• Communities

    Girls programme offering Wilkinson a path to success

    8 Mar 2019
    Courtney WIlkinson, Burnley in the Community

    Football sessions with Burnley in the Community have given teenager Courtney Wilkinson skills on and off the pitch

    The Premier League Girls Football programme?run by Burnley has given one young woman both the confidence and skills to fulfil her dream of playing top-class football.

    For Courtney Wilkinson, now 16, football has always offered inspiration despite challenging social circumstances.

    She was a good player, representing her school.

    "I played for the high school football team, in both year 7 and 8, which I was really proud of," she says.

    But, Wilkinson had to give up the game to focus on education.

    This got her a place at Nelson and Colne College, which has links with Burnley FC and its foundation, Burnley in the Community?(BitC).

    It runs football sessions for women and one of its coaches, Taylor Gregson, helped to persuade Wilkinson to go along.

    "I saw some of the coaches around and they gave me a leaflet with details about all the sessions available to girls," Wilkinson explains.

    "I had a chat with Taylor and she really encouraged me to attend the sessions.

    Burnley in the Community, Ypres
    Courtney Wilkinson, second from right, went with Burnley to the Premier League Truce Tournament in Ypres

    Thanks to Burnley in the Community's programme for females Wilkinson has developed her skills to the extent that she now plays for the reserve team for Burnley Women.

    But they have also developed her character.

    "My confidence to open up and talk to more people has definitely improved," she says.

    "I have struggled in the past with talking to people, especially new faces.

    Growing confidence

    "I am now confident enough to speak to any girls that are new as well as the coaches regularly."

    This was demonstrated a few months ago when girls from Burnley travelled to Ypres, Belgium, as part of the Premier League Truce Tournament.

    More than 60 girls from club foundations, with varied backgrounds, went to Belgium to take part in a tournament as well as to learn about the horrors of the First World War.

    They visited trenches and attended the Menin Gate ceremony to honour those who sacrificed their lives in the war.

    "It meant a lot to me to go to Belgium with Burnley," Wilkinson adds. "It was an unbelievable experience that I will remember for ever."

    The trip also allowed Wilkinson to demonstrate her new-found confidence.

    "She interacted with girls from other clubs, in particular Manchester United, and made friends that she still keeps in contact with now," Gregson says.

    Wilkinson’s ambition is not just to progress as a player, but to pass on what she has learnt to others.

    She has been volunteering to coach at the BitC sessions and wants to gain coaching qualifications.

    "If the opportunity ever came up to coach for Burnley I would love to get involved," she adds.

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