Quarterly Update

Spring Update - May 2017

Please forgive the long gap between updates. Lots of water has flowed under the bridge and there is much to review:

We’ve finished our first season since we moved into our new Pavilion on the Rec. It has been a joyous contrast to the tired out clubhouse. Many of you will have enjoyed the food on a Saturday morning; the money that raises benefits everyone, so a big thank you to all who have helped Mike as volunteers.

Also a big thank you to all the volunteer managers and coaches who give so much time and energy. We can never have too many, so the club remains happy to pay the course fees for anyone prepared to go on an FA course. As well as learning formally from the FA we are also now using the Rec as a base for our longer serving coaches to share their experience and knowledge with the newer coaches, co-ordinated by Ian Knapp. Anyone is welcome, and we will be using the web-site as a library source for some of that too.

We’ve had a very successful season. Success can be measured in many ways – we have had happy boys and girls playing at all standards; that is mission accomplished in itself. Not for the first time we have had teams winning their divisional titles, such as the A division of the Crowborough League, won by both our u13 (Phoenix) and our u14 (Falcons), as well as winning sportsmanship awards – our u15 (Comets). We’ve had teams go a full season unbeaten (u10 Jets), and had teams playing in the highest league of all (Kent Youth League for our u13 Giants and u15 Jets), as well as, at the other end, having 4 sides debut as u7s in the Crowborough League. I’m pleased to say that for the third year in a row our young ladies, the Langton Belles, will be taking on the boys at our Langton Green Fiesta in June.

Looking ahead, our membership is thriving, numbers-wise. That’s a good thing, but brings problems of space. There is a shortage of decent (or even dodgy) 11 a side pitches in our region, and of places to train midweek. We’d love to find the land to build our own 3g, to solve both of these problems, but we are in Tunbridge Wells…..so you can imagine why that is so hard.

So, we say goodbye to the 2016-17 season at our annual fiesta, then a summer break, and off we go again! Before we do, here are three things I’d like you to take with you into the break:

  • We are acutely aware that you want good coaching and good playing services for matches and training. That’s our mission, going forward.
  • We know you worry about which team your child plays in. Please know we take progression and development very seriously, at the right times. Those who have been through all the age groups will know we have teams playing in the highest level in Kent, but also sides for kids of all ages and abilities. Both matter, equally. There is a right place for everyone, and we aim to find it. Along the way from the u7s to adult football we transition from friend-based teams to ability based, but we are aware different people develop at different rates. Trust us to use our judgement and experience on this.
  • And…..most importantly, our club only works because of volunteers. Some do very big things – this is a good moment to highlight the brilliant job done by our Child Welfare Officer Jo Dunlop – and some do little things, when they can. With 450 young members, plus all their parents, when that many all do a little bit it adds up to a lot. So, please, come forward: help in our café on a Saturday, or at the fiesta, or put goals up, or sweep up afterwards, anything is something. We need you.

Chris Allen

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Autumn Update - November 2016

It has been a long time since the last time I wrote a big update. Plenty has happened! The season is well underway, and we have 33 teams representing Langton Green across four leagues, in ages from under 7s to adults.

And, hard to miss, we are based in our new Pavilion, enjoying the facilities.

Things will change again in short order. As the winter imposes itself we will offer different age groups the chance to train on Saturdays on the SKA astroturf. Much as we would like to have a full house up at the Rec every week the ground there does not drain well enough for us to do that. Long term we hope to change that.

(During the week there will be change too. The Pavilion Cafe opens in early December, Tuesdays to Fridays, so please enjoy a new place for a coffee and a bite to eat).

It can never be said enough, our club is volunteer based. Nothing ever happens unless people step up. Every year a new batch of parents are persuaded to turn their hand to being coach or manager. Pleasingly this September we had 16 new folk pass their FA Level 1 coaching badge - if you see someone in a black jacket with their initials on it, they are one of the 45 qualified coaches we now have. And, if you want to add to that list, let me know......we pay, providing you lend us your new skills thereafter.

Having the pavilion gives us the chance to do some things we could not do (so easily) before. The kitchen is very busy on a Saturday morning, but we need more volunteers to cook, serve and clean. In truth too much is done by too few. It also helps us if you eat and drink with us.....please arrive hungry.....the money we make keeps us going.

