The Piggott School Coaching Programme and the Reading FC Community Trust are teaming up to develop talented, young coaches in the Berkshire area.
Students will receive work placements with the Reading FC Community team and, if successful, talented coaches could find employment with the club. The partnership aims to become the course of choice for sixth form learners with an interest in sports coaching.
The course is led by Andy Freeman. A former pupil of the Piggott School, he went on to play for Reading Football Club and Crystal Palace.
The Piggott School Coaching Programme is a two-year sports leadership course for sixth form students who have an interest in coaching or instructing. It has been running for seven years and has been hugely successful with many graduates going on to coach football in the UK and USA, become fitness instructors in local health clubs or go on to study at university – leading to careers in teaching or physiotherapy.
The Piggott School Coaching Programme has developed some new impressive facilities. They possess their own fully operational classroom and computer suite, a state of the art working gym managed by Nuffield Health and a brand new full-sized 3G football pitch, which is due to be completed in the coming weeks. This gives students a fantastic environment to develop the skills and knowledge they will need to forge a career in coaching.
Those interested should contact Andy Freeman:
Tel: 0118 940 2357
Mob: 07717 ‘244946
On Saturday 11th April against Blackburn Rovers, Reading’s first team will wear a special one-off shirt, designed and inspired by a 14-year-old Reading fan named Ryan Duval, who attends The Avenue School Special Needs Academy in Tilehurst.
This game will be the culmination of a very special community project, and the club are delighted to be able to give this opportunity to a very special Reading supporter.
Ryan will be the team’s mascot on the day and, to mark such a proud occasion – and to give Steve Clarke’s side a special send-off seven days before our FA Cup semi-final at Wembley – ticket prices for this fixture have been reduced to just £10 for adults and £5 for concessions.
Ryan’s very special kit design matches that of his school’s colours – please take a moment to read the full story of how #RyansRoyals came to fruition…
#RyansRoyals Ryan Duval is 14 years old and is a pupil at The Avenue School, a Special Needs Academy based in Tilehurst, Reading.
Ryan has been diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a degenerative condition which means he has relied upon the use of an electric wheelchair to go about all his daily activities for a number of years.
He finds it increasingly difficult to physically cope with the condition and maintain control over a range of movements which so many of us simply take for granted.
And, with Ryan finding it difficult to access the regular school curriculum and set personal educational targets, The Avenue School helped him lay out a series of goals that would help motivate Ryan, build on his interests and enrich his life. They wanted Ryan to work on projects that would allow him to create a legacy.
Ryan is also a Royal! Football mad and a massive Reading fan, he attends as many matches with his dad as possible and is rarely seen without a blue and white scarf around his neck or the crest on his chest.
So the project he explained he would like to embark on was designing a new football strip. This is where #RyansRoyals began…
When first team stars Jem Karacan, Simon Cox and Anton Ferdinand visited The Avenue School to see a special memorial the pupils had made to commemorate the centenary of the World War I as part of the Football Remembers initiative back in December, Ryan made a very big impression.
The lads then personally invited Ryan, his family and his schoolmates to our home game against Bolton that month, the club’s designated ‘Football Remembers’ fixture, and Jem and Anton came to say hello to him in the stands before kick-off.
Inspired by his story, his character and bravery, and impressed by the kit design that Ryan had drawn up for his school project, club captain Karacan suggested the club could look into turning his drawings into t-shirts for the first team to wear in his honour.
The club got to work and soon wheels were in motion. First team kit suppliers Puma heard about the concept and upon seeing Ryan’s artwork, they began to design some professional visuals of how the kit might look as a first team strip.
A special video message from the skipper then invited Ryan and his teachers to Madejski Stadium to meet the team from Puma, who having used his drawings to put together kit design boards, proceeded to show the young supporter how they turn shirt designs like his into real life kit for football teams across the country.
Little did Ryan know, but all this time plans were being finalised for his kit design to be made for the first team to wear in a Sky Bet Championship fixture this season.
