With the SEFA staff returning to the office this week for the new year, we thought it would be a good time to look back at 2022, and update all of you about our plans for the upcoming year.
After the issues we all faced in society in 2020 and 2021, it was a relief to get through 2022 with no Covid-related impact on our Academy sessions and Education Programmes. It is thanks to the loyalty of our members that we managed to come through Covid without losing any staff and were able to kick on and enjoy a successful 2022 across the board.
Highlights from the year include the launch of our Girls Academy and the formation our first ever JPL team in September. We have really enjoyed hosting our Girls Academy sessions, and continuing to grow this section of the company is a key focus of ours this year. It has also been a fantastic first few months with our under 16 JPL team, and it has been really exciting to be able to see our players put what they have been learning during their sessions into weekly matches.
Our post-16 Football & Education Programme also went from strength to strength this year, culminating in us winning a national final in May after completing an unbeaten league season. We get to work with our post-16 players every day both in the classroom and out on the pitch, so it really is rewarding to see them succeed. We also saw a number of our players move on to professional clubs, and of course Alessia Russo – perhaps our highest profile graduate – enjoyed the summer of her life as she played a pivotal role in England winning the women’s Euros.
We now look forward to 2023, and of course a huge part of our plans for this year centre around the development of our new base at the Star Meadow Sports Complex in Gillingham. We are anticipating that the laying of the new artificial pitch will be completed in February, with this being the trigger to move all of our Medway sessions to the facility. Once we have a firm date for this transition, all our Medway Academy players will be notified with all the relevant information. Our Wednesday and Friday sessions will continue at the Bauvill Stadium until this time.
We have known for an awfully long time that having our own home facility was absolutely imperative for SEFA to reach its potential, and it is so exciting that we are a matter of weeks away from arriving at this point. The benefits for our players, whether they are based at our Medway or Maidstone centres, are numerous. The main advantage for our Academy players will be that we will be in a position to host regular fixtures and training camps during the school holidays; fixtures are an area we have been desperate to improve upon, but the logistics and costs of hiring an external venue or travelling away has made this awkward. Now we have our own home, these issues go away, and we believe we will be in the very unique position in our industry of having an elite environment and facilities where the development of youth and junior players will be the absolute priority.
Star Meadow will also become the perfect venue for hosting competitive fixtures. So, along with our post-16 SEFA College and ‘A squad’ teams, who will play their home games at the facility on Wednesday afternoons, we are excited to expand our JPL section and will be running teams from under 13 to under 16 next season . The plan is for these teams to enter ‘JPL One’, which offers the best standard of competitive fixtures outside of the professional academy system. This expansion is something we are really looking forward to and this will be another big step for us – more information about this will be shared over the coming weeks.
With the new pitch being ready in February, we are looking to hit the ground running with a number of events during the February half term. To celebrate the opening of the pitch, we are running a free Soccer School on Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 so that SEFA members and the wider community can come and enjoy the brand new facilities at no cost (we are also running a Soccer School at Maplesden Noakes in Maidstone as usual on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 February). Then, on the evening of Wednesday 15 February, we are hosting a tournament for local grassroots teams from under 7 to under 11. The under 7 section is now full, but we have some spaces remaining from under 8 to under 11, so if the team your child plays for would be interested in taking part, please point their manager to this link to sign up.
Lastly, we are looking forward to the return of our evening sessions from Friday 6 January onwards. In particular we are excited to get going with our relaunched Pre Academy, which will run in partnership with Hollands & Blair FC for children in years R and 1, delivering outstanding coaching to players taking their first steps in the beautiful game, while providing viable exit routes into Blair’s youth squads and the main SEFA Academy.
SESSION RETURN DATES
Friday sessions: January 6
Saturday sessions: January 7
Monday sessions: January 9
Tuesday sessions: January 10
Wednesday sessions: January 11