I spoke with development coach Chris Dale on the club’s plans for the youth section as well as the club’s vision moving forward. WRITES ADAM TONES.
Chris joined Whickham two years ago from Fellside and has five years of experience coaching and developing the next generation of players.
Dale has the vision and passion to have a youth team at every level with the goal of providing players for the club’s First Team.
The youth section currently has 11 different teams operating on a weekly basis as well as a U21 and U23 team sitting under the First Team.
Dale has recently moved away from coaching the U9s team and taken up a new development role with the club.
The development coach role has been set up to create a new U7s team every season, with the long-term aim of having a team for every age group.
Chris said: “We get loads of enquiries from parents with kids looking for teams and I would say we have to turn away three-quarters of them because we don’t have teams in those specific age groups.
“Hopefully in time, it’s a long way off but if I can turn out at least one team every year then eventually we’ll have one team at every age group.”
After the appointment of Matty Pattison as Head of Youth Development and the introduction of a development group the club’s growth within the youth section is clear for all to see and one that Dale is feeling positive about moving forward.
He added: “I think overall it’s been a positive period the increase in focus on the youth section is brilliant to see.
“The fact that Whickham is right in the middle of the village it should be the heart of the community it should have all the local schools playing there, making friends, and enjoying their football.
“The atmosphere on a Tuesday night at training is really nice, you’ve got the parents chatting and catching up with each other and the kids enjoying their football in front of the Glebe that’s really good.
“I think in terms of the wider club there has definitely been an increased commercial focus, that increased level of organisation is what has allowed us to bring in those extra teams.
“It’s allowed us to be more organised and have all those aspirations a club should have.”
When asked about his long-term targets within the club’s youth section Chris went on to say: “To have a team at every age group has to be the aspiration.
“Having Whickham youth teams full of kids from Whickham representing their area and their local team.
“Having the club as the local club in the community is a great vision.”
Dale spoke about ways the club are looking to raise their profile with several conversations having already taken place.
However, one area that has already been scheduled is summer boot camps. The classes which will take place over three days sold out within days of being advertised.
Chris added: “The club are doing their first summer boot camps, it’s a three-day camp in the last week of the summer holidays.
“We opened it up to kids from the youth section first and it got filled straight away.
“It’s good as it increases the awareness of what the club are doing and the opportunities that are available and gives the kids the option to be active throughout the holidays in their local area.
“It also allows the local community to support their local club.”
As the boot camps are due to kick off in the next few weeks, should they be a hit we can expect more to be set up over the coming months.
Another area both the club and Chris are passionate about is women’s football. One they would like to introduce in the not-to-distant future.
Chris said: “In time that surely has to be the bigger level picture, to have a boy’s and girls’ team at every age group but all of that takes time and volunteers to put together.”
Overall, Chris has been delighted with how the club is progressing as well as the new relationships created between the different coaches and committee members.
He said: “It’s nice to see, as I don’t have a team I sit aside and observe. What’s nice to watch is the camaraderie and networking between the coaches.
“One will have an idea about something and someone else will say well what about this as an option.
“That’s a real big help, ultimately all the coaches are volunteers, and the vast majority are parents that have stepped up.”
As we look to create new teams and expand the existing set-ups, the club require more coaches to join our exciting new look youth section and help deliver sessions to our young and upcoming stars.
If you would like to get involved with our youth teams and help coach our future first-team players, feel free to send us a message on our social media accounts.