If you’re looking for affordable after school and holiday activities for primary school aged children, then the FA Tesco Skills Programme might be for you.
FA Tesco Skills is essentially a football coaching programme, but teaches a whole range of skills, including communication and team-building so it’s not just about football technique. It’s aimed at both girls and boys and includes children with special needs.
Sally Needham is The FA Tesco Skills team leader in East Riding with a wide range of experience and qualifications in coaching. She’s a great role model in particular for girls who love football, but may still find it difficult to counter gender stereotypes. Sally, who is 30, has played football since she was at primary school despite opposition from some parents. “My primary school had a boy’s football team and some of the parents weren’t happy that I might play as they felt I was taking a boy’s position. It caused a bit of an uproar and the next year, it was renamed the school football team to show it was open to boys and girls.”
Sally continued to play in defence in a team in Barnsley when she was at secondary school and took PE as one of her study options. However, because she was a girl she could not be assessed on her football skills outside of school. The assessment criteria only applied to boys.
She continued to play football,though, and made captain of her college team. One of her responsibilities was to take the warm-up sessions and she was invited to coach at a centre of excellence in Barnsley. She did her coaching qualifications while she was at Leeds Metropolitan University studying sport and exercise science and was coaching alongside her studies.
After she left, she started an administrative job, but was coaching in the afternoons and at night until she got a full-time coaching job at the David Beckham Academy, which she did for two years before applying to the FA Tesco Skills Programme.
She’s been at the programme now for around six years and was one of the first intake of coaches. She says she is really enjoying coaching 5 to 11 year olds in the Hull, York and Bridlington area, having also coached under 13 boys and the England Women’s Deaf Team. The after school sessions cost £1 a time, but the holiday sessions are free as they are subsidised by Tesco.
Sally also works with PE teachers in local schools. The school classes are designed to fit in with the assessment criteria for the National Curriculum.
She says the programme gives children much more than football skills. “Some children come because they enjoy football, but they don’t want to be part of a team, some come because their parents want them to and others are really football dominated and want to do well in football,” she says, adding that she is looking to give the latter group more coaching to improve their football skills.
The sessions are mixed with around 50% being girls in schools and 10% at after-school sessions. Sally says parents and teachers really notice an improvement in their children’s behaviour, social interaction and confidence after doing the sessions.
One child came and he didn’t speak much and didn’t want his mum to leave the room. Then his dad died and his mum asked if he could come back a few weeks later. It took 10 weeks to get him to let his mum leave the room. He’s been coming for a year and a half now and he comes running in and is now very outgoing. He has become captain of the team. His mum says she doesn’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t had the Skills centre.”
When she first started the job, Sally had three weeks of intensive training which included behaviour management and understanding child behaviour. She says coaches need to be not just good at football skills, but be able to “deal with 33 five year olds in a classroom with a piano in the corner”. The training is ongoing and every quarter there is a continuing professional development event as well as an annual review. Coaches can suggest where they want more training. Sally is interested in sign language for her work with the England Women’s Deaf Team. In addition to teaching children, she also delivers courses to grassroots coaches in the local area.
Sally says sometimes things can get a bit full on when there are a lot of sessions on. As a team leader, she is in a school one day a week and then she coaches in the afternoons and evenings. But the sense of satisfaction she gets is second to none. “It’s something we all enjoy,” she says.