A lot of eating and drinking goes on at our Quiz Nights. the next one is December 10th....please get a group together and join in - email me if you are interested. And, if you have ideas of other events to host at the Pavilion, don't be shy to come forward.

Long nights and wet mornings beckon. We will try and keep everyone playing whenever we can. Sometimes we have to change locations and plans at short notice, so please liase with your age group heads.....when the Rec is closed because of the weather we will try and say so on the front page of the web site as soon as we can.

As a club I think we are heading in a good direction. We are full in many age groups, and having success in 5,7,9 and 11 a side football. Our girl players, the Belles, are having fun and growing in numbers too. Importantly across the club we also set very high standards of behavior both on and off the pitch, players and parents alike. We are proud of that, and thank you for your part in it.

Chris Allen, November 2016

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Easter Update - March 2016

It has been a while since a comprehensive update, so forgive a long and wide-ranging message. There are plenty of places I could start, but let’s begin on the pitch:

Football – we have 425 football playing members, and more than 30 teams playing in Langton Green colours on Saturdays and Sundays. Boys and girls, from 4 years old to adult. And we have over 70 volunteer adults giving their time to help make it happen. It has been hard work to find ways to keep playing during a tough winter, but games and training have been taking place at the Langton Rec, at Groombridge, Ashurst, Speldhurst, SKA, and TWBG.

Our teams play in a variety of leagues, and we are committed to catering to players of all standards. To give an idea of the range, we compete in the hardest league out there – the Kent Youth League – and we have teams in the C Division of the Crowborough League, as well as development teams still getting ready for competitive football. Results are not everything, but it is to the great credit of our players and coaches that, at the time of writing, we have teams in the cup finals of the u12s and u13s in the Crowborough League, and league table leaders in the u12s, u13s and u14s divisions, as well as a team on top of the u14 Kent Youth League.

Meantime our major project has been gathering pace. The skeleton of our new clubhouse is in place; things are going to plan. As the building goes up our thoughts are turning to how to make the best of the inside. We have some parents giving us their expertise and skills already, but if anyone has time or other resources to contribute to our dressing rooms, function room or kitchen area, please get in touch with me.

Fund-raising to furnish our clubhouse is ongoing; we need any and every contribution, big or small. Our upcoming fiesta, on June 4th and 5th is our biggest and most fun revenue raiser, and as usual that will only work with volunteer support. We are not regarding the clubhouse as the end point; it is the stage setter for a bigger ambition – flat, well-drained playing surfaces, which would complete the package up at the Rec.

As always, everything depends on volunteers. We pay all of the course fees for anyone willing to take an FA coaching course, or an Emergency Aid or Safeguarding Children course. Don’t be shy. And on the subject of volunteers this note is a chance to inform of a change, and pay honour to one of our finest servants in recent years. Sarah Adams not only managed the boys u16s team this season (and for seasons gone by), she has also done for some years a brilliant job as our Child Welfare Officer, an absolutely vital role in the club. She deserves the rest that awaits her, and our huge thanks. I am delighted to say that Jo Dunlop has put her hand up to take on the role for next season. The background checking of volunteers is one of the most obvious manifestations of the job; there are many others, but in the CRC process please take on board how important it is, and give Jo your full support to make her task as aggro-free from her perspective.

That’s it for now. Your feedback is always welcome. With so many members it is often easiest to use your team and age group managers as the first point of contact, and that works well for all of us, I hope, but please feel encouraged to email on any matter, big or small. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Do feel welcome to join in and help.

Have a good Easter

Chris Allen
Head of Football
Langton Green Community Sports Association

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An Easter Langton Green Update - April 2015

Hopefully everyone is having a good holiday, though Easter is traditionally a busy time for footballers. This note is an attempt to give a flavour of Langton Green’s football ‘state of the nation’; ideally we might do this face to face, but with 400 playing members this is all but impossible.

Firstly….400 members. That’s a lot! More than we have had in many a long year. We have 32 teams playing in organised leagues from u7s through to adults, not to mention plenty of others just training and playing for fun – hopefully everyone is playing for fun.

Such large numbers are a great credit to all the volunteers who give their time freely and enthusiastically. I am delighted to say our club was recently accorded FA Community Charter Status, which is an official stamp of approval from the football authorities. It required us to show we have a ratio of more than one qualified coach in the club for every team we field, to demonstrate we have a vision as to how to take the club forward, and to show that we do things ‘the right way’. Most things required for us to become a Community Status club we have been doing for a long time – one of the new hurdles for us to clear was to get organised girls football going in its own right, which we have done….it is likely to be a big growth area going forward.

