The courses run by the AFC Wimbledon Foundation on Saturdays and in summer holidays are a great way for boys and girls to get into football, says Dons Trust Board member Anna Kingsley. And they may unearth a future Dons first-team player.
For some of us at this afternoon’s game, this won’t be the first Dons performance we have watched today. My son is one of nearly a hundred boys and girls who train with AFC Wimbledon every Saturday morning at Wimbledon Park. Their FA-qualified coaches are from the Player Development Centre, which is part of the AFC Wimbledon Foundation.
“I get to play with my friends, make even more friends and be part of AFC Wimbledon,” says my son, Noah, when I ask him why he likes the classes. “If I keep going every week, then by Christmas I’ll be a really good footballer. I’ll know more about AFC Wimbledon than anyone in the family and I’ll have met more players, too,” he claims. He’s six.
Noah can be rather full of himself, but he has reason to think big. A lot of the boys who are in the AFC Wimbledon Academy right now were first spotted playing on Saturday mornings in the park, and the staff work hard to maintain the link with the Academy.
Will Nightingale would visit when he was in the Academy, and other first-team players have gone along to watch the children in action. So, it’s a great way to become part of the AFC Wimbledon family.
Saturday classes are open to boys and girls aged from 4 to 14. For 90 minutes, the children get to have fun, develop their skills and play matches. There is also the opportunity to play for the Foundation against other local teams. And sometimes the children are offered free tickets to AFC Wimbledon home games.
Everyone is welcome
There are girls-only sessions. Everyone is welcome, and no child is turned away. The classes are affordable. There are discounts for block bookings, and siblings get a discount too.
If you can’t make Saturday mornings, there are also holiday courses your children can join. The Foundation’s Summer Scheme was a huge success. “It was a fantastic and joyous holiday camp this year, which encompassed the ethos of the club,” said Scott Lockwood, who oversaw it all. “Fun was had by all participants in a safe, friendly and learning environment.”
There were an average of 34 children per day on the course, and in all over a hundred different children attended across the summer; 25 girls attended the girls-only week. The Foundation gave away 51 days of free places to children from Smallwood School in the first two weeks. It was all thanks to five volunteers, aged between 12 and 21, who helped out.
Spread the word
The next holiday camp runs at half-term at the Aspire Centre in Southfields from 21 to 25 October. The club arranges for Haydon the Womble and players from the first team to turn up and surprise the children. There are certificates and medals, and even a trophy, given out as prizes. It’s serious stuff but great fun too.
So spread the word and bring your children along.
The kids’ classes are an important way in which AFC Wimbledon is raising its profile in the community. More importantly, it could be where the club finds its next top striker. You never know …
(This article originally appeared in the matchday programme for the game against Bristol Rovers played on Saturday 21 September 2019.)