On Thursday 12th March, all was revealed to Ryan and his classmates. Jem was announced as a surprise guest at the school’s assembly and he personally told Ryan that on Saturday 11th April, when his Reading team face Blackburn Rovers at home, the players would be wearing a one-off specially designed kit. His kit.
The shirt itself is in Royal blue and is based on the emblem of The Avenue School, featuring trees back and front that look not dissimilar to the Elm trees that formed a key part of the club’s previous crest.
Bearing the Reading badge on the front and The Avenue’s emblem on the back, the blue shirts will be accompanied by white shorts and blue socks, embodying a single hoop as a strip – and the club intend to auction the match-worn shirts after the Blackburn match with all proceeds helping to financially support the incredible work that goes on at The Avenue School.
This is a community project we are proud to have been a part of. From its embryonic stages, #RyansRoyals has been an enriching project to be involved in for both the players and staff of Reading Football Club.
Our huge thanks must go to our partners PUMA and Waitrose, as well as Sky Sports who have followed the story from start to finish, and the exceptional staff at The Avenue School who continue to provide an inspirational environment for boys and girls aged between 2-19 years with a range of complex special educational needs. Without their help, this project simply would not have been possible.
We would also like to mention our supporters’ trust STAR, who have helped us from day one and provided great backing for the initiative on our supporters’ behalf.
And of course our thanks also go to Ryan. The aim was for this young man to create a legacy and we believe, when the team walk out onto the Madejski Stadium turf led by him and sporting the specially-designed strip in three weeks’ time, #RyansRoyals will be that legacy.
Royals centre half Jake Cooper called in to meet Binfield FC players taking part in a training session on Wednesday night.
Various age groups came together, ranging from U9s – U12s, to ask Jake Cooper questions about his life as a young professional and find out how he made the journey from playing for his local team to making his First Team debut earlier this season. Coops then took the time to pose for photos and sign autographs!
One of the teams’ age groups took part in a Reading FC matchday experience earlier this season. To find out how your team could take part, please contact 0118 968 1012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former Reading striker Dave Kitson and current Royal Ryan Edwards both took time to attend the Community Trust’s Careers Day at Madejski Stadium on Tuesday.
Hosted in the Royals Suite by Community Cohesion Officer Jay Gilbert and attended by students from the John Madejski Academy, the day focused around promoting career opportunities within football and employability skills.
Along with Kitson and Edwards, Sky Sports presenter Amy Lewis also spoke to the students about her path into the sports media industry and, afterwards, members of Reading’s staff from various departments answered questions about their routes into their respective jobs.
The Professional Football Association and Union Learning Fund provided the funding for the event, with the day being deemed a great success by everyone involved.
Riz Rehman, a PFA and ULF project worker, said: “Reading Football Club put on a great event and had a number of local partners present. It was pleasing to see Dave Kitson spend the whole day talking to young people about his own footballing journey and passing on advice.
“Dave had a very unconventional route into the game which many of the young people present can relate to. It was clear to see that Dave is very enthusiastic about Reading’s Community Trust programme and was actively encouraging the young people to open their minds and lend their time to community programmes.”
The PFA added: “The PFA and Unionlearn ‘Achievement Through Sport’ project works closely with football clubs and their Community Trusts to assist them in promoting the learning agenda to the wider community, including certain disadvantaged or ‘hard-to-reach’ people in society such as those facing redundancy, the digitally excluded and the elderly.
“The ULF supports union learning projects to transform the lives of their members in developing skills, achieving qualifications and promoting lifelong learning opportunities within the workplace.”
Berkshire’s sporting heroes were honoured at Get Berkshire Active’s annual Inspiration & Participation Awards ceremony held on Friday 6th February at the Blue Mountain Golf & Conference Centre, Binfield. The awards ceremony, which was hosted by BBC Radio Berkshire’s Tim Dellor, recognised the contribution local people have made to inspiring others to take up physical activity, as well as individual and team excellence in sport.
