11 January 2022

Football partnership key to student progression

Football partnership key to student progression

East Sussex College continues to work in partnership with Hastings United FC and Skiltek Football, to help give football students the opportunity for progression in the sport.

Independent Hastings United fan podcast, Sussex By The Sea, recently released their latest episode where they spoke to James Hopkins, who works as a coach at Hastings United and is an East Sussex Development Manager at Skiltek Football.

Skiltek Football is the official coaching partner of Hastings United and East Sussex College, and works in partnership to provide a fun and engaging environment for children in the local community. Skiltek also developed the College programme for Hastings United.

Speaking on the podcast, James said, “It’s massive, what the coaches do is amazing, and the staff at the College, to have a holistic approach to education and football is the key really to develop the area, and Hastings United.”

James is the first team head coach for Hastings United Women as well as head coach for the Girls Academy, and he outlined the club’s development plan for the women’s team. He said, “In order to get the women’s first team to the women’s Championship, which is the aim of the football club, we need to develop a very solid girls academy so that local players can come through from under 7, 11, 13 and 15, then into the development squad. And then into the first team so it’s sustainable, and that’s the plan we’re working on.

“Our facilities for women’s football are probably the best in the area, and what we give the girls is probably the best in the area. But we still know more can be done.

“What we’re looking for is new players, any new players that want to come through for this year. They can go onto the website of Hastings United and on the academy section, there’s a signup section there.”

James added, “Our under 15s and 13s are brilliant. Our under 11s age group is getting really strong. We’re just trying to implement a DNA for the girls that mirrors the first team. With women's football as well as men’s football, it’s all about the fundamentals for me, learning how to enjoy the game and have fun, which then will take you on further.”

Craig Ottley, Sport Curriculum Leader at East Sussex College Hastings, tweeted in response to the podcast, “Fantastic listen and great to hear the amazing work @WeAreESCG, @skiltekfootball and @hastingsufc have all been doing for the progression of local talent and students.”

The College is extremely proud of the progress the Football Academy partnership has made since launching around six years ago. During that time, players have been on trial with professional football clubs including Leicester City, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Burnley, and Brentford.

The partnership’s expansion with the introduction of the women’s football academy means both male and female students from across Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne have the opportunity to excel in sport. This can be applied to professional football, progression to university or an apprenticeship, or even becoming a sports entrepreneur.

In November 2021, three East Sussex College Hastings students were included in the 24-man squad for the 2021/22 AoC Sport England Colleges men’s football team.

Tom Chalmers, Jack Bates and Alfie Peacock, who are all involved with Hastings United, were announced as part of the final squad and are prime examples of students having the opportunity for progression.

AoC Sport England Colleges men’s team captain Tom, spoke about his inclusion in the squad and said, “It’s a bit different for me because I was there last year, so it was a big shock to me then. I spoke to the manager before this year’s trial and he gave me a lot of confidence. I hoped that I’d get in again this year and that I’d done enough to get in the team.

On whether students should look to study Sport at East Sussex College, Tom said, “Do it! Support from tutors has always been good, they always congratulate us with our football and stuff like that. They allow us to play football whenever we can, and help us by doing whatever they can to get us used to a football environment.”

Whilst football remains a priority for Tom, he also recognises that having a backup plan is important. “I’ve already done a PT course last year and I’m doing another course similar to that. It’s my last year of college, so I’m trying to get the most out of it,” he said.

If you’re interested in following in Tom, Jack and Alfie's footsteps, find out more about studying Sport at East Sussex College here - www.escg.ac.uk/courses/sport-fitness.