Argyle’s vision for the long-term development of football in Cornwall reached another milestone on Tuesday night with the launch of the second of two Elite Coaching Hubs in the county, delivered in partnership with Cornwall FA.
The Elite Coaching Hubs, with an eastern site based at Callywith College in Bodmin and western at Penryn College, form a key part of the Pilgrims’ strategy to develop grassroots football in Cornwall, and provide greater depth of opportunity for youngsters to progress into the club’s Academy.
Both of Argyle’s satellite sites have been in operation since September with the eastern Bodmin Hub being launched that month, and Tuesday night saw local players, coaches and senior Argyle representatives descend on Penryn College as the Pilgrims’ western Hub was formally launched.
Argyle First-Team Coach Kevin Nancekivell was joined in Penryn by Academy Head of Coaching Lee Hodge, Professional Development Phase Coach Jamie Lowry, and Cornwall Head of Recruitment and Development Paul Rowe to deliver a core skills workshop for Cornish coaches and players primarily based in the west of the county.
Nancekivell said: “It’s something that we’ve been looking to do for a while now along with Callywith that we started back in September, and we’re just delighted to get down into west Cornwall and get Penryn up and running. It looks like there’s a lot of support for us, there’s a lot of people here to watch and a lot of kids who look like they’re enjoying their football, so that all bodes well for the future.”
Around 70 local coaches oversaw the 90-minute session, which was delivered in partnership with Cornwall FA as part of their Coach Development Programme, with Nancekivell leading a warm-up before the players were split into three smaller groups, each led by a different Argyle coach and focusing on different core skills.
Throughout the session, the senior Argyle coaches also answered questions from the local coaches in attendance, who received two FA accredited CPD hours against their coaching record.
While Argyle are keen to see more of the likes of Pilgrims star Luke Jephcott - a former Penryn College pupil, incidentally - make the journey through to the first team, the partnership with Cornwall FA is also about giving Cornish youngsters the chance to develop, and providing access to elite-level coaching without having to travel long distances on a regular basis, as well as supporting the development of Cornish grassroots coaches.
“Ultimately we’re hoping to get a Plymouth Argyle player on the first-team pitch, that would be the ultimate success,” Nancekivell continued, “so we want to increase our recruitment areas in Cornwall and we want to give them the best opportunity to play professional football.
“But ultimately, we want them to improve and get to our academy based in Plymouth, and then who knows, maybe progress to being an apprentice, and like I said, the utopia would be to get one on the first-team pitch.
“Plymouth Argyle is Devon and Cornwall, and Cornwall has got a rich history of producing footballers that we haven’t really tapped into well enough. We recognise the distances that they have to travel to commit and we’re passionate about giving everyone equal opportunity, and the people of Cornwall and the young footballers of Cornwall deserve that.”
Professional Development Phase Coach Jamie Lowry, who played nine games for Argyle during a seven-year professional career and hails from Newquay, added: “We have some lads that travel from all over Cornwall, so I think it is important for them, and for the parents as well, to not have to travel three times to Ivybridge or into Plymouth.
“They still need to be a kid - as well as trying to be as good as they can at football, they need to be a kid and socialise. They need to have their own time, rather than being sat in a car for two-plus hours, so these hubs are brilliant for that.”
He continued: “It’s really key that coaches keep learning; like myself and like all coaches at Argyle, you’re never too old or too good to learn and invest time in yourself, so I think it’s important to put more of these on and build a better relationship with local coaches in Cornwall and Devon.”
Daniel Greenough, Football Development Manager at Cornwall FA, said: “We’re trying to create opportunities for players of all abilities across Cornwall, so there is a pathway from grassroots to elite football, but this event is also about supporting grassroots coaches and trying to make sure that we give them opportunities to develop as coaches and upskill them.
“I think the centres will give players opportunities to get good, high-quality coaching on top of their grassroots coaching, and those boys that are really talented can go on to the academy. However, it also gives those kids that are in the academy the opportunity to train locally, so it saves at least one or two trips a week up to Plymouth.”