Since its launch in October 2023, The New Croft Foundation's Football in the Community (FITC) programmes have been making significant strides in enhancing the local community's access to football. With an average weekly participation rate of 140 individuals spanning across various age groups and abilities, these initiatives have proven to be a resounding success.
The FITC programmes cater to both children and adults, fostering inclusivity and diversity within the community. Among the participants, approximately 50 are adults aged 16 and above, while the remaining 90 comprise enthusiastic youngsters eager to hone their skills on the field. Notably, around 40 of these participants are girls, underlining the programmes' commitment to encouraging more females into the sport.
These programmes have also enabled aspiring young coaches from the local community to further their development on the field. Dawid, a 17-year-old volunteer, plays a crucial role in facilitating sessions for Wildcats and Squads, as well as walking football. Additionally, Bonnie, aged 15, contributes her time and expertise to the Wildcats programme as part of her Duke of Edinburgh volunteering hours, alongside another prospective volunteer, Izzy, who will soon join the initiative.
Rhys Shulver and Lois Balfour, both full-time coaches at the New Croft Foundation spearhead the delivery of these programmes. Rhys oversees Mini-Kickers, the U6 Centre, and the Development Centres, in addition to leading sessions for Walking Football. Meanwhile, Lois leads the Wildcats and Squads programmes, injecting her expertise and enthusiasm into every session.
Reflecting on the success of the FITC programmes, Head of Foundation and Coach, Lois Balfour said: "The lack of opportunities for people of all genders, ages, and abilities in the local area was a real area of concern and the success of our programmes have highlighted the local need. We also have to thank our incredible coaches, both grassroots and academy level, for their attention to detail, and enthusiasm they have showcased delivering our programmes.”
Looking ahead, The New Croft Foundation has ambitious plans to expand its offerings, with new programmes such as Accessible Football for Disability and SEN young people, along with Just Play Sessions on Friday evenings, set to be rolled out in the coming months. These initiatives promise to further enrich the local community's sporting landscape, reinforcing the foundation's commitment to fostering inclusivity and promoting the joy of football for all.