Over 250 people including 30 nominees and winners were joined by a host of Special Guests, including Katherine Copeland GB Olympic Gold Medallist (rowing), Sophie Christiansen GB Paralympic Gold Medallist (equestrian), Jack Rutter Captain of England’s Cerebral Palsy Football Team and Lesley Owusu former GB 200m/400m runner. The Mayors of Bracknell Forest, RBWM, Slough and Wokingham were also on hand to present the awards to the winners.
Reading FC Community Trust were the proud sponsors of the Youth Award. Dave Evans presented the award to this year’s winners, Reading YMCA – BOBI League Football.
Key facts on Reading YMCA – BOBI League Football:
Reading YMCA work with young people who are vulnerable, homeless and are often coming from broken families and may experience relationship issues or substance misuse.
The BOBI League project gives them the chance to include both ex and current residents.
So far this year Reading YMCA have had a squad of 25 young men that have played and trained with them.
The YMCA have seen an impressive improvement in these young people and, prior to this league being set up, they would not have seen many young people returning to take part in training or matches
The full list of winners:
Sponsored by Reading Football Team Community Trust
Kenya. An African country on the east coast of the continent, on the equatorial line, who most will know the basics about. Its capital is Nairobi, it has Africa’s second-tallest peak – Mount Kenya, it spawns countless long-distance runners, is world famous for its safaris and has a population of in excess of 44 million people. But perhaps few recognise the problems the country has to deal with in terms of widespread poverty.
In September, a group of 23 people representing Reading Football Club and its Community Trust left Berkshire for the coast of the Indian Ocean, raising enough money to travel to Kenya to work on a range of fantastic community projects. Christened ‘Caring for Kenya’, and run in partnership with African Adventures, our volunteers undertook building work at a deprived school in the area, coached football to young budding African stars of the future and taught the local community, all as part of an aid trip that proved an incredible success and inspirational to all the volunteers to made the trip.
Many of our volunteers already had inspirational stories of their own, many having graduated through the club’s Community Trust courses, turning their lives around after exclusion from school or leaving care to become part-time youth workers and role models for others to follow. But this trip was an eye-opener for one and all. The estimated population of Kenya is in excess of 44 million and an astonishing 16 million do not having access to safe water! 71% of the Kenyan population do not have access to a toilet. A 20-litre container of water weighs approximately 20 kilos and local women walk an average distance of 10 kilometres daily to get clean water. These facts put some of our everyday problems into perspective.
Coaching is what comes naturally to many of our Community Trust team and out on the football field, suddenly everyone was equal. Smiles on faces were there for all to enjoy and free football kit was supplied to a huge number of young boys and girls who just love to kick a ball about…
Some of the members of the group paid a visit to Destiny School, where money that has been donated went towards the building of a kitchen area for the kids…
The project was entirely self-funded, with the group raising a massive £32,000 for the trip over the course of almost a year of fundraising. “This project gave us the privileged opportunity to make a real difference. We’d like to thank all the Reading fans who donated to the cause and allowed us to help communities desperately in need of all the aid they can get.” Aston Villa, Derby County and West Bromwich Albion are all set to follow in our footsteps next summer, embarking on their own African Adventures aid trip. We at Reading Football Club consider ourselves proud to have been involved.
Jay Gilbert, Reading Football Club’s Community Trust Cohesion Officer, wrote a personal account of her trip to a local centre out there…
Myself and the team of Richard, Mark, Shelley, Louis, Lloyd, Pierro and Luke went to volunteer at the walking centre and primary school. It was a trip which changed our lives as soon as we stepped through the gates. Our first thoughts were ones filled with overwhelming emotion, as the local children began singing to us as a welcome, children who had nothing, were wearing ripped clothes and were all without shoes. Yet they all seemed so happy!
The centre was a primary school for kids aged between 3 years and 9 years, local children who lived at the dump site, more than 70% of whom had no parents and were fending for themselves or looked after by older children in their family or community. The centre also had a feeding programme for the older children that attended a local school down the road; this meant at lunchtime more than 300 children were able to have one meal a day that the centre provided for them.
