The Essex Spartans youth team are going from strength to strength following a record turnout for junior training last weekend, with 27 players on the pitch aged between 13 and 17 years old.

A youth development | Young Spartans take part in mass training session. (Image | Emma Webb)

A youth development | Young Spartans take part in a mass training session last weekend. (Image | Emma Webb)

Headed up by Steve Mitchell and assisted by hiatus senior player Oli Huke, the youth movement has taken several years to take shape and develop, but has come on leaps and bounds in the past eighteen months.

Growing from a core group of five to six dedicated young players, the Spartans are now in a position to offer teenagers a taste of on-field competitive American football for the first time in the club’s history.

“This is the first time we’re going up against another team”, Mitchell explained. “Before the senior team play the Kent Exiles this Sunday, we’re having an hour scrimmage. It’s not an organised game but it is the first time they are playing competitively against another team. It’s exciting!”

Many of the youth players are relatives of senior team members, and are taking part to follow in their footsteps. Yet after an extremely successful recruitment drive back in November, which resulted in 75 young athletes attending the pre-season rookie days, the spirit of the sport is extending to those that had never even seen American football until now.

Kai, 17, told how the Spartans youth team has grown since its formative days. He said: “I’ve been coming for two years, on and off. When I was first here there wasn’t really much of a team, there were seven or eight of us and we couldn’t really get anything done because there just weren’t enough players. But now it’s a lot better!”

Ready for action | Essex Spartans youth team take on ...(Image | Emma Webb)

Ready for action | Essex Spartans youth team will play their first competitive match this Sunday. (Image | Emma Webb)

His sentiments were echoed by Billy, 13, who attended training with the Spartans for the very first time last Sunday: “I play a lot of basketball at school, but this has been really fun, it’s really good. I’ll definitely be back next week.”

Other young players expressed extremely positive views of their training and involvement with the club, anticipating progression to the senior team when they turn 18 or continuing the sport at university.

The youth team were recently paid a visit by former Philadelphia Eagles star and current Sky Sports broadcaster Cecil Martin, who worked to develop the spirit of the game within the youngsters, and instil the values of hard work and mutual respect.

Coach Mitchell revealed that he has noticed a change in his youngsters since Martin dropped by last month. He said: “They believe in themselves a little bit more. Everyone is a little bit more enthusiastic and less self-conscious.”

  • The Spartans Youth team train every Sunday from midday at Hannakins Farm in Billericay, Essex.

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