A focus on youth football is seeing an increase in youngsters continuing to play through the age groups with an under 15 development league now being added to the Ravenscroft Youth Leagues.
In 2013, the Guernsey FA made a decision to focus on year 6 players to encourage them to continue playing as they moved to secondary school and reduce drop-out. At the time, there were under 14, under 16 and under 18 leagues and the aim was to introduce single year age band leagues.
‘That focus first led to the creation of an under 13 development league and now because those original year 6 players have remained passionate about the game, we have introduced an under 15 development league,’ said Nick Graham, chairman of Guernsey Football League.
‘This is a first for Guernsey Football and is testament to the work undertaken throughout youth football by the GFA, GFL and the clubs. We look forward to seeing this league grow and flourish over the coming seasons.’
More than 700 players are now involved with the Ravenscroft Youth Leagues with six teams competing in both the under 13 and under 14 leagues, four in the new under 15 league and seven in both the under 16 and under 18 leagues.
‘It is great to see the continued growth in youth football, and the introduction of a new under 15 development league is testament to the local clubs and their commitment towards providing opportunities for children to participate,’ said Angus Mackay, football development officer for the Guernsey FA.
‘Following the previous introduction of the under 13 development league, the structure of the youth leagues in Guernsey now offers all players an opportunity to stay involved and it is particularly pleasing to see a higher number of girls actively participating in the development leagues. The partnership with Ravenscroft is also invaluable in allowing the GFA to support the local clubs with volunteer coach education, which is essential to ensure the young players are given appropriate coaching and development.’
The youth leagues are part of the Football for Everyone programme, which is a result of a partnership between senior representatives of the sport on the island and sponsor Ravenscroft who have a collective ambition to support and develop the youth game by enabling and encouraging participation of both boys and girls of all abilities.
In 2016, the stockbroking and investment management firm pledged three years of support for the initiative, which includes support for the girls’ player development centre, the Ravenscroft youth leagues and a junior sports leader course in all schools to develop future volunteers and coaches for clubs at ‘minis’ level also forms part of the plans.
‘It’s fantastic for Ravenscroft to see the impact that Football for Everyone is already having. The number of youngsters involved in the game is increasing, there are more and more girls wanting to play and we are building the “behind the scenes” skills by encouraging players to become involved in coaching and league organisation,’ said Ravenscroft group managing director Mark Bousfield.