“I feel incredibly proud to be involved with TUCST. We work with such an amazing range and variety of people from all kinds of backgrounds”
We caught up TUCS Trust and Torquay Women FC Manager Jamie McInness
Hi Jamie thanks for talking to us, so how have you coped with the lockdown personally?
I think, like everybody, it’s probably been some the strangest times of my lifetime. I’ve always been a very busy and proactive kind of person, so with most things having ground to a complete halt, I’ve definitely found that particularly trying. There have been some positives to come out of this for sure as well. It’s given me a chance to recharge the batteries and reflect on things two years after relocating to Torquay. It’s been brilliant to see things finally start to return to some kind of normality over the past few weeks, and I’m feeling very positive about the future.
You have a couple of roles at Torquay United, remind us what they are and when did you start?
My job title is Community Manager at Torquay United Community Sports Trust, a role I took on in June 2018. Alongside this, I also manage the Torquay United Women’s team. I began this role shortly after joining TUCST, ahead of the 2018/19 season. It’s certainly a big commitment, but one I really enjoy.
As manager of the TU Community Trust, tell us what it’s all about for those who aren’t familiar with the trust?
Torquay United Community Sports Trust is a registered, not for profit charitable trust. We work closely alongside the football club to promote engagement and participation in sport and healthy lifestyle activities throughout Torbay and South Devon. Our provision covers the full spectrum, from children at just three years old, to those in their later life. We support schools with their PE and Sport provision, we offer Walking Football sessions for those over 50, and some of our most valuable work is providing football opportunities for both children and adults with a range of disabilities.
Have the Community Trust still been busy during this strange period?
It’s certainly been a very tough time for TUCST, as it has for some many other trusts, businesses and football clubs around the country. To protect the long-term future and sustainability of the Trust, a number of our staff have been placed on furlough. I know this has been particularly tough for them and we are thankful for their understanding during this unprecedented time, but hopefully things are now starting to move back towards the Trust we knew before the lockdown.
Despite the lack of usual delivery since the end of March, the Trust staff have continued to engage in a proactive manner with our community in a number of ways. We have been in regular contact with our more vulnerable participants, supporting them with phone calls, emails and virtual meetings where possible. Education Packs have been produced and shared with our partner schools and families. We have also been supporting a number of organisations with Torbay Community, who have been doing some truly sterling work during the current crisis.
Our staff members have supported the Torbay Community Coronavirus Helpline; collecting medical prescriptions, delivering shopping and also vital furniture to those in the most desperate of situations. We have worked closely, with both Feed a Child Torbay and RE4orm, to support their efforts in getting food parcels and meal kits to hundreds of families in need within our region. Alongside these valuable efforts, we have continued physical delivery within a number of our partner schools. Daily lunchtime sports provision has been delivered in Barton Hill Academy, for the children of key workers throughout the whole period of lockdown. In the second half of the summer term, our PE and Sport provision has also resumed, in both Priory Catholic Primary School and Galmpton C of E Primary School.
What projects have the trust got planned going forward and how proud are you to be involved?
Long-term planning has been particularly tricky for us to be honest, with the uncertainty still surrounding a lot of things. Our initial focus is going to be to work incredibly hard to get our engagement and regular football and sport sessions for our various participants back in action. We know the huge benefits regularly exercise and activity can have on both physical and mental health, and during the last few months we have been unable to provide this service. The lockdown has taken a toll on many people’s health, so the importance of being able to resume our contact cannot be underestimated.
I feel incredibly proud to be involved with TUCST. We work with such an amazing range and variety of people from all kinds of backgrounds, including some of the most vulnerable families within Torbay. Being able to make a positive different to their lives through sport and physical activity is a wonderful thing.
The ladies team had a tough 19-20 season, what have been the main problems you’ve faced?
Both seasons have been incredibly tough for everyone involved. The main issue in the first season was basically having to build a whole new squad of players just 2 months before the start of the season. This was a huge challenge, particularly as I was new to the area and hadn’t been able to build up a knowledge of female players and the football scene within the South West. It was a steep learning curve, and after a pretty poor start to the season, we were able to steady the ship and pick up some positive results, surviving relegation by a single point collected on the final day of the season. After the turmoil of the season, that was a very proud achievement by all involved.
For the 2019/20 season, we were all hoping to build on this and aimed to push up the table. Unfortunately, as with a lot of well-intentioned plans, things didn’t quite work out like we hoped. It was another eventful season. I could probably fill an entire book with everything that happened! We retained most of the squad from the previous season and added a few more players. Sadly, results were still not brilliant, and we were rock bottom of the table when the lockdown kicked in. That being said, once things settled, performances had improved and in our final game, we picked up a superb win away to Keynsham. The saving grace of the lockdown for us is that all results were expunged, and promotion and relegation scrapped. I guess this has been a let-off for us, but we will be sure to make the most of this second chance when the new season begins.
How is the team shaping up at the moment and are you optimistic for it’s future?
I’ve always felt that going through hardship makes you stronger. As a team, we are most definitely stronger after the last two seasons. Stronger and wiser as coaches and players, but also stronger as people. I now have an excellent, passionate coaching team, including Assistant Manager Matt Green and Goalkeeper Coach Steve Elswood. We all share the same belief and vision for the team, and this can only bode well for the upcoming season. Matt in particular has been a huge asset for us, doing some sterling work behind the scenes to help build the profile of the team.
Within my work at TUCST, we have built up a thriving girls football programme. The benefits of creating this pathway for young female footballers in Torbay and South Devon will no doubt benefit the senior Torquay United Women’s team for many years to come. We have already seen some of the Under 18s from last season sign up for the new season. We have some really talented exciting prospects and these, combined with the existing experienced core of the side, will improve the squad hugely for the 2020/21 season.
We have now begun our pre-season training , following the stringent FA and government guidelines, and the numbers have been incredible. We are in a much stronger position than either of the last two pre-seasons, which will stand us in much better stead. Many of the players have been completing their own fitness regimes during the lockdown, and they have returned looking lean and sharp. It’s really impressive!
Which league will the team be competing in next and are you hoping to restart in 2020?
For the upcoming season, we will remain in the Premier Division of the South West Women’s Regional Football League. This is the 5th tier of Women’s Football. There have been lots of whispers and conjecture about when the actual season will start. I have heard September/October mentioned as potential dates for the league fixtures beginning and I feel this would be a positive outcome. Fingers crossed! We have pencilled in some friendly matches for August, but again, this is all dependant on the further relaxation of government and FA guidelines. As with everything, people’s health and safety must come first so we have to be patient. We have waited this long – we can wait a little longer if needs be.
Why should people get involved with the ladies team and who should they contact?
The female game in this country is growing rapidly all the time and there is no greater time to get involved! At TUCST and Torquay United Women, we are all incredibly passionate about providing girls and women the opportunities to play the beautiful game. It’s not about providing any special treatment for women and girls, it’s just about normalising it. Boys and girls should be able to pursue any sport or activity they like, regardless of stereotypes or historical gender bias. It’s great to see times are changing. We provide football opportunities for girls aged 3 right up until adulthood. We will have teams at Under 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18 this season, alongside the Women’s Team. Anybody interested or wanting to find out more, please get in contact – email@example.com
What does football mean to you and how much are you looking forward to some normality resuming?
Obsession is a strong term, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit obsessed with football. It’s been a huge part of my life since childhood and being able to work within the game is an absolute pleasure and a privilege. The girls and women we work with on a weekly basis are so enthusiastic, and approach their football with the right attitude, a real thirst for knowledge and willingness to learn and improve. I regard myself as very lucky to be in this position. Normality returning can’t come soon enough!
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