The centre has been established since 2007 and is the longest standing project to help the local children of Nakuru. With the help of our funding they have managed to build a dining hall to facilitate the feeding programme and the centre also have set up a textile room for the local mums to put there sewing skills to great use, making school uniform and giving them the chance to sell clothes to help feed their families.
We were based in a profoundly poor area where families live on less than 75p per day! All eight of us helped out with teaching four separate classes – from reading, writing and maths, delivered to all age groups. We also helped out in the main kitchen, fulfilling a range of duties to feed the 300 plus children who came to us for lunch. We were preparing and cooking 25 cabbages, a daily routine at the centre, which went with ‘ugali’ a type of flour, and water, which eventually served all the children. All of this is normally done by one member of staff when there are no volunteers to help.
With the help of the donations that Reading fans played a big part in, we were able to give skipping ropes, footballs, teddies, loom bands as well as the donations of clothes and shoes to the children which was an incredibly humbling experience for all of us as we handed them to the children. The best part of the project for all of us was teaching the children and the teachers new songs and games and seeing how much they enjoyed what we were doing. It was amazing.
Throughout the whole week it was emotional rollercoaster for us all. We felt so happy to be there to be able to help and at the same time we all realised how lucky we are with just a good pair of trainers on our feet.
As a group we achieved so much. Personally, and as a part of the Reading FC Community Trust group that travelled out there, it was the children who made it so special. The kids that we helped have shaken our worlds and it has only made us want to continue and offer long-term support to the wonderful children and staff whose sprits lifted you as soon as a smile stretched across their faces.
Garath McCleary recently paid a visit to a Prince’s Trust coaching course at the Reading Football Club Indoor Training Centre, run in conjunction with the Reading FC Community Trust. The partnership has been in existence for 9 years with the course helping those aged 16-25 who are Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET). The course helps the participants gain their FA Level 1 coaching badge, get them off the streets and onto a more positive path. This represents a unique and valuable opportunity for the young people that take part to gain a useful qualification and build confidence in their abilities. With two intakes a year in October and March, the week long course has helped over 100 young people gain the first coaching qualification on the FA’s coaching pathway. On receiving their coaching qualification, individuals have the chance to put their new skills into action through the Reading FC Community Trust’s coaching programme, with the possibility of securing a full-time role with the Trust.
Richard Witt, Social Inclusion Manager for the Trust spoke about how the course is a great way of engaging hard to reach young people in the local area, “It gives them (the participants) a chance to take part in sport, get motivated and raise self-esteem with a chance to get qualified and maybe gain employment with us at the football club.” With 12 apprentices already employed by the Trust, 9 of which have come directly from the Prince’s Trust course, it shows young people that if they focus and work hard there are opportunities for them.
No one knows more about the benefits of hard work and overcoming difficult situations than Reading’s Garath McCleary, who was on hand to speak about his experiences growing up in a questions & answer session with the Prices Trust group. “In terms of football I’ve been knocked back on numerous occasions, even from Reading when I was 16 I was told I was too small. Oxford United said when I was 18 that if I didn’t get the contract then I may as well give up so you’re always going to get knocked back, but if you 100% believe in yourself and you’re 100% committed then anything can be possible.” The 27-year-old was also quizzed by the group on what qualities the best coaches and managers he’s played under have had and he said “I think it’s definitely someone that will encourage and listen to whatever the players have to say, will be stern and strong with their thoughts but always want to listen to the players.”
The Reading number 12 was then asked about his favourite players, goal, and the toughest opponents he’s faced before signing autographs and posing for photos with the group. Speaking afterwards he reflected on the session saying “I think it’s brilliant what the club are doing with the Princes Trust and it’s something I would like to back and I look forward to hearing how it’s going.” While in terms of why he likes to come along to sessions like these the winger said “where I used to live there’s not many role models or many people that will come and speak to you so if there’s someone that can come in and give their experiences hopefully I can do that.”
