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Newcastle Elite Academy is delivered by a team of UEFA qualified coaches. fcbusiness speaks to Louis Storey; Academy Manager at Newcastle Elite Academy, to find out more about how they’re delivering football and education programmes in partnership with SCL Education.

Why was Newcastle Elite Academy set up and who is involved?

Newcastle Elite Academy was launched in 2017 by our four directors; Rob Elliot, Matt Richie, Paul Dummett and Dwight Gayle who were all Newcastle United professionals at the time.

The idea behind the academy was to provide North East grassroots players who were missing out on professional deals, right up to the age of 16-19 and beyond, the opportunity to engage with a football academy that delivered the same quality coaching and football programmes in top class facilities, to help take their game to the next level.

Are there limited professional football academy opportunities in the North East which mean a lot of potential players are missing out?

It’s a mix of a few things. Paul Dummett is a local lad and Dwight, Matt and Rob at the time, were overwhelmed by the love of football here in the North East, but they couldn’t believe how few professional club opportunities there were compared to where they were from.

So they wanted to put something in place that captured the passion of the area but also realised the talent, and filled that gap between the few professional clubs covering a wide area and giving those youngsters the opportunity to get a football career. We run this alongside an education programme which we call a dual career pathway.

The Academy’s ethos is ‘Can you be elite?’. How does this inspire the learners on your programmes?

We ask them ‘can they be elite in every form?’ when they come onto the programme. We want the student athletes to be the very best possible version of themselves. They come onto the programme and they get access to elite facilities, access to an elite football programme because our staff are all highly qualified and have been involved in the professional game and they take part in an elite games programme in the colleges’ league.

In addition, they access the very best education programmes and we offer them the very best opportunities to develop their academic skills. We often get people coming in to talk to them about the various different avenues for careers across sport and football. If they buy into our ethos, then from our side, we will do everything we can to give them the best football and education programme and coach to help them to become elite.

How long has Elite Academy been working with SCL and what education programmes do you provide?

We’ve been working with SCL since September 2018. I was tasked with getting an education programme up and running and that included finding the best education provider, one that was very experienced in delivering a sports programme alongside our football programme, and one that would benefit the students through their expertise.

When I researched SCL, I found that they worked with over 50 academies in the UK and across different sports. That was really appealing for me and they helped deliver various different modules and topics that can transfer to different sport careers.

Their education not only gives them qualification but also develops their understanding of the components that contribute to elite performance.

How is working with SCL benefiting young people?

Together, using our football expertise and SCL’s expertise in education we can offer a wide range of career options for students and give them the very best qualifications possible to achieve their future career goals.

What does the future of the programme look like?

This year we have our first cohort of students. We’re now at the end of the process of taking on our next set of student athletes for next term and we would love to progress to look at delivering an under 19s programme giving our current students the opportunity to study for further qualifications with us.

That will help us grow the academy to where we can hopefully host up to 50-60 students across three age groups and open up opportunities to as many players in the North East as possible. But it’s also about delivering quality over quantity.

Do you think sport is a great motivator for learning?

100%. If you ask the students what they would want to do all day every day, the answer would be to play football. But it’s a strong tool for us. By Elite Academy and SCL working together, we can use sport to really motive the students to pursue their football development and their education pathway.

They know that one doesn’t come without the other. The label ‘student athlete’ reminds them that they are a student first and foremost and that’s important because even if they are successful in sport, most careers won’t take them into their 50s or 60s so we have to get the balance right.

That goes back to our ethos and sport is a fantastic tool to motive them to be the very best that they can be.

Does seeing the progress of the students through training and education give you and your Directors a sense of pride?

Yes, it fills us with enormous pride to see the programme taking place and how it’s helping to shape these young people’s lives and develop their future opportunities. We said right from the start that our ultimate goal was to get the players back into the professional game or to give them opportunities outside the North East because of the few professional clubs here.

But also a great story for us would be in two or three years’ time one of our students goes to university and gains a career as a sports scientist or physiotherapist or gained a scholarship and worked their way into finance or management at a club.

If we’re part of those stories and a part of their pathway that helped them take those opportunities then that will be a hugely satisfying moment for us. That is why we do what we are doing.

For the Elite Academy’s Directors, has it met their expectations?

I think it has exceeded their expectations to be honest. They’re extremely proud of what we’ve done so far and that has created a hunger to do more and widen our network. It’s exciting to be able to work with more students next year and establish ourselves as a real hub where talented young players want to come to from across the North East – not only to pursue a football career but to pursue the very best dual career pathway which encompasses football and education.