Training the Tigers helps Anthony kick-start his life

26th August 2005 at 01:00
When Anthony Sheldon was 15 he spent more time playing football than in school. Over the five years he should have been in secondary education, the soccer-mad teenager managed to get through the school gates for only two.

However, he now has a bright future in the beautiful game by helping coach youngsters in his spare time.

Anthony recently gained the Football Association of Wales's football leaders' award after facing his fear of exams and working for a Duke of Edinburgh's award. He volunteered to help coach the Townhill Tigers, the boys' team on the Swansea estate where he grew up, as part of an FAW scheme aimed at developing the next Ryan Giggs or Robbie Earnshaw.

The teenager is living proof that failure in the classroom need not be translated into the world of work - and he has recently started work with Swansea youth offending team mentoring young people.

The 19-year-old said: "At 14 and 15 I was quiet. I was not in trouble with the police but I hated school and never went. I could be found kicking a football around in the park, and exams meant nothing to me.

"My one love was football, but I lacked the confidence to take it further.

I was shy and found it difficult to talk to people. The Duke of Edinburgh scheme has given me the opportunity to do something I'd never thought I'd do - coach."

Claire Hicks, a YOT colleague, helped to convince Anthony to take up the challenge in her role as Duke of Edinburgh's award co-ordinator.

She said: "What young people - and many adults - do not realise is that you do not have to be an A-grade student to take an award, and it isn't all about rock climbing and anoraks."

Many other qualified coaches attached to the FAW have been putting wannabe soccer stars through their drills this summer, as part of a scheme dedicated to improving the national game by supporting young players, and tackling childhood obesity.

Dave Adams coached 96 children, including 50 girls, on the first football fun festival in Merthyr Tydfil. The 26-year-old is the youngest soccer coach in the UK to gain "A-grade" status from UEFA, the European football association, meaning he is qualified to train Premiership sides.

He said: "In Wales, 10,000 children are already signed up and it's getting kids off the street and out of trouble. We also have massive problems with obesity and we need initiatives like this to get young people off their backsides."

The FAW Trust employs 22 full-time football development officers in Wales through a partnership with local authorities. Its "fun football festivals" and a scheme accrediting the work of primary schools are sponsored by burger chain McDonald's.

By the end of 2005, the FAW predicts it will have more than 660 Welsh schools registered on the scheme and 360 volunteer coaches recruited. There is a Pounds 10 charge per child for the football festivals.

Contact the FAW Trust on 01443 228 873 for more details

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