With a return to first team action close, McCleary will be hoping he can get back to inspiring young people on the pitch as well as off it and keep showing that hard work and overcoming setbacks really does pay off.
For more information on the Princes Trust course and Reading FC Community Trust’s social inclusion programme please contact Richard Witt: email@example.com
Jake Taylor and Aaron Kuhl drop in on Mental Health Football Session
Jake Taylor and Aaron Kuhl recently took time out of their football schedules to pay a visit to a YMCA mental health football course supported by the Reading FC Community Trust. The players attended a session at Prospect Park in Reading, after stepping off the team bus following their draw at Leeds the previous evening. Jake and Aaron took part in a Q&A session, during which they explained how they became professional footballers, their weekly training routines, the best players they’d played with and against and their favourite Reading goal so far this season, before posing for photographs and signing autographs for the group.
Jake and Aaron have long associations with the club despite their tender years, after joining the academy at the ages of 8 and 10 respectively. Reading’s 19-year-old midfielder, Aaron Kuhl reminisced about his best goal. Playing for Reading’s under-16s, he hit a volley from just past the halfway line that nestled in the top corner. Both players agreed that their favourite Reading goal so far this season is Pavel Pogrebnyak against Newport County in the Capital One cup.
Jake spoke about former academy players Gylfi Sigurdsson, Hal Robson-Kanu and Reading captain Jem Karacan, he said “To see someone do it that has come through the academy the same as us, is a good thing.” Jake also talked about his experience with the Welsh national team and training alongside Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey saying “It was ridiculous, it was a completely different level to everything I’ve been used to, the way they train, the way they conduct themselves off the pitch is just another level.”
Aaron was then quizzed on who the best player he has played with is and he said that it was one of Pavel Pogrebnyak, Simon Cox or Glenn Murray while Jake said that Tottenham defender, Jan Vertonghen and Thiago Alcantara of Bayern Munich are the best players he has come up against.
The players finished the Q&A session describing their best moments in a Reading shirt. Aaron citing his first team debut as his favourite moment so far, while Jake said it was scoring his first goal for Reading, against Ipswich in August.
The Reading players were supporting the session put on for residents at Reading YMCA. There are 40 young people who reside at Reading YMCA, aged between 16-25, who find themselves either unemployed or without permanent accommodation for various reasons.
The main aim is to help integrate them back into the community through education or work experience. Those housed by the YMCA and interested in playing football are able to come along to the weekly 2-hour training session run by a coach from the Reading FC Community Trust. The group are put through their paces with a number of football drills, before they take part in a match. They also have the opportunity to take part in local tournaments, where they play other teams in the local area for the chance to progress to further tournaments.
As well as organising football sessions the YMCA offer a range of activities including badminton, pool and table tennis. Tony who has worked for the YMCA for the past four years said “It’s all about keeping the young people motivated to come along.”
This is just one of the many activities run by Reading FC Community Trust each week, if you would like more information about the Trusts’ Disability programme please email Dan Rook: DRook@readingfc.co.uk
‘Trying to walk the ball in’ is usually associated with football teams without a clinical edge to their play, but that is exactly what participants of the over 50s club at Loddon Valley Leisure Centre have been trying to do.
Over the past few weeks coaches from the Reading FC Community Trust have been running free walking football sessions. The group consists of a mix of men and women, many of whom have never played football before, but wanted to try a new sport at a pace that suited them.
It’s easy to assume that this is a form of football without energy, intensity or even competitiveness, but you would be wrong to think that. After a warm up which included some walking shuttle runs, followed by dribbling drills and shooting practise, the participants were split into three teams to compete in some small sided games. Instantly you could see the competitive spirit within the group, with many having to hold themselves back from breaking into a run. This form of the game focuses on bringing football back to basics, with more reliance on ball control than athletic ability and provides a way into the game for those who may have thought their playing days were behind them. Player of the match Cassy Pope, 61 said she would recommend walking football to anybody because “It’s great fun, very sociable and a way of getting fit!”
