It has been a whirlwind year for Velocity Football student Billie French.
From completing her GCSE exams to enrolling with Oxford City Football Club’s full-time educational academy and now representing Oxford United Women’s’ first-team squad.
The 17-year-old’s progress on the pitch was noted by Lauren Haynes – United skipper and Head Coach of Velocity Football’s female programme.
Billie was consequently invited to train with United’s first-team squad by manager Liam Gilbert and now has ambitions to make her first-team debut in the 2021-22 season.
She admits herself that pulling on the yellow shirt will be no easy task amid United’s application to join the FA Women’s Championship. But hard work and determination can go a long way, something Billie hopes will stand her in good stead for the future.
“You need to want it, and I want it,” said Billie. “Since joining Velocity Football, I have worked really hard and brought what I have learnt on the programme to Oxford United’s training sessions.
“I would love to represent Oxford United, but there are so many good players in the squad which means competition is very high.
“I feel my game has developed massively in the past year because I am training three times a week on the Velocity programme while studying in the classroom. The coaching points we receive are really detailed, if we do something wrong there is always time to improve.
“The coaching staff and tutors know what they are doing, and it has definitely improved my attitude towards football.
“If I do something wrong now, I’ll keep working until I get it right. This time last year I probably would’ve given up.”
The natural right-back will next month complete her first year of Velocity Football’s two-year Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport programme.
The qualification is worth up to three A Levels and suitable for people intending to fulfil a career in sport.
Typically, students will train on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays and play a competitive match on Wednesdays.
Training commitments are aligned with classroom activities where units include health wellbeing and sport, applied coaching skills, sports development, sports psychology and developing coaching skills.
There is an emphasis on development too with all students able to apply for work experience opportunities within Oxford City FC.
For Billie, the programme’s focus on rest and recovery has been particularly helpful given her heavy training load.
“I’m training three times a week with Velocity and three times a week with United,” said Billie. “It’s a heavy load so recovery is important.
“They really underline the importance of recovery at Velocity through physio visits and general advice through the week.
“At the same time, we all have great fun. I love the girls to pieces and we have established such a strong bond off the pitch which I believe helps us massively in matches.
“I would definitely recommend the programme to anyone interested in football or a career in sport.”
Lauren Haynes added: “It has been a fantastic year on and off the pitch for Billie and all her classmates.
“Everyone has developed their skillset and knowledge of football and sport through regular coaching and on-site education delivered via Virtual Learning UK.
“Playing opportunities are an important part of the Velocity programme and our proven player pathway helps students become the best version of themselves. We recognise outstanding talent and Billie’s hard work and determination has been rewarded.
“It is now up to Billie to continue her development as a player and push herself even further next year.”