The West Ham United Foundation’s Player Pathway programme has been running for five seasons and seen huge progress during that time.
The Foundation’s vision is to provide young players across east London and Essex with a positive and challenging environment to develop both on the pitch understanding and confidence off the pitch, helping every individual to become the best player and person they can become.
The culture is fostered and embodied by our participants, parents and coaches with the desire and determination to progress to the next stage.
Throughout the Player Pathway the core values of the Foundation are clear to see with the players and coaches demonstrating professionalism through commitment, punctuality, presentation, and conduct. The scheme teaches the players to always showing respect to everyone, by promoting equality, positivity and humility while taking seizing opportunities through competition and showing hunger to continue learning by using reflection and taking ownership.
Purpose of a Pathway
To allow development, it is imperative that all players receive honest and constructive feedback, in a process that is continually progressing. This season saw the introduction of Individual Development Plans (IPD) for all players that sit within any squad tier. These allow for an open discussion between player, parents and coach to set our targets for players to look to achieve going forward.
There are two separate pathways to support male and female development, both leading to the top of the pyramid which links into the West Ham United Academy. Each step in the pathway shows progression for players and will include a different focus and training plan. Each level of the pathway is as follows:
Development Centre – Open entry for all boys and girls aged 5-16 across east London and Essex. The focus is to develop each player on their technical ability as well as their social corner. Sessions are tailored for players of all abilities from beginners to elite with challenges being for individual development opposed to team focuses.
Advanced Development Squad – Invite-only tier for players who want to add additional training to their grassroots coaching, with players learning aspects of the technical, tactical, psychological and social corners. Training session weekly with showcase fixtures for players to demonstrate their learning and understanding. Each player receives regular Individual Development Plans to aide in their progression throughout the season.
Performance Academy – This tier of the pathway currently plays in the Junior Premier League with players training twice a week with fixtures taking place on a Saturday. Players are developed for long term gains over short term success with our aim to produce players who can adapt to different styles of play and understand the key principles of play.
Academy (Women’s Only) – The Academy runs to progress young footballers into the Women’s first team via the Under-21s. Players will receive use of GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking vest and VEO (Video Enhanced Observation) analysis to enhance the development of all players to prepare players for the demands of the elite game.
In addition to the above, players within the pathway have access to a multitude of additional workshops and programmes to aide their develop of football as a whole, workshops include game management, diet and nutrition, and strength and conditioning. These are delivered in a variety of way from online to practical-based to maximise the learning opportunities and to prevent taking away from pitch time.
Luke Hirst, the Foundation’s Player Development Manager, said: “The Pathway has grown over the past five years with the help of some amazing coaches and has engaged with thousands of young footballers across east London and Essex. We’ve been able to provide everyone with progressing to the next stage of their footballing journey.
“We’ve had great success both on and off the pitch with players progressing to academy football and gain professional contracts whilst also gaining FA Level 1 qualifications to help them begin their coaching career.
“We are excited for what the future holds with our pathway forever increasing for both boys and girls to provide even more aspiring young footballers the chance to represent West Ham United whilst wearing the famous claret and blue.”
Sessions on the Player Pathway are currently held at Foundation hubs in Basildon, Beckton, Chelmsford, Stanford-le-Hope and Wickford, with more venues to be announced shortly.
*For more information on the Player Pathway programme, contact Luke Hirst on [email protected]