We’re at the latter end of the current season, and I think we can safely declare it a good one. We have sides who have done the more obvious good things, such as topping league tables and reaching cup finals, and playing at a very high standard. But we have also hit the spot in other ways. We have had huge success with our development teams, and with sides who started the season with lower expectations, and with sides who didn’t even start until after Christmas but have done brilliantly since.

We’ve also had to overcome a very trying winter. We’ve been like nomads at times, relocating to anywhere dry. Sometimes that has been confusing and disorienting but we have provided the chance to play for more kids in more age groups than any other club in town. We suspect that the ‘unusually wet winter’ wasn’t so unusual, so we have already made ‘just-in-case’ plans for next season and beyond. And, as we grow we have also had to find places for our expanding number of teams to play, and have committed to some long term lease arrangements at other locations in the vicinity.

The long term plan goes something like this:

  • We aim to provide the best starting point for youngsters (boys and girls) to learn football, up at the Rec.
  • We encourage parents to train as coaches and to lead teams into the local leagues
    Mini soccer starts as 5 a side, progresses to 7 and then 9 a side, before graduating to 11 a side. We try and ensure kids play with and against players of a similar standard.
  • We provide opportunities for kids of all abilities. This year we have had children who had never kicked a ball before, and some who do it very well.
  • We’ve had Langton Green games watched this season by scouts from, amongst others, Spurs, West Ham, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Millwall, and Norwich, and had players invited to trials with those teams. Having coached at both ends of that spectrum I can honestly say the ‘first-timers’ had at least as much fun as the battle-hardened players. There’s a path for everyone.

Some of the above requires us to keep on doing what we are doing, but there is the chance that change is coming. Over the last 18 months we have engaged with the Football Foundation in pursuit of funding to help us to upgrade our facilities, and that in part is why we have become rather more organised and particular with respect to how we manage ourselves. It is no bad thing however that we have raised the bar in terms of requiring CRC background checks for all our volunteers, and pushed would-be helpers to take FA courses in Emergency First Aid, Safeguarding Children, as well as taking football coaching courses. In becoming a registered company and a registered charity we have had to set ourselves up with a governance structure…..we aren’t trying to be self-important, but we do know it is important to present ourselves well to those looking at us from the outside.

The objective is to replace our clubhouse with something modern and fit for purpose. Keep your fingers crossed for some good news in a few weeks’ time…..and if we get good news please be prepared to dig deep; we are looking for external help but also intending to self-help. And that is one step on an ambitious road. We don’t regard a new clubhouse as more important than good surfaces to play and train on, but it is the right next step on that journey.

Upcoming is our annual Fiesta on May 30 and 31. We already have 190 entrants. Our job is to put on a great event for our guests – that requires volunteers; please regard that as an obligation, and part of the deal when you have a child playing for Langton Green, and step forward where you can.
It will help greatly to get organised for next season much sooner than you might imagine. We need to enter all our teams into their respective leagues by May 31. The team managers will be working on that – it will help them greatly with their planning if you sign the forms to play in the league as soon as they ask you to.

Finally – we don’t get better without feedback. I said at the start it is difficult to speak to 400 playing members never mind their parents as well, in one go, but email does help….any questions, observations and suggestions are hugely welcome. Please write to me cma_5963@yahoo.co.uk at any time if anything doesn’t make sense, or if you think we are missing the glaringly obvious.

Enjoy the rest of the season

Chris Allen
Head of Football
Langton Green Community Sports Association

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A Summer Langton Football Update, July 2014

Sunny greetings. It is hard sometimes to tell where one season ends and the next one begins. In terms of local football many teams are busy registering their players for 2014-15, so I guess we are into 2014-15 now.

Our Langton season culminated in another joyous fiesta. We hosted 187 teams, and about 600 matches over the course of two days, providing fun for over a thousand kids, and boosting club funds, enabling us to continue to do what we love to do.

It has been a year of change, and that is going to continue. This note will update on some of that. It is hard to speak to every member in turn, so whilst email can be impersonal, it does allow us to reach everyone.

So…..in no particular order:

Langton Green Community Sports Association Limited is now a registered charity (number 1157693). That’s very important to us, and has been achieved after a large amount of hard work (not least by Simon Jefferies). It brings legal responsibilities for the Trustees of the charity, but in return it maximises the value of every £ we raise to run the club, and every £ we raise to develop the club.

