YOUNGSTERS at the Oxford Academy had one eye on the ball and one on the future at a special event this week.
In the first session held on Wednesday as part of a collaboration between Oxford Academy, Unipart Logistics and Oxford United, 39 teenagers spent a morning at the Littlemore school working with some of the stars of the U’s first team on life skills.
Then they headed over to Unipart in Cowley to meet apprentices, tour the centre and find out about possible career paths.
Ultimately the plan is for Unipart’s Talent Factory programme to be rolled out to 200 schools across Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire.
The children, aged 14 to 16, are all on the school’s gifted and talented programme, and had a chance to get to grips with teamwork while learning ball skills alongside Oxford United players James Constable, Tyrone Marsh, Scott Davies and Max Crocombe.
They were also joined by the footballers to prepare some healthy meals of the kind players might need pre-match.
William Levance, 16, from Risinghurst, who hopes to go into sports management, described the event as “awesome”.
He said: “I don’t really eat healthily. They are all fit and we would like to be like them when we’re older.”
Joshua Jones-Charlett, 15, from Blackbird Leys, added: “I found it really fun.”
Anton Mundy, 15, from Greater Leys, hopes to work in tax law. He said: “I have learned about healthy eating and how it can affect your performance in football.
“It’s been a very fun experience, very different.”
Goalkeeper Max Crocombe, 19, said by 15 he knew he wanted to be a footballer.
He added: “It’s been really cool, especially being around Oxford where quite a few of them support Oxford United.
“They were really good – a lot of them were better than me at football – which is worrying and encouraging.”
Striker James Constable, 28, said he hoped the day had given pupils an insight into their daily routines.
He said; “At that age it’s difficult. I knew what I wanted to do, but the reality of being able to do it is quite a slim one.
“I had to knuckle down in the last two or three years at school so I had something to fall back on.”
Headteacher David Brown said he was keen to hold the event because it gave the young people the chance to learn about a real life career.