A grassroots football league in the West Midlands is now set up to thrive in the coming seasons, thanks to a close working relationship with the Birmingham County Football Association.

The Stourbridge & District Youth Football League (SDYFL), which operates across the Stourbridge and Dudley areas of the West Midlands, has benefited from the work of the County FA’s Coach Mentor, Russ Smith, who persuaded members of the league’s committee to invest in developing coaches ahead of the 2017/18 football season.

With a focus on creating a better environment to allow players to develop, the aim of the relationship was to ensure that more players remain involved in the game across the region. Funds were invested into the partnership, which made FA Level 1 and Level 2 coaching courses, hosted by the Birmingham FA, cheaper to access for coaches connected to clubs within the SDYFL.

The progression made over the course of a single season has been remarkable.

Utilising Russ Smith’s knowledge and the full support available from Birmingham FA’s Football Development team, a total of 10 Legacy Mentors, eight male and two female, have also been established. These individuals’ responsibility is focused on supporting coaches within the SDYFL’s clubs moving forward, to ensure that their development continues. They will also engage with league workshops to ensure that the ethos around the league is maintained to a high standard.

To date, over 56 coaches have taken advantage of the subsidised courses on offer through the Stourbridge & District Youth Football League’s work with Birmingham FA, which has in turn delivered support, and linked a mix of education and mentoring in-situ locally, that can be put into practice in future.

Luke Bowles, Senior Football Development Officer at Birmingham FA, said: “The developments within the SDYFL have been something of a national success, with more players retained in the league, more coaches qualified and supported on their journey; all accompanied by a fantastic Respect record across the league. We’re looking forward to the continued relationship with the league, to ensure that we continue to reap the rewards of a collaborative partnership.”

Martin Holliday, Welfare Officer for the Stourbridge & District Youth Football League, added: “Over the past 18 months the SDYFL has continued to evolve in a bid to promote positive environments, enhance development, and support team and club officials by making our admin processes easier.

“The Coach Mentoring Programme has served to support our coaches, particularly new coaches, which has not only developed them but has helped create a network of ‘coach friends’ across the SDYFL. This in itself helped to create much more positive environments on Sundays. We are really proud of what we have achieved as a collective of volunteers and we are continuing to look forward and plan further improvements and initiatives as soon as this season closes.”