From now on a component of the money you pay to us each year will go to your membership of Langton Green Community Sports Association Ltd. That gives you the right to a say in who the Trustees are, and how they allocate the resources of the charity.

The football club is the largest component of the LGCSA, and that is where most of you are likely to have your interest focused. In terms of what has been going on, some of the following is a recap, some may be new news:

  • We have regained our FA Charter Status
  • We have tenure at the Rec for the next 30 years at the Rec.
  • We have also signed a lease to use pitches in Groombridge and Ashurst.
  • We have an agreement to use the 3g pitch at TWBG on Tuesday nights
  • We will also have access to the 3g on snowy/waterlogged Saturday

We start 2014-15 with about 25 sides playing 5,7,9 and 11-side football in the Crowborough, Tandridge and Kent Youth Leagues. (That’s one reason for securing so much access to pitches in the area!). Some things we intend to make work this year:

  • Every adult helping regularly with children must have CRC checks completed, before they join in.
  • Every team must have an adult who has completed an Emergency First Aid course.
  • We will have more FA qualified coaches than we have teams this year, and we plan to keep it that way going forward.
  • We will continue to pay for adults to take First Aid, Safeguarding Children, Refereeing, and FA coaching badges, providing they share their skills with the club.
  • We won’t let anyone play until they have registered with the club, AND had their league registration confirmed. No exceptions.

All of the above are things we believe make our club better. Some will occasionally cause inconveniences, but we think they are worth enduring.

To make life easier we will be unveiling online club registration as part of our new web-site.

Aside from the normal day to day running of the club we have some loftier ambitions too, with respect to our pitches, and our clubhouse.

  • We want to raise funds to build a new clubhouse (we have planning permission already)
  • We want to improve the quality of our playing surfaces.

One of the reasons we pursued FA Charter Status was to be able to tap into FA sources of expertise, and hopefully funding too. Last month the FA’s Pitch Development Manager paid a visit, and gave us some valuable advice as to how we might help ourselves improve our pitches.

We are also learning as much as we can about how to tap into the funds out there for developing sports in the community. However, one thing is clear which is that those willing to help themselves are the ones who make the best case for receiving assistance. This will not be all about seeking hand-outs, we are going to have to work hard as a club to improve our facilities.

Sometimes we have resources within our membership that we are unaware of. If you are someone with expertise in groundsmanship, fund-raising, or anything else that might be valuable, please shout loud.

For now here are the important messages:

  • Get all our existing players registered to play in the leagues their teams have entered.
  • Get all our kids registered as (paid up) members of our club
  • Get our adults involved as coaches
  • Find volunteers to help on Saturday mornings either with training or with the clubhouse.
  • Play football!

Have a good summer

Chris Allen, Head of Football, August 5th 2014

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Easter Message from Our Head of Football

I wrote at length to a collection of members, parents and coaches at Christmas to lay out the extent to which our club was growing and changing. It seemed fitting to give an Easter update. Some of you will know more about this than others; if you are hearing it all again please forgive, but I have erred on the side of making sure we keep as many in the loop as we can.

To recap, before Christmas our club formally constituted itself as Langton Green Community Sports Club. This requires us to have Directors, produce accounts and generally behave ‘properly’ in a business sense. Some of the formal requirements can feel onerous for folks who just want to have their kids play football, but we went this route for reasons we think are compelling:

LGCSC being a legal entity has enabled us to sign a 30 year lease on Langton Rec. Security of tenure allows us to make ambitious plans to improve our facilities, and allows us to present ourselves as a credible partner to those who might help us with that. One such prospective partner is our neighbours at the Langton Green Primary School, who have their own expansion plans, others include the local and county councils.

Another partner is the Football Association (FA). To be eligible for FA help we have to prove our house is in order, our club is well run. The certificate that does that best is something called FA Charter Status and enormous effort in the last 3 months went into gaining that. Many of you reading this email were part of the process. More than 50 volunteers went through a background checking process (it used to be called CRB) that has been tirelessly run by our Club Welfare Officer, Sarah Adams, who has done a fantastic job. More than 40 of you now have an up to date Emergency First Aid qualification, and have attended the FA’s Safeguarding Children course, and I am very proud to say that amongst our parents and volunteers we now have 30 FA qualified football coaches.

