The Gibraltar Football Associations’ Summer Camp came back with a bang this year, with over 150 children between the ages of 5 and 12, taking part the two week-long programme of fun themed football activities.
As a result of COVID related restrictions, the 2020 edition of the annual Summer Camp had to be cancelled. However, with youth sport up and running once again, the Gibraltar FA set out an ambitious plan to make the 2021 edition the best summer camp yet!
Planning for the Summer Camp began well over three months before its scheduled start date of the 12th July. Key to everything was a planned and targeted recruitment drive to secure a team of motivated, enthusiastic and skilled coaches to deliver the sessions at the camp. In fact, all of the selected coaches not only had to prove they had their relevant coaching licenses, but they had to attend safeguarding and basic first aid courses as well as go through a Royal Gibraltar Police ‘vetting’ process to.
Once all of the Coaching staff were in place, a number of preparation seminars were arranged by the Gibraltar FA’s Technical Department, led by Desi Curry the Association’s Technical Director, along with Laura McGinn the Gibraltar FA’s Women’s Football Manager and Jansen Moreno who has recently become the new Football Development Officer. These seminars set out the clear plan for the two weeks of the camp, with each day mapped out, giving each of the coaches the preparation they needed to deliver an enjoyable footballing experience to every youngster at the camp.
Another first for the 2021 edition of the summer camp, was the move to online registration, allowing parents to register their children digitally, free of charge and from the comfort of their own home. Registrations were opened up on the 1st of June and within 48 hours the camp was oversubscribed!
As the children arrived at the Victoria Stadium for the start of the Summer Camp, on the 12th July, they were met by Gibraltar FA staff who signed them all in individually and directed them to their relevant areas, groups and sessions. Another main difference this year saw the move to split the children up into their school year groups as opposed to their traditional footballing age groups. This move proved to be extremely positive as it ensured that not only were the children attending grouped with other children of the same age, but most importantly with their friends, giving them a greater opportunity to enjoy themselves and have fun at the camp.
Furthermore, not only were the children enjoying their football with their friends and classmates, they were doing so on the new recently re-laid pitches at the Victoria Stadium! The brand-new surface on the Stadium’s main pitch is a state-of-the-art and FIFA certified.
The long overdue upgrade on Pitch 2, which has seen the same surface installed as on the main pitch, is just the start of the Association’s long-term goal of developing all footballing infrastructure on the Rock.
One of the key aspects to the children’s enjoyment of the summer camp was the Friday ‘Jumping Castle Day’. Bouncing castles were brought in to give the children something else to enjoy during their time at the camp and this added feature proved to be a huge hit amongst all of the children present.
Another innovation in this year’s edition of the camp was the installation of a giant football recycling bin, following the theme of the dolphin recycling bins that can be seen at Gibraltar’s beaches. With the need for all the youngsters to remain hydrated at all times, the Gibraltar FA has always been acutely conscious of the fact that it is not always easy for children to ensure they bring a reusable water bottle on a daily basis, or indeed every time they play football at one of the facilities at the Victoria Stadium. Therefore, the new recycling bin, which had been produced in conjunction with Selina Ltd, already provides an excellent collection point for any single use plastic that needs to be disposed of at the Stadium. All coaches at the summer camp were actively encouraging any of the youngsters in attendance to make use of the bin should they need to, as well as stressing the importance of recycling any single use plastic.
Speaking at the conclusion of the camp, the Gibraltar FA’s Technical Director Desi Curry was extremely delighted with the 2021 edition and already looking forward to exciting new initiatives on the horizon for youth football on the Rock:
“I am extremely grateful to all the staff who meticulously planned the event for well over three months to ensure we were totally prepared. Each and every one of our 25 strong coaching team and all of our extra on-site support staff who we have had have been amazing. We have been very pleased to be able to welcome over 150 children, on a daily basis, for the two weeks of the camp in a fun safe and inclusive environment for them to enjoy playing and learning about football with no pressure on them at all. As a result, we have now set the standard in terms of the quality of the sessions and Coaching camps that the Gibraltar FA can put on and this Summer camp is just the beginning of a whole new programme for youth football that will develop over the next few years in Gibraltar.”