Fun school competition gives juniors a football headstart
WESTERN Pride has led the way in regional football development in recent years working with schools and nurturing promising juniors.
However, the launch of the Pride Cup this week has introduced a new generation of young footballers into the game.
In a boost for the sport, a number of smaller schools were invited to participate in the under-12 boys competition where girls can also play.
Pride football operations manager Pye Augustine is excited about the 10 week series, which started on Wednesday.
"It was just so good,'' Augustine said, delighted with the initiative of the National Premier Leagues club.
"The parents are so enthusiastic.
"It was a little bit different than hosting like an NPL game where everyone is so serious.
"Everyone was cheering and it was a fun atmosphere.
"When people scored, everyone roared at the same time. It was great.''
Teams from Kruger State School, Goodna State School, Walloon State School and Stretton State College accepted the invitation to play each Wednesday at the Briggs Road Sporting Complex.
Ipswich Grammar School, Ipswich Junior Grammar School, Ipswich State High and development "Renegades'' sides are also participating.
"I saw a deficiency there coming out of this COVID,'' Augustine said.
"A lot of schools couldn't participate or their competition were cancelled so I thought there was an opportunity to start up the Pride Cup for under-12 boys but girls are allowed to compete as well. Some schools do have girls in their teams.''
Augustine said the focus was giving schools that normally don't play football an opportunity to learn in a fun series.
The kids play under FIFA under-12 rules with 25 minutes each way on the four fields at Flinders View.
As someone involved in junior football development for many years, Augustine was especially delighted to see schools like Kruger and Goodna involved.
Goodna State School entered a team after Pride coaches provided a four-week training program to teach the kids more about football.
"It was basically to give kids that don't have the opportunity to participate in football in the normal pathway,'' she said.
The first-round winning teams were Kruger, Stretton and Ipswich Grammar.
Walloon and Ipswich State High staged a 2-2 draw.
Apart from giving kids a chance to enjoy football, Augustine said the under-12 series also allowed Pride to discover some new talent.
"It's good for us to really identify some diamonds in the rough that aren't participating in the sport,'' she said.
"Showing them what to do and how to get engaged.''