The FA Lioness Talent Pathway
The Lioness Talent Pathway identifies and prepares talented young players with the potential to become a senior Lioness. With the objective of winning major tournaments, our pathway plays an essential role in the identification and confirmation of talent and ensuring the best players are available to Women’s England teams.
National Talent Camps (U14 – U15)
The pathway oversees the delivery of National Talent Camps (NTCs) for our most talented players. These camps provide players with the opportunity to train and play alongside top talent from around the country at a central facility. These residential camps are scheduled between August and May, with players getting access to technical and multi-disciplinary team support to further aid their development. A number of these camps involve fixtures.
Selection for these events are overseen by the Talent Technical Coach and Player Insights Team, supported by player intel and recommendations. Talented players from any playing environment or background may be selected.
Lioness Pathway Talent Identification
Talent identification events will allow players to be identified through regional programmes which will ensure accessibility to any player from any playing environment who shows potential. Region-specific talent strategies are in place that will enable us to work closely with key stakeholders and clubs across the football pyramid to ensure we are allowing talent to reach opportunity.
As part of the Lioness Talent Pathway, Talent ID events are held regionally throughout the season focusing on players in the Youth Development Phase. Selection for these events are overseen by the Talent Technical Coach and Player Insights team and help to broaden our talent pool of potential and identify players for future selection to both the National Talent Camps and Women’s National Development Teams.
The FA have also partnered with the English Football League (EFL) Trust to deliver our Talent Inclusion programme; aiming to offer opportunity and access to the Lioness Talent Pathway to every young, talented female footballer in England, regardless of social class, demographic or ethnicity.
Through the existing community activities of selected Club Community Organisations (CCOs), our organisations work together to offer training and insight to identify girls with talent that can be referred to the pathway.
Advanced Coaching Centres
The FA Girls’ Advanced Coaching Centres (ACC) are part of a specifically designed programme in certain regions to support the development and progression of players. Due to geographical challenges and limited playing opportunities across Cumbria, the south west and east regions of England, the pathway has been adapted to ensure it is accessible as well as supportive and educational.
Players are permitted to remain in grassroots club football and participate in a grassroots fixture programme, with ACCs then providing supplementary support for selected players with an additional night’s training a week and a minimum of six fixtures a season against other ACCs or Charter Standard Youth teams. Each ACC operates for a minimum of 29 weeks and caters for a minimum of three age groups from U10s through to U16s.
Access to the ACC is gained through a trial process held in July; players can be nominated for trials by their teacher or grassroots coach, or players can apply directly to the Centre.
Regional Talent Clubs
A Regional Talent Club (RTC) is an enhanced coaching centre for U10, U12, U14 and U16 age groups primarily, and allows players identified as having elite potential the opportunity to access elite levels of coaching and support.
There are 30 RTCs spread across the country (excluding those regions where Advanced Coaching Centres are operating).
They are managed by local organisations who facilitate the administration and running of the RTC. A minimum of three hours training are provided per week to each age group, and all players take part in a fixture programme.
Access to the RTC is gained through a trial process held in June; players can be nominated for trials by their teacher, grassroots coach or they can apply directly to the club.
U10 and U12 age groups participate in a local Charter Standard mixed youth league, whereas the U14 and U16 age groups play in an FA organised competitive fixture programme. The U16s also participate in the FA Girls’ Youth Cup and FA Girls’ Youth Plate which are both knockout competitions. Entry to The FA organised fixture programme and the cup competitions are exclusive to RTCs.
The Regional Talent Club programme is a three-tier system to provide greater support to the clubs working with our most talented players. It operates across a tiered concept as opposed to a ‘one size fits all’ model, in which the elements of funding and delivery are different across the three tiers that clubs have been awarded.
The purpose of the tiers is to reflect where organisations are in terms of their individual growth and infrastructure. The opportunities to attend a Regional Development Programme, National Performance Camp or an England Camp are the same for a player if she were to attend a Tier 1, 2 or 3 Regional Talent Club.
Contact details for Regional Talent Clubs can be found in the ETP contacts handbook, available to download below.
The FA Women’s Super League Academy
At present, there are 15 clubs with an academy. All of them support players aged 16-20 inclusive. They operate for a minimum of 36 weeks between the months of July and the following May.
The FA WSL academies exist for three main reasons:
• To develop every aspect of a player who has the potential to become a professional and have a paid career in the game;
• To create a pathway to the England teams, who are ready to win major tournaments;
• To ensure aspiring professionals’ educational/career needs are met – whether they subsequently have a professional football career or not.
Player development and personal development go hand-in-hand at every FA WSL academy.
That’s because balancing football and education is vital. Every player should be encouraged to follow their career path of choice, which may begin during or after their playing career.
With this in mind, every player in an FA WSL academy has two core support sources:
• For football: The club’s academy manager and their technical staff.
• For education: The designated academy education lead, working alongside the respective academy’s principal education partner(s).
WSL academies play in a national competition with a Cup and Plate. First-team players often feature in games too so the standard is the very best players in the relevant ages working on the cusp of Barclays WSL First Teams.
Teams training between 10-15 hours per week in on pitch, off pitch and decentralised or self-administered training. Continual reviews are provided as will exit support as and when you leave the club.
You'll have the opportunity to do the Diploma in Sporting Excellence should you wish to as part of your education choices and performance services will be provided by the club, or more usually via the Talented Athlete Scholarship Service (TASS) network in the University sector.
It sounds complex and in many ways it is, but it is about building your pathway journey for you that meets your needs and no two players are the same. Lots more detail can be found in the handbook, which you can download below.