Newport lad Liam Jenkins has always loved football, and giving kids in Newport the chance to get into the sport is his driving force.
And, as he looks to build up interest in the sport across the city through his role as Premier League Kicks Co-ordinator for Newport County AFC, County in the Community, he is also studying hard to develop his coaching skills.
“I’ve always been interested in football and volunteered with County for 12 months before taking on the Premier League Kicks job,” the 20-year-old explained.
“It’s a scheme that’s been run by the Premier League since 2006 and aims to use football and the value of sports participation to help hard-to-reach youngsters in some of the most high-need areas.
“We deliver three sessions in Newport each week for youngsters between eight and 19, and have engaged with more than 300 young people in the past 12 months, and it’s been a great success. I’m working hard to make sure we continue to get the funding so we can carry on with it for the foreseeable future.”
Liam is also involved in the wider delivery of football coaching for the club, helping to provide its college programme, which gives 16- to 18-year-olds a chance to study for the Extended Diploma in Sport, while he also takes a leading role in Soccer Tots, which are basic football skills sessions for children between three and six.
The coaching job is one he’s always enjoyed and aspired to since he was young, but looking to the future and ways to develop his skills, Liam also studies with the University of South Wales (USW) as a way to gain further expertise.
Having completed the Foundation Degree in Community Football Coaching and Development, he is now doing a third year of study to get the BSc (Hons) Football Coaching and Performance. This will give him a formal qualification to prove his expertise in the subject.
“It’s ideal for me as we do what’s called ‘blended learning’, meaning that a lot of what we study is completed online, with three residential courses each year,” Liam explained.
“I was able to mix the study with the course as it lets you go for an industry-recognised coaching award while being affiliated to a specific football club.
“There’s students from all levels of English Football League clubs from across the country, so you get to make strong connections and share details of what you’re doing.”
Liam’s dedication to his career and learning has also gained recognition, with him named the South region winner in the USW/ English Football League Trust Student Awards, which recognise students’ efforts in promoting the sport across the UK.
“It’s really good to be recognised for doing what I really enjoy, and honoured for getting people from the wider community involved with the community scheme and learning about the benefits of being involved with sport,” Liam added.
Jay Probert, who is course leader at USW and pictured above with Liam, said: “These awards serve to highlight the wealth of up-and-coming talent the professional football environment has to draw on both via the University of South Wales and industry wide.
“As a pioneering course provider seeking to provide students with an ‘industry-ready’ approach, the team here at USW are heartened and delighted evidence of such dedication and commitment continues to come to light.”