STUDENTS swapped the classroom for the football pitch as part of a new drive to get more people playing the beautiful game.
About 70 youngsters from South Tyneside College have signed up for the Football Association’s Just Play scheme.
The campaign is aimed at those who cannot commit to a full season of matches and training but would still like to pull on their boots on occasion.
It’s hoped those taking part will go on to form the college’s first competitive 11-a-side team for four years.
Two young recruits have also signed up to take FA coaching qualifications.
Rob Grainey, the college’s sport maker, said: “The level of participation has been tremendous. I could not have wished for better.
“In a very short time, I have seen the confidence levels of several students increase, and friendships have been made.
“This environment has given them a place where they feel confident to play at their own level.
“Just Play is perfect for people who have wanted to play football in a team setting but didn’t really know where to go or how to go about it.
“I’ve worked hard to establish Just Play at the college for players aged 16 to late 20s, and we are really starting to reap the benefits. It’s win-win all round.”
The scheme, co-ordinated across the North East by the Durham FA, not only aims to increase the personal confidence of players but looks to improve social skills, help participants forge new friendships and highlight the value of teamwork.
The college squads play eight-a-side games on Mondays, from 5pm to 6pm, on outdoor pitches at Mortimer Community School in Reading Road, South Shields.
Chris Hutchinson, football officer with the Durham FA and Just Play’s county officer, said: “Those wishing to become a partner must show they are passionate about football, well organised, driven and have the best interests of the sport at heart, and Rob and South Tyneside College have done just that.
“The college has met all the criteria, and it is helping to make football accessible to all.
“Players should know that they are in a well-structured environment that has qualified coaches.”
Rob also runs a team for disabled players that will soon form part of the Just Play scheme and which plays at the college’s sports pitches from noon to 1pm on Mondays.
More information on the college’s participation in Just Play is available from Rob on 427 3500 ext 5233.
Any organisation looking to take part in Just Play can contact Chris on 387 2928 or follow the Durham FA on Twitter, @DurhamFA, or Facebook, at Facebook.com/DurhamCountyFA