Head of Oxford United in the Community Chris Lowes brings us up to date on what’s happening at United’s charity
It is a busy time for the team at Oxford United in the Community, with the new school term up and running.
Our popular After-School Clubs are back, and we are delivering ‘After-School Football’ and ‘Future Talent Hubs’ at various primary schools across the county. Our After-School Clubs provide fun ways for children to play, learn new skills and gain fresh experiences at an affordable price.
Future Talent provides a fun, player-centred environment in which young people are encouraged to be creative and inventive in their football development. The programme offers a way to improve technical skills for those new to football, as well as to members of competitive grassroots or school teams. Our weekly sessions focus on improving the ability of each player in areas such as ball mastery, passing, dribbling, turning & shooting.
We have also started a Futsal programme, following a successful pilot scheme earlier in the year. Imported from Brazil, Futsal is a great way for boys and girls to be introduced to football and develop their skills. It is played in a five-a-side in-door pitch, with a smaller, heavier ball that does not bounce. The ball tends to stick to the foot, helping child to feel more control and to build confidence.
We witnessed the positive impact Futsal has on children during our pilot scheme and are pleased to now be able to roll this out and make it available to more children in the county over the next three months. Our Futsal sessions are designed to encourage young children to lead active, healthy lifestyles from an early age.
Our Oxford United match-day out-reach continues to go from strength to strength. The family room and Olly’s Den skills areas is growing in popularity with more children enjoying the activities pre-match. As always, we are welcoming junior football teams and schools to United and treating them to guided tours of the stadium and the guard of honour experience. It is always a pleasure to see the positive impact our engagement has on children who visit United on a match-day, often for the first time.
The Sensory Room forms an important part of our strategy to engage with the community, support people where possible and make a positive impact on the lives of others using the power of football to do so.
Located in the South Stand Upper the sensory room has been designed to create a safe and stress-free space for people with autism and other sensory needs. Crowds and loud noises can be challenging for some and the room provides a calm space via light projectors, soft play items, sensory mats and special seating. If you would like more information on this, please do get in touch.
The Manor Club continues to be a very popular initiative. It is a special event which sees a club legend, or United employee or partner provide a talk over lunch to the older generation in our community. This year we lowered the entry age from 60 to 50 plus to broaden access.
One of our strategic aims is to help support efforts to reduce isolation and loneliness in the older generation and the Manor Club was set up to support this objective. It is an outlet for older residents in the Eastern Arch of the city and United fans to meet and socialise. It is held at the Cowley Workers Club on the first Wednesday of the month. The guest at the last event was Dan Harris, the Head of the Academy, and the next one is BBC Oxford’s Sport Editor Jerome Sale. Each guest always provides a fascinating insight and the event which regularly attracts around 50 guests is hosted by Peter Rhoades-Brown who is one of our Patrons.
Earlier this month our team received specialist training from Home Instead to educate us on how to engage and support people who have been diagnosed with dementia. It was an invaluable workshop and we are now looking at how we can put it to good us in our community in conjunction with care homes and partner charities.
Our management team are in the final stages of finalising our new strategy that we believe will take the charity forward and enable us to deliver positive impact across the county. The review process we have undertaken with the support of our Board has given us the opportunity to take our time and make sure we get this right. It will take time to develop our plans, but we believe the strategy will provide us with a great opportunity to deliver serious impact in Oxfordshire for years to come.
To launch our new vision and strategy in our 30th anniversary year seems poignant. Oxford United in the Community has achieved so much in three decades using the power of football to make a difference. It is our responsibility now to ensure it is in the best possible position to be fit and ready to take it to the next level and continue to Dream Big for decades to come.
If you would like to get involved, please get in touch via: email@example.com and make sure you follow us on Twitter via @OUFCcommunity
Details of our courses can be found here: https://officialsoccerschools.co.uk/oxfordunited/oxford-united-courses.html