The group have high ambitions too, with Tony, 71 saying: “We’re going to get into the league and take over the globe!” only for one of his team mates to reply “Is that the Globe Theatre?!” showing that the banter isn’t just confined to the Reading FC dressing room! Joking aside, the enthusiasm on show was clear for all to see and many expressed their intentions to carry on playing once the 10 week course comes to an end.
Dave Evans, Reading FC Community Trust Manager, spoke about why he was so keen to have the Trust introduce walking football as part of its offering: “Knowing that our fan base here at Reading FC is made up of at least a quarter who are in this category (over the age of 50) and with the National Health Service and other Health organisations always looking for ways to get older people active, it seemed a good way to engage this age group.” The Reading FC Community Trust will be working alongside the Berks and Bucks FA and Get Berkshire Active to deliver more sessions of walking football in the near future.
For more information on walking football or the other activities carried out by Reading FC Community Trust please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Reading FC Community Trust Social Inclusion Ambassador Hope Akpan and team mate Aaron Tshibola showed their competitive spirit in a different setting, when they visited Southcote Youth & Community Centre last Thursday evening. Both players took part in the ‘Cream Cracker challenge’ alongside members of Southcote Youth Club organised by staff from Reading FC Community Trust. The aim of the challenge was to eat three cream crackers in ninety seconds and although no one was close to the 33.03 second world record Aaron Tshibola showed he has talent away from the football field when he polished off his three cream crackers within the allotted timeframe. This activity was just one of those enjoyed by the members of the Youth Club who also had the chance to take on the players at a game of FIFA, much to their delight! Hope and Aaron then posed for a photograph with the young people, before signing autographs.
The Reading FC Community Trust runs eight other Youth Clubs for 11-19 year olds in the Reading area, as part of their social inclusion programme. Dan Walker and Jade Beaumont help run the Southcote Youth Club on behalf of the trust and emphasised the key role it plays in bringing the local community together. They also spoke about Reading Football Club’s Kicks project in partnership with the Premier League, which uses the power of football to engage with young people and break down barriers between them and the police to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. Jade said “Since Kicks has come onto the scene, numbers in youth clubs have gone up, the crime rate has gone down and it’s now a big part of the youth system.” The project runs a number of football, alternative sports and activities sessions during the week, with the aim of developing the potential of the young people in the local area. The young people also have the opportunity to compete in Kicks tournaments against teams representing other professional football clubs, as well as learning life skills, going on trips and receiving talks from the police on gun and knife crime.
Previous attendees of Kicks sessions have gone onto work for the Community Trust, including Dan who started attending Kicks sessions five years ago, at the age of sixteen and now works for the trust delivering football sessions and running Southcote Youth Club. Jade who also helps run the Youth Club participated in a Prince’s Trust course, organised by Reading Football Club and then went onto secure a permanent position working for the Community Trust. Reading Football Club are providing funding for Dan and Jade to complete their coaching badges, whilst they have also had the opportunity to gain other qualifications in first aid, health and safety, youth work and blind football to name but a few. This shows the power of the Trust’s activities in not only engaging and developing young people but helping create role models in the community from those it helps; Dan commented on this saying “You look at the kids and think we were like that” and this he said helps to relate to them and gains their respect.
It is clear what great work the Club and the Trust do in the community and both Dan and Jade praised the players for coming down and supporting their activities saying: “When players like Hope and Aaron come down it gives the kids a role model and it’s brilliant that they take the time out to come down here and see them.” While Dan said: “It’s nice to have the local players that play in the team come down and meet the kids because they realise they can talk to them like normal guys.” Joel, 13 who has been coming to the Youth Club regularly over the past year expressed his delight in meeting Hope and Aaron after already having the chance to have met Adam Federici on a previous occasion.
The Community Trust has a whole programme of activities available to young people in Reading and the surrounding area free of charge, for more information please visit the Reading Football Community Trust website.