The emphasis MK Wanderers place on fun in football can’t be mistaken for a lack of ambition.
Vice-chairman Jamie Foster says the thriving club, with 23 age-group teams and nearly 300 participants, are serious about providing a pathway into senior football.
The Kents Hill-based side, founded in 1992, believe engendering enthusiasm in young participants is the best and only way to keep them involved in the game.
“I don’t think the fun element of football is emphasised enough,” said Foster, who coaches the Under 9s side.
“It’s not always about competition, it’s about playing in a fun, safe and inclusive environment.
“I want to see kids with smiles on their faces and enjoying football – if you don’t engage them, you risk losing them and that mentality is in our DNA.
“We send a survey around every year and get the kids to answer it as well as the parents, asking whether they have enjoyed the sessions and found them relevant.
“I believe we are providing pathways for people to go somewhere in football and continue playing right throughout their lives.”
Wanderers have long led the way, as the first recreational club in Milton Keynes to hold the FA’s Development and Community standard.
Expansion continues apace, adding four further teams to their stable ahead of the current season with each squad working under an FA-qualified coach.
The club have particularly focused on the women’s game of late, working with sponsors to provide girls aged 5-11 an organised, fun and engaging introduction to the sport.
“Growing women’s football specifically has been high on my agenda for a couple of years now,” said Foster, 33.
“We are have girls playing across lots of our squads and have focussed really strongly on developing our offer to them.
“Participation schemes can only be good for the game and those kinds of programmes are lacking in Milton Keynes at the moment.”
And things are getting even better for the club as TSB and Sport for Development charity, Sported, have come together to help local community groups like MK Wanderers to use the power of sport to make a positive difference to young people and the communities they are part of.
Their five-person committee, as well as a group of committed volunteers and coaches, provide a solid infrastructure but external assistance is welcomed with opened arms.
“I’ve been asked many times how much I get paid for coaching but it’s all voluntary and we do it for the love of the game,” said Foster.
“With everyone from the coaches to the committee, we’re fortunate to have a winning team to chip in and help our wherever needed.
“Support though is massively needed and we need as much help as we can get to continue providing our platform for children to enjoy themselves and get active.
“Without the support of companies and the likes of TSB, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
TSB, in partnership with Sport for Development charity Sported, is proud to help local community groups across the UK use the power of sport to make a positive difference to young people and the communities they are part of. #TSBLocalPride