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UPDATE: Empowering Young Athletes On and Off The Pitch by Reframing Academy Identity

Stanley Academy's (Category 3) identity will be publicly reframed for 2024/25

7 June 2024

Club News

UPDATE: Empowering Young Athletes On and Off The Pitch by Reframing Academy Identity

Stanley Academy's (Category 3) identity will be publicly reframed for 2024/25

7 June 2024

Accrington Stanley are delighted to announce that the Accrington Stanley Academy's (Category 3) identity will be publicly reframed for 2024/25; with young players empowered to explore diverse avenues, 'Beyond Football', and all 9-11s allowed to participate in a Part-Time and Grassroots Training Model.

The reframing commits to fostering holistic development by nurturing individual player identities, providing enriching life experiences, and cultivating a diverse range of transferable skill that transcend onto the pitch.

It also aims to promote well-rounded, and resilient, young athletes - who understand that developing and becoming a professional footballer is only one of many pathways available to them at the club's Academy.

From a parental perspective - this process will then reframe what it means for parents to have their child participate in an Academy programme, meaning all parents embrace the holistic and balanced approach.

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The mission is to ensure each player's potential is maximised, both on and off the field - and when they are supported towards their 'Next Steps' - they leave with a strong identity and a good variety of future options.

A Part-Time and Grassroots Training Model approach for 9-11s, will also balance football, home and school-life, and opportunities for alternative experiences, 'Beyond Football', within and outside of the football club.

Nine Academy alumni featured in Stanley's first team in 2024 - including Dan Martin, Aaron Pickles, Lewis Trickett, Connor O'Brien, and Alex Henderson - with the latter two having signed new long-term contracts.

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Stanley's Academy Manager, Duncan Fearnhead, said: "Our vision is to be the best Category 3 academy in the EFL. We are a community club, so it's important to develop your own players.

"We have seen it over the years, especially in recent years, with the likes of Connor O'Brien, who joined the club when he was eight-years-old and has gone through the whole pathway.

"We had a massive push from 2020 during COVID, where we rebranded how we went through the typical retained/release process.

"There were things I knew we could improve on with the way the players are looked after, to help the players and their families.

"It's an understanding that the majority won't become a footballer and how we can look after them, so anyone who leaves the Academy, if you asked, 'would you like to do it again?', they would say yes.

"We are trying to build a 'Beyond Football' programme of what we can offer if they don't become a player and their whole identity shouldn't be wrapped around becoming a footballer.

"At this time, they are a child, who happens to be good at football.

"What we are trying to do is reframe the terminology, so we talk about a transition, next steps, and try to make the conversation normal all the way through the programme.

"We want the experiences to be as good as possible, whether they finish football at 12, 16, 18, or play until they are 35.

"The scholars who are full-time with us, they have three Player Care meetings every season, where they will sit with the Player Care staff and talk about how they are feeling, if they are struggling, their 'Next Steps'.

"So, if they aren't offered a professional contract, what would they be interested in, whether it's pathways in football or out of football, and try and promote holistic development, promote other interests.

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"So, it's not play football until it doesn't work out and then you completely rechange, it's working hand in hand with their other interest.

"There is research that having outside interests can help Plan A, so that's something we have tried to develop.

"All my time here, we have actively promoted players play school, county football, do other sports.

"Any Under-8s joining for Under-9s the following season, one question was can they still play grassroots football, but the rules said no.

"Over the last few years, we have talked about this and now it's recognised the importance of younger players playing grassroots football as well, and not only are we allowing it, we are actively promoting it.

"We have done a Saturday morning training session for the last few years for 9-11s, but now we will encourage them to play grassroots football, or go and do another activity with family and friends.

"With this, it avoids over-professionalising it too early, and promotes the benefits of multi-sports and playing with friends.

"People can get too wrapped up too early, sometimes if you hear a boy has been selected for an academy, they are going to be a footballer, but statistics suggest they're probably not.

"We are not trying to kill dreams, but have a realistic understanding.

"They have been selected to be part of the Academy, but at some point, that's going to stop, even at 35, and so we are enabling them to look at other pathways."

For further information about the Accrington Stanley Academy, please CLICK HERE!


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