Kathryn Hall/ Northants FA FDO

On Wednesday 24th October, the Northamptonshire FA and Peterborough United PDC hosted a parents’ information evening in preparation for the new season.

The Player Development Centre (PDC) is one of around 20 centres that bridge the gap between grassroots football and Centres of Excellence specifically for Girls, funded by the FA. There are now only 31 Centres of Excellence nationally with the focus on real excellence, therefore the PDCs have an important role to play in preparing players for the next step if they have the ability to do so.

We also invited Megan Harris along from Lincoln Ladies Centre of Excellence, to give an insight into the expectations at a Centre of Excellence. Megan, one of Lincoln Ladies’ Central Midfielders, has had a fantastic season for her club. She was accompanied by team mate and England captain Casey Stoney who came to do a question and answer session with the girls and their parents. It was very exciting to have two players of their calibre there giving a real life insight into what is now possible for players at the top of the female game.

Nick Sheppard, Community manager at the Peterborough United Foundation, opened the evening, welcoming everyone and outlining the expectations at the PDC. Nick also explained the exciting proposed facility developments both at Peterborough United and the training ground at Nene Park which we hope the girls, as well as the rest of the club, will soon be able to benefit from.

Trials have gone especially well in the two youngest age groups and we are delighted to be offering U9s for the first time. This is the second season for the PDC and we are hoping that the success of the first season will bring in even more talented players and give them the opportunity to develop further. The U9 squad looks to be an exciting squad with many of the players already playing in teams across the city.

Kathryn Hall, the Football Development Officer for Northants FA, responsible for female football, gave a short presentation on FA’s talent pathway and where the Peterborough PDC fits into this. She also gave an update on the state of the female game nationally, reviewing possibly the most successful year to date in women’s football and previewing what looks set to be another thrilling year in 2013 with the Euro 2013 Championships amongst other showcase events.

On the same day, the FA launched a new 5 year strategy for women’s football including the announcement of a new Elite Performance Unit for Women’s Football and a new Head of Elite Performance role. Growing Participation remains on the 5 year plan and we still all have a role to play in ensuring opportunities are out there for girls and women to play, coach and referee.

Megan then gave a presentation on the set up at Lincoln Ladies Centre of Excellence, the training and playing commitments needed, the staffing structures, the expectations of players away from the Centre in preparation for taking the next step towards elite football. She summed up the successes that Lincoln had had over the previous season, with particular regard to the U17s that Casey coaches. Megan also highlighted the importance of trying to produce more players for the FAWSL side. 3 players made the step last season into the first team and this is ultimately what the Centres of Excellence aim to do………..provide more players capable of playing at the top level for both clubs and England.

Casey then took the floor to answer questions from quite a shy audience! The first question was one she says she often gets asked now………………….”What was it like to play at Wembley in front of over 70,000 fans?” Her face told the answer, “the pinnacle of anyone’s career is to have an experience like that and I’m not sure that will happen again in my playing career”. She was also asked what advice she would give to young players. Her answer was to never take a knock back without fighting to improve. “I was told at 15 I wasn’t good enough for England, so I went away and worked harder to get fitter and stronger and prove them wrong”. Casey is now England captain and she also captained Team GB at the Olympics. Could there be a better role model currently in women’s football?

Both Casey and Megan then signed autographs and had their photos taken with the girls.

We hope that the evening inspires the players for a successful season and gives them some inspiration at the start of their footballing careers. It really is an exciting time for young girls to start playing football with the very real opportunity now for them to become professional players when they are older.

If you are interested in trialling for the PDC, please contact Nick Sheppard on Nick@theposh.com

If you are interested in getting involved in girls football in or around Peterborough, please contact kathryn Hall on Kathryn.Hall@NorthantsFA.com

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