Hawks offering school leavers opportunity to enhance football and educational skills through club with Havant & Waterlooville Pro:Direct Academy launch

Paul Doswell believes Hawks have taken another great stride towards becoming an integral part of the 'community hub' by offering school leavers a chance to enhance their football and educational development at Westleigh Park.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 5:01 pm
Havant & Waterlooville Pro:Direct Academy head of coaching Joe Oastler, far left, Hawks boss Paul Doswell, second left, and academy players and students Lawson Bright, back centre, and Joel Ngimbi

The club has joined forces with Pro:Direct Academy Hampshire to launch the Havant & Waterlooville Pro:Direct Academy programme.

Led by head of coaching, former Pompey youth product Joe Oastler, and head of education, Craig Stares, teenagers between 16-18 from across the area will have the chance to further their education and receive high-quality football coaching all out of Westleigh Park.

Initially launched by head of Pro:Direct Academy Hampshire, Tony Stares, and based at the Hampshire FA's Front Lawn 3G facility, the programme will now come under the Havant & Waterlooville umbrella.

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Playing members and coaching staff of Havant & Waterlooville's Pro:Direct Academy. Picture: Kieron Louloudis

Hawks boss Doswell has long been an admirer of the set up - initially seeing the work at close hand while his first team previously used Front Lawn as their training facility.

Eventually, after the installation of the 3G surface at Westleigh Park, Doswell approached both Stares and Oastler over a move to join forces with the club training and playing while also using a classroom facility at the ground.

Now, working together and based at the stadium, the Hawks boss is hoping to see the near 40 youngsters involved with the academy to grow further within the next few years - providing a 'safe place' for youths in and around the Havant area to learn and progress as people both on and off the field.

Doswell said: ‘We want to encourage everyone to come to this football club. We’re going to be a massive part of the community hub - that’s something we’re desperate to become.

‘I think the 3G pitch is going to enable us to do that and under Joe’s (Oastler) direction as the head academy coach and with the educational programme being provided, I just think it’s a fantastic opportunity for girls and boys to come to this football club.

‘I want to express to everybody that this is not about ability.

‘You don’t necessarily have to be the best footballer, what we’re offering here is getting your English and maths qualifications if you haven’t got it. There are BTEC courses as well but, more importantly, this coach (Joe Oastler) is the best coach that I’ve seen for this age group by a country mile. You’re getting a chance to work with Joe.’Alongside three training sessions a week and midweek matches in the Tactic League as well as the chance to play in the FA Youth Cup, a lot of emphasis is placed on education within the academy.

School leavers on the two-year course are provided with the chance to retake both maths and English GCSEs should they not have either qualification along with working towards a BTEC Level 3 Diploma – while higher level education can be provided through Havant and South Downs College.

Doswell believes the Havant & Waterlooville Pro:Direct Academy is going to provide a great opportunity and safe surroundings for teenagers in the area who may not have had a similar chance elsewhere.

He said: ‘Ever since I’ve come here everyone has talked about how difficult it is financially to the parents and therefore how difficult it is for the children. They’re not always given great starts - not their fault - but we just wanted a vehicle that they can come here.

‘I think safety is another aspect, they’re not just mum’s going to work and they’re just left alone all day walking the streets - for us that’s a big part of this.

‘If 80 of the kids we’re protecting and the other 20 are great first team players then that’s not a bad analogy for me.

‘You don’t have to be the best player, it’s about given them a safe environment to come to.

‘To get them off the street maybe, to give them some hope - I think that’s really important - we want everyone in the Havant, Waterlooville and surrounding areas to really see this as an opportunity.

‘If you’re a parent, to see your child come to a safe environment, I think that’s really important.

‘It’s the discipline that we give them, it’s the discipline that Joe gives them but from a pure football point of view he does improve players. That’s what I’ve seen, some players that hardly kick a ball quite frankly, by the end of the year you’re looking at them improving and they’re enjoying it, they’re enjoying it because they’re getting better as well.’

Doswell is not putting pressure on players being produced from the academy to step up into the first team environment.

But, already, there have been success stories to come from within the set up. Defender Lawson Bright trained with Hawks last pre-season and travelled with the team to matches on occasions after initially being recommended by Oastler.

Meanwhile, Doswell has also called academy goalkeepers MacKenzie Moore and Liam Hyett to train with the first team in weeks.

The Hawks boss is now hoping there are plenty more who continue to come through the programme to the senior set up in years to come.

‘If Joe recommends one of the boys to come in and train then we would 100 per cent let them come in and train then you’re looking at the next stage of their development,’ said the Hawks boss.

‘Can they cope with training with 17 or 18 potential people that have played in the league or whatever.

‘In the last four weeks, we’ve had both the academy goalkeepers training with the first team because Ross (Worner) is on furlough and whatever.

‘It’s given them such a massive confidence boost. Billy Clifford, who is ex-Chelsea talking to you about football, for them they’re are like eyes wide open.

‘Lawson trained with us for all of last pre-season.

‘You’ve got to earn the right to train with the first team.'