The Arsenal Women development programme took 49 girls to St. George’s Park earlier this week to see what it’s like to be an international footballer.
For those who don’t know, St. George’s park is the home of England’s 28 national teams. The £105m facility has 13 outdoor pitches, an indoor 3G pitch, a rehabilitation suite and much more.
The girls got the chance to meet Kelly Smith, Faye White, Rachel Yankey, Casey Stoney and England Women’s manager Phil Neville as part of the day. They also received a full tour of the facilities, from the pitches to the hydrotherapy facilities. Finally, they enjoyed a couple of two-hour coaching sessions run by FA and Arsenal coaches.
Arsenal Women development officer Tom Hartley summed up the experience to Arsenal.com afterwards.
“A few of the girls described the opportunity of coming to play at St. George’s Park as ‘a dream come true’ which is fantastic and it’s great that we can provide that,” Hartley said.
“I think it’s a taste of what could be and gives the youngsters the motivation to be the best that they can be and encourages bravery whenever they play football. Their Arsenal coaches emphasise the same messages. To hear it from England players who have been there and done it is gold dust.
“The football is important but for us, it’s got to be fun. Hopefully the girls will not just leave with nice memories but they’ll have made new friends too. Football is such a powerful vehicle.”
As Hartley says, it’s always good to have the lessons you’re trying to teach emphasised by someone who has been there before. Whilst I’m sure Arsenal have some of the top coaches around, nothing beats hearing the message directly from your idols on the pitch.
Plus, seeing the expensive facilities that you could one day play in is fantastic motivation. It gives you something to aim for and work towards, and hopefully that’s what the girls came away with from the session.
The Arsenal Women Twitter account posted some pictures from the event on Monday.