FC Halifax Town’s community programme has come a long way in four years, but if Steve Nichol has anything to do with it, that will be just the start.
Nichol is a former director of football at Brazilian Soccer Schools and ex-manager at Garforth Town.
Under his guidance, Halifax’s youth and community programmes have seen 16 junior clubs participate in a match-day experiences at The Shay, 18 schools receive a free coaching session delivered by staff from the club and 70 players aged 5-16 attending weekly development coaching sessions run by The Shaymen.
Thirteen schools in Calderdale have also received a visit from the FA Trophy, which the club won last May when they beat Grimsby Town 1-0 at Wembley, as part of a school assembly.
Town’s range of community activities are done despite there only being two members of staff and two volunteers working with Nichol on the programme.
“We’ve got a long way to go to get to where we want to be, but when I look at the number and quality of staff, players and the variety of programmes we run, we’re proud of the ground we’ve achieved so far,” says Nichol.
“The community side is a step behind the youth team.
“However the youth team programme is now a well-run model and it’s now a priority that we put the right structures in place below that. We’ve been wonderfully supported by the National League Trust with the money they’ve provided.
“We had a cheque presentation of £45,000 during the Salford fixture, to acknowledge the funding we have received over the last three-and-a-half years but we aim to create a sustainable programme that isn’t reliant on grant money.
“But a lot of work has to go in to set that up, getting the right people in and training them, facility hire, equipment and promoting what we do.
“We have an excellent team at youth team and community level who are very capable coaches and importantly good people, this has allowed me to direct more of my own time putting the structures into place.”
Nichol’s ambitions for the programme include introducing more age-specific coaching sessions and more regular training initiatives with Calderdale schools.
“Seventy players attend our development centre sessions on evenings split into age groups for 5-7’s, 7’s-9’s and 10’s-12’s on one night, then sessions for 13’s-14’s and 15’s-16’s,” Nichol explains.
“We want to evolve this further and gradually increase the numbers attending and in time introduce invitational sessions for talented local players or those who really want to push forward and progress their game. It can be frustrating at times wanting things to move a little faster but we have a great challenge and if we get it right the potential of this club is exciting. It is important we are patient, ensure the programme is sustainable and evolve over time, persistence is key.
“We have developed a schools coaching programme which includes in school or after school training sessions. This is an area we want to progress.
“The Adam Heslop Cup, half-time schools tournament and the FA Trophy school assemblies have been very well received by schools and we hope this will lead to more schools embracing our coaching sessions, which are quite unique with the use of futsal balls.
“Longer term it’s always been our aspiration to have a Shay Tots programme, which is currently a work in progress.
“This is a parental participation programme for children aged six months to four-years-old, then we would have our development centres or elite programme for 5-16s, then the youth team programme for 16-21-year-olds.
“So we could start with a six-month-old and take them right through until they’re 21, and the football club could play a big role in that person’s life.”