A FORWARD-THINKING junior football club is adopting the latest technology as it celebrates its 20th anniversary and embraces the future.

Eaglescliffe Elementis Junior FC players not only enjoy the grass roots traditions of the beautiful game – but their kit includes a video camera fitted with artificial intelligence software, and iPads with coaching applications.

In addition, the Teesside club is also exploring the possibility of introducing virtual reality headsets.

“We’re an ambitious club and we want to look at every avenue to improve the standards of our football,” said club chairman Kevin Studholme. “But at the same time, we also want to stay true to our traditional values of teaching enjoyment, respect, sportsmanship, team spirit, and looking after each other.”

As the club celebrates its 20th anniversary, it now has 19 teams, with nearly 270 young players, ranging from six to 18, playing in the Teesside Junior Football Alliance (TJFA).

The club’s home pitches are on land that was formerly used for the recreation of staff from the nearby Elementis Chronium plant at Urlay Nook, and the teams are guided by more than 40 qualified Football Association coaches.

“We’re growing all the time and there’s a real focus on building strong connections with schools in the Stockton, Yarm and Eaglescliffe area,” added Kevin. “We’ll be using the 20th anniversary to have a real push around introducing girls’ teams.”

Discussions are also underway about forging an association with the Great North Air Ambulance charity, whose base overlooks the club’s pitches.

One of the club’s coaches is Maaz Rahman, managing director of Dynamo Kings, a Teesside-based global digital transformation company, which sponsors the under-13s team. And Maaz is using his expertise to lead the club’s investment in a high-tech future.

It follows Middlesbrough Football Club recently revealing that it is using virtual reality technology as a new dimension to help improve players’ performances and recovery from injury.

“There’s a huge opportunity to enhance grass roots football by using this cutting-edge technology to enhance the players’ understanding of the game, and to develop their skills much quicker,” said Maaz.

The artificial intelligence software enables a sports camera to automatically follow the ball during training sessions and matches, with the footage used for post-action analysis.

The iPads applications are also used to improve tactical awareness, while the value of VR headsets is being investigated with a view to giving players a virtual perspective on all kinds of football scenarios.

Recent honours include winning the Under-13 Division 5 and Under-15 Division 5 in the TJFA. The club also previously won the Under-16 Division Two, plus the Challenge Cup, and been County Cup finalists.

Current sponsors are: The Letting Group, Motif8, Scott Brothers, DCD Teamwear, Energess Surveys, Richard & Ryan Jewellers, Criterion Interior Solutions, Paralloy, Simply Brickwork, Barker & Co, Bespoke Kitchens, Icon Plastics Ltd, and Dynamo Kings.

The club is looking for more team sponsors, plus a club sponsor, and has plans to expand and improve its home ground facilities.

“We’ve grown rapidly over the past 20 years and now we want to build on those solid foundations so we can help nurture the next generation of young footballers,” said Kevin.

  • To find out more about Eaglescliffe Elementis Junior Football Club, please click here