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Tylei's hopes of playing in the WSL

15-year-old Tylei has gone from strength to strength since attending our Premier League Kicks sessions just under a year ago, earning herself a spot on our Emerging Talent Squad.

15-year-old Tylei from Lewisham is a rising star at Palace for Life. Her journey with us began when she started attending our girls-only Premier League Kicks community sessions at Selhurst Sports Arena just under a year ago, and caught the eye of her coach Gemma, who encouraged her to take her football to the next level. Encouragement that sparked an ambition to play at the highest level in the women’s game – the Women’s Super League (WSL).

Premier League Kicks is a programme – primarily funded by the Premier League – that operates across clubs throughout the football pyramid nationwide. It uses the power of football and other sports to create safer, healthier and more respectful communities by developing young people’s potential. All for free, in the areas across the country that are often the most deprived and in need of safe spaces for young people to express themselves. Premier League Kicks can often be many youngsters’ first introduction into football, and our various teams at Palace for Life work closely together to ensure there is a clear pathway for talented participants, just like Tylei.

At Palace, our focus is on engaging young people in sporting activities to divert them away from crime and anti-social behaviour, or, simply, like in Tylei’s case, to make new friends and play regular football in a safe and inclusive environment.

Tylei joined our Premier League Kicks sessions just over a year ago      

Tylei first came across our free Premier League sessions after her mum found us online. She quickly signed up, and whilst she felt shy at first, it was clear she carried a genuine passion for the game and, according to her coach, Gemma, a noticeable desire to develop her skills on the field.

As Tylei became more confident on the pitch, she started to feel more comfortable in herself too, thanks to the welcoming nature of Gemma and her teammates. She explained: ‘at first I wasn’t as confident, but after meeting some new people, I’ve made new friends.’ Over time, her new-found confidence translated into improvements on the pitch which earned her a place in our annual ‘Kicks Cup’ competition, where Premier League Kicks teams from clubs across the country go head-to-head in regional and national tournaments to fight for the Kicks Cup trophy.

Despite narrowly losing out in the semi-finals of the cup, Tylei played a key role in her team’s progress as the top goal scorer in her team. She said she owes this to the communal and inclusive environment of playing within a welcoming team, and the supportive input from her coach, Gemma, who has played a key role in supporting her in her development. In Gemma’s words: “Tylei has a positive attitude towards football, not just for herself but also for her friends and peers around her. Since joining our Premier League Kicks sessions, I have seen her grow in confidence, make new friends and improve as a player.”

As Tylei quickly proved to be a promising footballer, ready to excel to the next level of her journey at Palace, Gemma gave her with the opportunity to attend a trial for our Girls Emerging Talent Centre (ETC) programme, which we launched in partnership with the Football Association in August last year. It aims to provide more opportunities for girls to improve their footballing talent under the direction of highly qualified coaches, eventually improving their chances of playing the game at the highest level.

Emerging Talent Centre training takes place weekly at the Crystal Palace Academy

Although Tylei felt ‘shocked’ and ‘surprised’ that she was offered a trial, Tylei needn’t have been. She passed with flying colours and is now excelling on the Under 16’s team both as a player and a person.

Jake Foster, who looks after the ETC’s at Palace for Life spoke about Tylei’s progress: Tylei joined our Emerging Talent Centre programme after being recommended to us by the Kicks programme. Since joining us, she has shown a real dedication to her training, a constant willingness to want to improve, and great knowledge of the game. Tylei has become a valued member of our Under 16 squad and conducts herself in a way to be a role model to the younger players we have at the centre. We can’t wait to see Tylei continue to develop in our Emerging Talent Squad, and we’re sure she is going to thrive in the upcoming fixtures.”

Even though her journey started at Premier League Kicks, progressing to the ETC, Tylei still attends the community Kicks sessions, both for the fun of playing regular football, but also to continue to improve her skills. She also joined our Changemakers programme, which helps to equip young women with the tools needed to enhance their leadership skills, which will no doubt help her football too. Gemma told us about how proud of Tylei she has become: “It’s so inspirational to see Tylei come from a participant on our girl’s Kicks sessions, to then go progress onto the ETC and now Changemakers. Hopefully this will inspire other girls that they have the option to take their football journey further if they want to.”

Tylei’s time  working with us is a great example of what we’re trying to do with every individual we work with – to use our expertise in our varying fields to open doors for young people in our community. As for Tylei, she explained in her own words the door she would liked opening: ‘I hope to play for West Ham in the WSL!”, however, we hope that it’s Crystal Palace.

Read more about our Premier League Kicks programme and Emerging Talent Centre.

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