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FORWARD THINKING Sporting Club Southend Futsal Club has appointed the experienced April Smith as the new manager of their emerging women’s first team.
Sporting Club Southend – who are linked with Portuguese giants, Sporting Lisbon – is a relatively new club, launching their men’s senior team last year following a change of identity.
April previously served the club in a Head Coach capacity with the men’s first-team section as well as assisting with the development side and several of the academy teams, including those based at Southend and Thurrock. The motivated 30-year-old is certainly clear of the direction she wants to take the Garon Park outfit.
“We are still relatively young in terms of development and growth, but with the backing I’ve got from the Chairman, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t evolve into one of the biggest women’s clubs in the country over the next five years,” April told Yellow Sport.
“I want to get girls competing at an international level and developing players who will go on to represent their countries at the Women’s European Championships and World Cup. Already I’ve had players from Spain and Portugal contact me about becoming a part of the women’s set-up.”
Having gleaned a wealth of experience with Southend United, April explained how she got involved in what is a rapidly growing sport: “Futsal is a completely different sport to football,” she added.
“I first started coaching through my job at Southend United. The students involve themselves as part of their games programme.
There is a national programme in place so we had a girls team within the first year of me starting at Southend in 2015. The students involve themselves as part of their games programme.
“It was a positive route, particularly for girls to go into because the small-sided game allowed us to have ten on the programme and can make it work.
“They all get a competitive fixture every week – it was a really good outlay for us, plus I love the game because tactically it is an absolute minefield and offers so many challenges. It’s like a chess game. From a coaching viewpoint, it is a lot more demanding, but that’s something I really enjoy.”
April offered an insight into Sporting Club, Futsal as a whole and her initial involvement, explaining: “It was a brand new experience for me last year, going into the National Futsal League with the men’s team, particularly with a different level of competitiveness and experience – a real eyeopener.
“Futsal is not an English-dominated sport. Sporting Club Southend has several Portuguese, Spanish, Hungarian and Bulgarian players. The challenge for me is to improve as a coach as well as learn languages, about the league and my players. It is a demanding environment to be in.
“We are currently the only women’s futsal team in the county with our nearest rivals being London Helvecia – who have been the dominant force in the country – and Kent United. Both of those clubs receive support from their respective men’s sections.
“There is a strong underlining network of strong university teams emerging. For anyone looking to get involved in the game, that is a great place to dip your toe in the water both in terms of playing and coaching.”
Meanwhile, April will continue in her role at Southend, which sees her reaching out into the community on behalf of the Roots Hall club: “I’m Southend’s Community Engagement Officer which involves enhancing the scale of what the club does as a community trust.
“It has developed massively over the years. I work with people from all walks of life, including the Senior Shrimpers, Children at risk of anti-social behaviour, violent crime and radicalisation, primary schools, mental health – It’s a vast network and if I meet someone I want to be able to engage with them through the various programmes that we provide through the football club.”