,000 to kick-start their project.
Jordan said: “We’ve just started running a Girls Coaching Centre, aimed at getting girls playing football.We have run about six sessions in total so far and it’s proving very popular. We have a girls team at Port Talbot so our aim is to introduce girls to the game through Fun Football and link through to the team.”
St. Therese’s Catholic Primary School in Sandfields is just one of the schools that is benefitting from Port Talbot’s FAW funding. Every Wednesday, St. Therese’s pays for Jordan to lead a daytime session and after school session for children from the school.
As part of the FAW and national team sponsor Vauxhall’s commitment to grassroots football, the Fun Football Programme has offered grants to several football programmes across Wales to develop and aid their own soccer schools. The accredited scheme is targeted at increasing participation in football for children of all abilities in a safe learning environment.The term “fun football” is recognised by UEFA and is endorsed as a grass roots development initiative.
St. Therese’s headteacher Mr. Chris Welsh believes the football club is responsible for an uplift in happiness and healthiness from pupils at the 220-pupil school.
Mr. Welsh said: “When Port Talbot started coming into the school, a few pupils had never played football before. Take Cameron Marney for example - he’s in Year Two and had not shown an interest in football. He started attending the sessions with Port Talbot and he’s developed so well that he’s now playing for theiryouth setup. There are several other pupils from Year Two, both girls and boys, who have become involved in football during school and have gone off and joined clubs in the area.”
And the involvement doesn’t just stop at school sessions. To promote participation further, a St. Therese’s team from Year Four at played at the GenQuip stadium before a Port Talbot Town night match.
Mr. Welsh said: “It was a fantastic experience for the team and the school. They all got to go down to the stadium and play a match in front of the crowds there. The football club even gave their families tickets so they could all go down and watch.”
Jordan started working for the Port Talbot Community Sports project in September, as part of the Go Wales scheme, and he’s just had his placement extended by a year thanks to a new grant from (will confirm this) who?. His coaching sees him work with children from as young as six. Jordan said: “I’d been playing for Port Talbot since I was seven and I finished my A-levels and was going to take a gap year before university. But then the job with the football club came along and I haven’t really looked back. I’m now working towards my UEFA B-Licence and hope to continue doing this full time. When we go into the schools, the children in the sessions look up to us. They see the badge, see the uniform we are wearing and want to play football with us.”
Ian Gwyn Hughes, Head of Public Affairs at the FAW, said: “Following a fantastic season for Welsh football on many fronts, the summer represents a huge first as the first UEFA championships come to the country. The stars of that tournament all started somewhere and the emphasis of the Fun Football programme really is about encouraging more and more youngsters to get off the sofa and play football.
“The scheme offers them the opportunity to turn up and play and develop their skills in a creative and safe coaching environment.It’s crucial that we encourage these youngsters and nurture their talent, as they are the future football stars of our nation.”
Vauxhall Head of Sponsorship, Chris Hornbuckle said; “We are very excited about playing our part in the Fun Football Programme.
“From the beginning of our sponsorship we have been committed to supporting football from the grass roots through to the National senior team and it is vitally important for the future of the game in Wales that we support the young talent with such opportunities.”
Port Talbot Community Sports will be running mixed football sessions during the school holidays at the Afan Lido Astroturf every day with the Girls Coaching Centre taking place every Friday night from 5pm at the Afan Lido Astroturf.