To mark the EFL’s Week of Action, we’re celebrating the work of Oxford United in the Community and its vision to inspire happier, healthier and better-connected communities.
In our third feature of the week, we get the know the coaches behind the charity and find out what it takes to be a community coach.
Among the team is Alex Blane, who joined as a Community Coach in 2010 and has since progressed his career to hold a UEFA B Licence coaching badge.
Alex will be a familiar face to many United supporters. Since December 2018, he has been the charity’s Development Centre Manager and works with over 250 players annually who represent boys and girls squads from U7s to U16s.
The Development Centre is Oxford United in the Community’s sole invitation-only programme. It identifies young players with outstanding potential and helps them improve individual ability plus their technical and tactical knowledge of the game through weekly training sessions and competitive matches.
As a paid programme, the Development Centre – like Holiday Camp and Skill Centre sessions – form part of the charity’s pathway into the academy with all monies raised through these provisions reinvested across all other community programmes.
Among the players who have previously participated with the Development Centre is Louis Griffiths – who in September became the youngest player to ever represent United’s first-team after featuring in the club’s 3-1 EFL Trophy win against Northampton.
Not only is Alex an outstanding coach who has progressed from delivering one session per week to holding a UEFA B Licence, but he is also integral to the charity’s wider community projects.
That includes inspiring members of our disability football programme, engaging with some of United’s most loyal followers through the Manor Club and home visits and being the friendly face who provides that positive connection between residents and the club badge.
The dual-purpose nature of the role is what gets Alex out of bed each morning as he said: “It started delivering one, one-hour, session every week at Mill Lane Primary School in Chinnor.
“Now it’s my full-time job and I love every moment.
“The club has been really supportive of my professional development, and working with people of all ages, experiences and backgrounds has allowed me to adapt my coaching and how to respond to certain situations.
“The primary function of the Development Centre is to support grassroots football and produce players who can step into the academy. Louis’ story epitomises what we are trying to achieve.
“He’s so committed to pushing himself further, and it’s little surprise to me to see him playing at the level he is now even still at such a young age. It’s a rewarding role and being at the heart of the community is something I love – and being an Oxford United supporter provides an added bonus!
“If we can positive impact one person each session, then that’s a job well done and our number one goal.”
Alex’s story is replicated across the rest of the team at Oxford United in the Community. Let’s get to know them a little better!
Meet Oxford United in the Community’s full-time coaches
Mark Thomas – Social Inclusion Lead
Mark joined Oxford United in the Community in February 2022 having previously worked as a part-time coach with the charity.
He develops and manages a range of community-based projects including our disability football sessions, which we’ll be featuring tomorrow and also leads on Premier League Kicks – our youth engagement programme & Refugee Football Sessions.
Rob Porter – Lead Community Coach
Rob has been a member of the Oxford United in the Community coaching team for six years, but joined full-time in January as Lead Community Coach.
He oversees the running of the charity’s holiday camps across Oxfordshire and more recently took on the role as our Twinning Project representative at HMP Bullingdon which will feature online later this week.
Rama Said – Assistant Community CoachRama Said – Assistant Community Coach
Rama first coached with Oxford United in the Community in 2022 under the EFL Trust’s’ Kickstart Scheme.
He now works full-time and assists with delivering several programmes, including coaching refugees to help them integrate into the Oxfordshire community, holiday camps, Premier League Kicks and much more.
Cameron Hughes – Premier League Primary Stars Manager
Cameron has been coaching with Oxford United in the Community since August 2022 and is the charity’s Premier League Primary Stars programme manager.
The programme is the Premier League’s school education programme and uses the power of football to inspire children aged 5-11 to be active and develop skills which can be applied on and off the pitch such as teamwork, communication and problem solving.
Book onto our programmes:
You can see a full list of available Oxford United in the Community programmes and book online HERE < Football Courses in Oxfordshire | Oxford United in the Community (ouitc.org)>. Remember, choosing one of our programmes means you are directly supporting our community initiatives across the County, as well as being part of the pathway into the Academy!
Support our work:
If you would like to support the work we are doing in the Community, you can make a one off donation, or set up a monthly donation of an amount of your choosing easily through our donation platform Enthuse. Click HERE to make a donation.
Remember, every donation helps us to continue with our programmes and supports our effort to expand our impact across the County as part of our Oxfordshire – A Community United strategy.
100 fans giving just £2 a month would allow us to fund our disability programme for a whole year*.
500 fans doing the same would allow us to expand the programme in 5 partner towns across the County*.
1000 fans would allow us to fund more than 600 places on our holiday camp and skill centre programmes, giving 5-13 year olds and their families access to physical and group activities that may otherwise be inaccessible to them*.
Thank you for your support.
Work for us:
Feeling inspired and interested in working for Oxford United in the Community? We have a current vacancy for an Operations Administrator. You can read more and apply HERE.
*Indicative examples only