- LCFC Women launch a comprehensive academy system for girls from age 9
- Pathway aims to strengthen routes for talented players into full-time football
- Full LCFC Women’s operation to be based at the Club’s famous Belvoir Drive facility
- CEO hopes the programme can inspire generations of girls and young women
The LCFC Women Academy Pathway aims to promote both participation and elite talent development in Leicestershire, uniting connected stakeholders in the region under one programme for the long-term improvement of the women’s game.
LCFC Women will move into the FA Women’s Super League in 2021/22, having won promotion to the top division of the women’s game in England during their first season after turning professional last summer. More than half of the squad were home-grown in Leicestershire.
And the progress of the professional women’s team is supported by a long-term strategy of the game’s growth in the region, of which the LCFC Women Academy Pathway is a central feature.
The programme will see the Leicester City Girls’ Regional Talent Club (RTC) merge with the LCFC Women’s Academy to comprise a complete player pathway – from schoolgirl age groups (Under-9s to Under-16s), through to the Club’s three post-16 pathways and into the professional ranks.
The integrated pathway will continue to progressively build an accessible route for outstanding talent into full-time football in Leicester.
Alongside the Academy Pathway with teams competing across all age groups, the FA Weetabix Wildcats Girls’ Football Programme will continue to be the entry route into the programme, as well as providing a safe and welcoming introduction to football for players of all abilities.
All LCFC Women football operations will be based at the Club’s elite training facility at Belvoir Drive in the heart of the city. Graded Category One by the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan, the facility became home to LCFC Women in 2021. Providing seven grass pitches, an indoor pitch, floodlit 3G pitch, performance gym and leading medical facilities, one of the best-equipped female-only football facilities in Europe will be the setting for all academy training and home matches.
Leicester City Chief Executive Susan Whelan said: “Increased participation, the development of outstanding talent and sustainable success at senior level are cornerstones of our vision for women’s football in Leicestershire. Establishing a comprehensive pathway for young players in one facility is crucial to us delivering on those objectives.
“There’s a wonderful symmetry to bringing those elements together at Belvoir Drive which, for more than 60 years, fostered such a remarkable bond between generations of players throughout our men’s age groups, right through to the first team. Aligning our women’s operations in a similar way is a fitting legacy for the facility, as young girls taking their first steps in game can be directly inspired by the stars of today’s women’s team.
“The continuity will help develop a culture inclusion, of aspiration and of excellence that can inspire girls and young women for generations to come.”
The LCFC Women Academy Pathway will be formed of three phases:
FA Weetabix Wildcats Girls’ Football Programme (ages 5-11)
Ensuring participation and enjoyment are the very fundamentals of the development of the women’s game in the county, the FA Weetabix Wildcats Girls’ Programme will be one of the programme’s central elements. A great way for young girls to stay active and increase their confidence whilst taking their first steps to try football for the first time, the Weetabix Wildcats training sessions provide a friendly and safe environment to play football, with open access to players of all abilities.
Schoolgirl Programme (Under-11s to Under-16s)
Players at all schoolgirl age groups will compete in FA competitions and fixture programmes against other top-level academies and boys teams across the country. Individual Development Plans (IDPs) – put together by coaching staff in consultation with every player – will be tailored to monitor and enrich personal, technical, and physiological development. Players at each age group will either have progressed through the Academy Pathway or been recommended through the FA Weetabix Wildcats Girls’ Football Programme or the Club’s wider talent identification process.
Three Post-16 Player Pathways (16+)
WSL Academy in partnership with Loughborough College (16-21)
A full-time, dual careers programme in partnership with an exciting new college partner, Loughborough College, competing in the FA WSL Academy League, providing aspiring young players with the opportunity to compete against the best academy clubs in the country, while pursuing their academic, vocational or work-based ambitions. Players will reach this phase either through the Academy Pathway or, initially, through open trials. Qualification will be based on football and academic criteria.
Brooksby Melton College (16-19)
Alongside the WSL Academy programme, the Club will continue the Higher Education partnership with Brooksby Melton College, offering 16–19-year-olds a pathway into post-16 football while studying the Level 3 Sport BTEC.
Students who undertake this programme will train onsite at Brooksby’s 850 acre campus in the heart of the Leicestershire countryside, benefitting from a high quality, professional set-up which is also home to Leicester Tigers Rugby, Charnwood Rutland Netball and Future Elite Sports programmes.
Students on this pathway will compete in the AoC Sports League, a membership organisation for colleges, leading the development of sport and physical activity in 16+ education.
Visit and experience it first-hand by signing up to a Practical Session on Saturday 3 July, 11am-1pm. To sign up please email: Jade.Morgan@lcfc.co.uk quoting ‘Brooksby Melton College & LCFCW Practical Session Open Day’.
LCFC Women’s Reserve Team (16+)
Playing in the FA Women’s National League Reserves Pyramid, this team offers players a football-only option. The league provides the opportunity to enter into open age football, transitioning from youth football into the women’s game.
Leicester City's Head of Women & Girls Football, Russ Fraser, commented: “The three stages of the pathway are based on principles that meet with the Club’s long-term strategy for women’s football: participation through enjoyment; talent development through learning; and success through building a winning culture as players approach the senior ranks.
“The alignment of the pathway enables us to apply a consistent philosophy throughout those phases, giving confidence and a sense of belonging to every participant and creating an environment in which people can develop.
“We want to develop outstanding young footballers, but also outstanding young women, demonstrating the power of football to positively influence young lives.”
The process of inducting players from the Girls Regional Talent Club into the LCFC Women Academy has begun, as preparations for the start of the 2021/22 season continue. Details of potential open trials for relevant age groups will be released in due course.
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