Kick It Out’s ‘Raise Your Game’ series began in Leeds this week as football hopefuls from across West Yorkshire gained an insight into the employment opportunities available to them within the game.
Elland Road provided the setting for a day of one:one mentoring sessions and a coaching masterclass by former England international and Leeds United full-back Danny Mills. The event was held in conjunction with the Black and Asian Coaches Association (BACA), and supported by West Riding County FA and Leeds United Foundation.
Rolling out across the country over the next two months, ‘Raise Your Game’ will help aspiring individuals from all backgrounds, ages and communities seek gainful employment into the football industry, and forms part of the Kick It Out’s Mentoring and Leadership project funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
“The ‘Raise Your Game’ events are an incredibly helpful resource for anybody looking to get into football in whatever capacity,” said Danny, a UEFA ‘B’ Licence badge holder who emphasised the importance of gaining the necessary qualifications whilst delivering his three mini sessions focusing on defending, passing and finishing. “Experience in any walk of life is key and it’s important to listen to people who have been in and around the top, seen it, been there and done it. “You can pick up advice which sticks with you for the rest of your life,” continued the former Manchester City defender who acts as a patron for charities Shine and Level Playing Field. “I’m keen for more ex-professionals to get involved and promote the game from within. You have to give people a bit of inspiration, a few ideas and the confidence to go and try stuff. Football’s a demanding game and I always maintain the most important thing is to enjoy what you do, no matter what level it is you operate at.”
One touchline observer amongst a 60-strong crowd, Matt Fryer, reserve team manager of local amateur side Old Headingly AFC, found it extremely beneficial. “It was a great opportunity to be able to see an ex-player working up close and personal. Danny was extremely interactive throughout and I liked the fact we were able to pick his brains as he was putting the session together.”
Following on from the masterclass, Mills joined Sunday Mirror journalist Anthony Clavane, Andrew Wadsworth from West Riding County FA, Referees’ Association and Football Association (RA-FA) youth council member Umar Ahmed, BACA co-founder Wallace Hermit, Professor Jonathan Long, a sports lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University, and Keeley Temple, professional clubs development officer at Kick It Out, to pass on his words of wisdom to participants keen to pursue other career avenues in football.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved in football since a young age so when I saw the advertisement for this event, I jumped at it,” commented Abbie Halliwell, an attendee who faced limited opportunities when living in Spain and has recently moved back to the local area. “I’m looking to break into media and administration. I’ve gained a lot of advice and contacts off the back of this, and am now keen to start volunteering in my spare time to try and get myself some additional experience.”
Running alongside the mentoring workshops, BACA co-founder and FA tutor Colin King helped 36 youngsters attain certificates in First Aid, and Safeguarding and Child Protection. There was a real veritable mix of attendees who gained the qualifications, and they’ve now set themselves a firm base to work from in terms of coaching development.
“It has been fantastic to see such a range of people turn up,” reflected Leeds United education project manager Alan Scorfield, who oversaw the event alongside Kick It Out’s Mentoring and Leadership project manager Troy Townsend.
“We’ve had people from all different backgrounds, a wide spectrum of age, and a positive female presence. Everybody has taken something out of this experience and ceased the opportunity to garner as much information as they can from the likes of Danny Mills. The more people we get involved in the future, the more the game grows and the more available it becomes to everybody.”
Danny Mills has launched the Archie Mills Memorial Challenges after his baby son passed away from spina bifida 10 years ago. He is setting off on a charity bike ride this Saturday (22 September) to raise money for Shine, a charity which supports individuals who suffer from the condition and/or hydrocephalus, and their families. To find out more, and to sponsor Danny, please click here.
Danny is also an ambassador and key supporter of Level Playing Field, the only national registered charity for England and Wales representing disabled fans of all sports together with their personal assistants and advocates. To find out more, please click here.