St Albans footballers nominated for young people awards

TWO soccer-mad teenagers from the St Albans district are among the early entries to an award scheme for young people.

Tom Simmonds, 16, of Marford Road, Wheathampstead, and Matt Lawrence, 17, of Holyrood Crescent, St Albans, have been nominated for the Citygate Young Person of the Year (YOPEY) competition.

They have both been with the St Albans Onside project since it started more than two years ago and have now graduated from being attendees to volunteers assisting the coaches.

Onside is a social inclusion project run by Watford FC in partnership with St Albans district council and other organisations. It runs free football for youngsters in two age groups and alternate activities such as other sports or street dancing on another night.

Both boys attended both the football and multi-sports session regularly and then gained qualifications as junior football organisers within the project and enrolled as volunteers, regularly giving time to help the coaches.

They were nominated by Sam Mitchell, Onside community coach with Watford FC, who praised their regular attendance, enthusiasm, helpful attitude and performance.

He described Tom, a talented athlete who was looked upon as a role model by youngsters taking part in sessions at Marford Road playing fields, as dedicated with a great sense of humour.

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Tom, a student at Oaklands College in Smallford, said: “The project is good.

“It gets kids off the streets and gives them something to do. It’s well organised.”

He added: “It’s good to volunteer and pass on what I have learned.”

Matt was described by Sam as, “a highly motivated young man” whose brother, sister and four cousins attended the sessions in the Sopwell area.

“All the kids as well as his relatives look up to him. He’s very dedicated and always asking what he can do to help.”

Matt, who is in the sixth form at Marlborough School in Watling Street, has achieved his Level One coaching course through Watford FC and will start part-time as a coach with the club from November.

He won a trophy as Volunteer of the Year at St Albans Sports Awards in July.

YOPEY founder Tony Gearing said: “Tom and Matt have definitely hit a winning streak with Onside, first going along and enjoying the activities themselves and then passing on their skills and helping other youngsters to enjoy themselves and keep out of trouble.”

To nominate inspirational young people for the Herts YOPEY long on to or send an SAE for an entry form to YOPEY, PO Box 236, Newmarket, Suffolk.

They must be aged between 10 and 25 and live, work or study in Herts.

Entries for the awards must be received on or before June 30.