On this platform we were awarded our FA Charter Status at the end of March. We will ensure we don’t lose it, and we aim to move up the levels. I hope we can become what the FA terms a ‘Development Charter Standard Club’ by the end of the year, but that requires some higher qualifications. It would also help if we could open wider our doors to lady members, and accommodate those who are disabled but still love their football. Our doors have never been closed, but we haven’t served all groups in our community equally thus far.

The FA Charter status has allowed us to apply for funding for facilities improvements. It also secures us some FA coaching and mentoring resources for next season, and also enables one of our sides to apply to join the Kent Youth league. Those are all doors we could not otherwise have opened. Some things we need help to do, some we must do for ourselves. At present we don’t know if we can secure help to build a new clubhouse, or improve our pitches. It may be that we are largely on our own. So currently we are exploring all the self-help options.

We know that playing surfaces are vitally important, both for training and for matches. So we are currently planning for next season and assessing how many teams we will have, on what days they play, what size pitches are needed, and so on. We are trying to become experts in drainage, grass growing, and pitch maintenance. We are also looking to sign deals that secure other pitches in the surrounding area. It is great that we are growing, but we need room for everyone to play and train.

A few things will be obviously different next season. Under Ian Knapp’s guidance we are working on a new web-site. We are trying to move from having something that is ‘fun but a bit clunky’, to something that presents our club well, allows better communication with you the members, and also serves the club administratively. We hope to be able to move to online payments and simplify the membership process, fiesta entry, and even fundraising.

What is also going to change (a little) is our approach to running teams. FA Charter status requires us to demonstrate adequate coaching and safety resources for the children. We had found ourselves out of compliance because whilst we have had lots of willing volunteers it was (for well-intended reasons) haphazard. So here are the rules we will be following from next season onwards:

  • Any adult who wishes to help coach or supervise children at the club must do the (CRB) background check first.
  • Before we enter any side into an FA affiliated league (like Crowborough, or Tandridge) we will need that team to have a nominated FA Level 1 coach.

If that sounds onerous please bear in mind how many current parents (mums and dads) have proved otherwise. The club pays every penny of the courses required because we know how much value it brings to us. We can all use the skills that come from the confidence to provide Emergency First Aid, to understand the issues in keeping children safe, and enjoy the benefits of being trained in making football more fun for kids.

What else? The season is drawing to a close and despite all the weather threw at us we have got the games played, and we have had many happy and successful days. It was an experiment this year to relocate ourselves to the St John’s 3G when need arose, and we have already made plans to do so again next winter. We get three benefits from this: kids outside playing, a great surface to learn on, and the chance to preserve our Rec pitches. We hope you agree it was a good idea.

Many of our teams are already planning for next season. Some have to get coaches in place to be allowed to enter the leagues they want to play in – we have enough ‘spare’ to get by but the long term intent is clear – and some teams are looking for players as they move up into formats with more players on the pitch. Our doors are open to new recruits; we want our club to be the best place for youngsters to learn their football. Something else that is changing is that we want our best youngsters to stay as they get older. We are starting to put our best teams into tougher leagues. We like the reputation of being a ‘nice’ club, but we also like the idea of being highly respected for our football.

One annual nightmare is kit. We lose hundreds of pounds worth of it on the seasonal transition. My aim, as with the winter jackets, is to reach a point where our playing shirts each have a unique number, which helps me to keep track. That process will happen gradually over the next few years. For now, if what you have fits, keep it. If not please can you return it to the club after the Langton Green fiesta, and we will sort you out for next season, i promise. Also on Langton Green fiesta day if you have any old boots that are just outgrown but not worn out we ask that you drop them in a bin we will provide – they will be available to buy for a small club fundraising donation at the start of next season.

A final housekeeping request: every season player registration causes much stress for managers and administrators. Where possible please try and do it before you go off on summer holidays. Next season we won’t pick a child until all the paperwork is complete – over the years we have paid too much in fines, and want to do it better from now on. Thanks for your help in that.

Finally, please regard Langton Green as ‘your’ club. It depends on volunteers for everything. That’s you. We will need volunteers to make our 27th annual Fiesta the best on the calendar, we always need volunteers on Saturdays to coach, referee, cook, and clean. Please step forward.

Thank you to everyone for your support this year, please write with any questions, any time,

Chris Allen, Head of Football, April 8 2014.