When children join a City Academy or Centre of Excellence, it can feel like they have taken the first step to achieving the ultimate dream of becoming a Professional Footballer. There are additional benefits if your child is fortunate enough to be selected to play for a City Team. The quality of coaching and the facilities are usually very high, and they will get a real sense of what it is like to represent a City Club. However, there are other aspects that need to be considered, which can come at a price for both the children who join and their families. Listed below are some important points.
1. Demanding - It can be very demanding on the children as well as the families who are chasing the dream of becoming Professional Footballers. This can dis-empower parents, especially when their child has been in an Academy Squad for a number of years. A lot of time and money is invested, and sometimes both the child and parents can become fearful of being dropped, many of whom dare not view an opinion because of it. Such fears can be detrimental to the child's progress. Most children are dropped at the age of 16 - 17 due to the lack of places at senior levels. This is inevitable as Professional Clubs have a limited number they can take on. Children who are dropped can become disenchanted when reality hits home that they are not going to be Professional Footballers, to the point of giving up football altogether. This is a great shame for them and their families, as well as local Clubs who could benefit if they were to join their ranks.
2. Travelling - There is usually a lot of travelling, especially if you live some distance from the respective City. Whether it is just training twice a week or travelling to London or Birmingham for a match, the efforts demanded sometimes do not justify the reward.
3. Skill level - Especially in the younger years, there is not much difference between the skill levels of those who play for a City Academy and those talented children found throughout the local leagues. This needs to be remembered, for it is at the heart of why Town Academies are beneficial.
4. Numbers - We only have so many Professional Clubs, which means there are only so many places available for every age group. There is no doubting that the number of talented children far outstrip the availability of places. This means those who do not get into a Professional Club miss out on specialised training, and also miss out on playing in matches that are of the highest standards. This can make such a difference in the long term. How many talented children have slipped through the net over the years because of the lack of places? A Network of Town Academies will give those who would otherwise miss out an opportunity to keep progressing, to the very top for some.
Keeping the above details in mind, there is plenty of room for Academies to be established at Town level, and the benefits of doing so can sometimes even exceed that of the City Academies. Each Town Academy not only invites those talented children from its own Junior Clubs, but also, and this is important, from the Villages that surround the respective Town.
Usually, most Towns have six or seven Villages around it. Adding in the Villages enlarges the ‘pool’ of players that are available to that region, therefore increases the standard of football. Instead of having the best players from a couple of teams, your local Town Academy could have the best of ten or twelve teams.
It needs to be remembered that the Academy will represent the whole area, both the Town and its surrounding Villages. It is not there just to benefit the Town's Senior Teams, but football in general throughout the region.
There are other benefits to Town Academies, which are listed on the next page.