These community programme notes were written by Head of the Hatters Community Trust Kevin Thoburn, for Saturday's edition of This Is Our Town.
February half term last week turned out again to be a busy week with lots of player visits on our soccer camps and over 60 development fixtures for our young recruited players, as well as our Football for Peace project kicking off and trips down to Brentford and Leyton Orient for an Under-16 KICKS tournament.
Soccer Camp Player Visits
Every season the Community Trust receives central funding from both the EFL and PFA as part of their commitment to see Community Player Engagement at the heart of all professional clubs' social responsibilities work.
Last season our player visits for the whole club totalled over 400 with more than 150 of them on specific Community Trust projects and events, and last week the first team were out in force at our soccer camps handing out medals and coaching tips to over 200 soccer crazy youngsters all over Luton and Bedfordshire. The visits make such a difference to all our young fans.
Thanks to Alan Sheehan, Jack Senior, Lawson D'Ath, Lloyd Jones, Jack Stacey and Flynn Downes for doing the honours.
PL KICKS U16 boys visit Brentford and Leyton Orient FC
Our Kicks projects is now in its second year and aims to use football as a hook to engage and target young people and attempt to divert them away from crime and anti-social behaviour.
Last week we travelled down to our pals from Brentford and Leyton Orient for the first U16 KICKS tournaments of the year. We took two separate teams down made up from boys from all over Luton, and as part of the day at Orient the boys also attended a workshop on knife crime, gang and violent behaviour from ex professional boxer Mark Prince, who tragically lost his son – who was a scholar at QPR – to knife crime. Next up is the national PL KICKS Cup!
Football Youth Development Programme
Like many other EFL Clubs, our fully integrated youth player development structure at the club is run by the Community Trust. It starts with players as young as four years old who simply 'pay and play' each week, through to our Skills Performance Centres for boys up to 12, who train on our termly coaching programme.
All of the boys, together with recruited boys up to U16, continue their journey for an academy place at our Centre of Excellence centres in Luton, Dunstable, Kempston and Arlesey, which have over 450 boys with a further 160 boys signed at our Luton Pre-Academy.
An important part of the process is the games programme and during half-term we visited Wycombe Wanderers and Northampton Town while hosting Brentford, Stevenage and Norwich City. Next up are tours to Holland and residentials to Stowe School in the Easter break.
Football for Peace
It was great to finally get all of our 'peace ambassadors' together to begin our FFP project, which has been funded by the Home Office building a Stronger Britain Together campaign.
The project has brought together a team of 30 young people from Luton aged 16 and 17, who through a love of sport have committed to organise a programme of inter school 'peace games' to improve community cohesion in Luton.
First phase of the project involved the group focusing on becoming qualified coaches, taking their L2 Sports Coaching certificate over 3 days in half term, and over the coming months they will attend various workshops covering equality, diversity and conflict management as well as completing their sports qualification.
Daniel Douglas, Hatters Community Operations Manager, commented: "We had a fantastic turnout to kick-start the programme, with a wide variety of Luton youngsters all mixing and working together and making real progress.
"There were also a few excellent young coaches in the group who will be volunteering with us, starting next week."
The project will culminate in a showcase event at the Stadium in May and is delivered in partnership with Luton Borough Council and Football for Peace.