Last week I was fortunate enough to visit St. Georges Park and participate in the FA Leadership Academy (FALA) 2019 – a worldwide event, with 60 youth leaders of 13 different nationalities. I was invited as a representative of Somerset FA Youth Council, in order to develop myself as a leader and partake in workshops and bring this knowledge back to Somerset.
On the first day, I walked through the doors of St Georges Park, full of apprehension and excitement but I was instantly at ease as the mentors invited me to join in with a fun game with other young leaders. The opening ceremony was when we got our first insight of the incredible journey we were embarking upon, as we were given a speech by Greg Clarke – The FA Chairman – and also by Sue Campbell – Director of Women’s Football. For me, listening to such admirable and hard-working people was inspiring. Later in the day there were two workshops for us and with the day focused on self-development we learnt about how to create our own ‘Personal Leadership Philosophy’ and ‘Self-Care’. We were recognising what our core values are and if we are balancing our life in the way that leads to optimum happiness.
Day two was where we learnt about trust and communication; this helped me learn how to connect with others around me more effectively. We discussed how effective each form of communication is, which highlighted the importance of face-to-face communication. The following workshop focused on different aspects that build up trust, learning how trust is made up of the acronym BRAVING, a fascinating concept. Also later in the day was the graduation ceremony for the previous years’ young leaders, where some members shared their positive experiences as part of their county FA. When we were not in workshops, we were in our mentor groups, where we reflected upon our day/workshops – our group used the reflection cycle – but also used this time to relax and get to know each other better.
On Wednesday we left St Georges to visit an outdoor activity centre, where we did some interactive workshops, including a workshop in motivation where we broke a wooden block with our hands. This was to prove the theory that all you need to achieve a goal is motivation, ability, skill and support, which is something that has resonated with me and encouraged me to achieve my goals. Later in the afternoon we were in teams and together took on challenges which tested our leadership and followership skills. Some challenges were difficult, such as getting a barrel from one side to another only using rope, but these ultimately showed that we had learnt a lot over the past few days as we managed to overcome these difficulties after re-evaluating. When we returned we had a ‘drumba' (drumming and Zumba) class awaiting in the evening – where we all had a huge amount of fun and were brought together as a group.
Although emotional, the final day was as great a day as the rest as we learnt about how change is vital and how to overcome difficulties during change and the other workshop was about the importance of insight - in which we discussed the best way to reach out to a wide audience. This was followed by a brilliant closing ceremony – in which some young leaders shared their experience of the academy – which was a great ending to an outstanding week.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank: the FA National Youth Council for not only organising a great event but also being such friendly and knowledgeable people to talk to and learn from; the mentors for being welcoming and fun to be around and finally all of the other youth leaders who I would now call my friends. FALA 19 was a whirlwind – a truly life changing experience – and definitely the best experience of my life.