This week we spoke with Academy Manager Andy Lowe for a mid-season review on how the academy is shaping up in its first 6 months…
‘Back in July of this season when the football club was awarded a licence to re-establish an academy under the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan) licensing requirements, I described how this was an exciting opportunity for the whole club and certainly the young players in year one who have been given the opportunity to be part of a ‘new era’ so to speak. It is fantastic to see the positive feel the introduction of the academy has brought in recent months and everyone involved should be extremely proud of their efforts. We are now six months into our first year as a new EFL academy and are starting to lay the foundations which are integral to the long-term success of the academy. The support from the football club and stakeholders has been excellent with regular ongoing dialogue and strong relationships have been made with Durham University, Hartlepool College of Further Education, the FA, the EFL, League Football Education (LFE), Blackhall Colliery Welfare, NERAM’s paramedics and the Hartlepool Youth Alliance.’
‘Our main objective as an academy this season is quite simple, to develop a strategy, and create an environment and long-term coaching programme that allows players to flourish, whilst ensuring we are safe to operate, compliant and fulfil the required exacting standards of the PGAAC (Professional Game Audit Company). An academy licence under the EPPP requirements in the professional game is extremely difficult to obtain and even more difficult to maintain, as the past few months have demonstrated – although we are making substantial progress and are on target to ensure we lay the most robust foundations possible for years to come. Those foundations will ensure we have a successful academy that is sustainable and produces players capable of playing for the first team for years to come. We are ambitious and want to be the absolute best academy for producing young players for the first team and beyond, we do not shy away from those long term aims and objectives.’
‘I was asked recently what the most crucial factor will be in the academy being successful? Quite simply it is about hard work on and off the field and a ‘we’ not ‘me’ attitude from everyone involved in the academy including staff, players, academy partners, and parents. The importance of the multidisciplinary team, ‘the team behind the team’ is essential for future success, no one person is more important than another and success is a collective, we can only be a success with every single person pulling in the same direction and this ethos is integral to achieving our future objective’s. A cliché often mentioned in football circles is that of ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’ (TEAM) which is certainly high on our agenda when considering success.’
‘Behind these successes and daily operations of the academy are multiple people (our multidisciplinary team) involved in the development of our young players: coaches, sports scientists, physiotherapists, recruitment, safeguarding, player care, administration, analysists, education, first team staff. (And not forgetting parents, grassroot coaches and teachers who have helped young players on their journey before joining the club). Often a call up will be due to injuries, suspensions and so forth and therefore it is so important players are ‘first team ready’ to grasp their opportunity, which the players have shown they can thus far and that is down to all of the people mentioned above.’
‘In recent months we have had three apprentices accumulating ten named substitute appearances for the first team and a debut to throw in the mix, which has superseded our early expectations and given a small insight into what the ‘future can hold. As a department we remind players that technical ability will get a player ‘through the door’ but this alone will not suffice, players need to be technically, tactically proficient, but also have exceptional physical levels and psychologically be prepared for the twists, turns, high and lows that professional football brings. We have also competed admirably in a very tough league against much more established academies and experienced teams, the FA Youth Cup at the Suit Direct Stadium and travelled some considerable miles!’
Hartlepool College of Further Education
‘We see the academy as an education – both on and off the field and I would personally like to thank Hartlepool College of Further Education on behalf of all of us for the continued and unwavering support they have given us with weekly transport to fixtures via use of their mini bus, education tutors who work extremely hard delivering the education element of the apprenticeship to our young players and also the safeguarding expertise we have access to on a daily basis. Furthermore, we have been able to provide opportunities to several college players from the HCFE college football programme who have trained and played for our academy team regularly throughout the season and have represented themselves, their parents and college excellently always.’
‘We place a huge importance on education hence the relationship with Hartlepool College of Further Education is so important. We are under no illusions, not everyone will become a Professional footballer, professional football is a very demanding profession and the importance we place on developing players holistically is a prime focus of our working week.’
‘I would like to extend a thankyou to all players, parents, staff, the football club, and our partners for your ongoing support – the support really has been appreciated and has no doubt played an important part in our first season back as an EFL Academy. At this stage if there are any local businesses interested in discussing how you can support the continued growth of our academy, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.’
‘Good luck to Keith and the team for the rest of the season! We are all behind you and the players.’
Academy Player life skills programme.
Off the field our young players take part in the League Football Education programme, below we look at some of the activity’s players have taken part in, in recent weeks.
The past few weeks our apprentices have participated in personal development and life skills workshops with the Kick It Out (Troy Townsend), the Sporting Chance team to discuss, racism and discrimination and Lifestyle and If U Care Share to discuss mental health awareness and suicide. These opportunities are provided by the League Football Education (LFE) Apprenticeship programme, which all our apprentices complete. The personal development and life skills programme provided by the LFE allows the young players to develop holistically and empower them with the skills to deal with the demands of football and modern-day life.
Andy Lowe, Academy Manager ‘The personal development and life skills programme is an integral aspect of the apprentice journey and one which we place a huge significance on from a player care and development point of view. We are committed to enhancing the life skills of all players and this aligns with the LFE’s objectives of raising awareness and empowering apprentices to deal with the demands of football and life. The fantastic programmes delivered by the League Football Education programme is one we are proud to be part of. I would like to personally thank Troy Townsend from Kick it Out and Darren and Lauren from sporting chance and Tom, Harry and Colin from IF U Care Share for their delivery, which was very engaging, insightful and the first of many sessions to come in our commitment to player care and supporting our young players in a variety of areas such as lifestyle choices, financial, mental health, and wellbeing, occupational, law, safeguarding and so much more’.