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The NPL Football Academy (NPLFA) is delighted to announce that Belper Town student Sam Gilbert is off to America after gaining a ‘Soccer Scholarship’.

Sam joined the programme back in 2016 and is preparing to move across the Atlantic in the coming weeks. “I have been offered a scholarship at Tusculum University in Tennessee who are part of the NCAA Division 2 and play in the South Atlantic Conference, made up of teams from Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. I will be majoring in ‘Physical Education Teaching and Coaching for four years.”

The 18 year-old goalkeeper has his sights set high both on and off the pitch and is determined to give himself the best opportunity to succeed adding “I will continue my footballing journey for as long as I can and will continue the ambition to earn a professional contract, where ever that may be. If not, I will look to pursue a career in coaching which is specific to my major and also the Level 3 BTEC in sport from the Academy.”

It has been a very successful two years on the programme both on and off the pitch for Samwith many highlights to take away with him: “The past two years have been fantastic for me and have helped me work towards my goal of achieving an American Scholarship. Training on a regular basis with great coaches has helped my development massively. The support given to me by these coaches enabled me to move into local non-league football which had very positive effect on my development as a player. There is no better feeling than waking up in the morning to go and train or begin travel for a match day, I can genuinely say I have enjoyed every minute of the last two seasons at the Academy.

“The resources the NPLFA have in matches like being filmed and also pathways into American scholarships have made my process a lot easier and more accessible to myself as I could be marketed using my highlights from matches by people at Soccer Chance USA.

“The FA Youth Cup runs we enjoyed in both seasons would have to be my highlights of the last two seasons, being so successful in this competition left a real buzz around the club and it was fantastic to be a part of that. Representing the NPLFA in the Inter-League squad twice was also a great experience. Personally the game vs Port Vale was probably one of my best performances for me so would have to be one of my highlights of the Academy.”

Having received a lot of advice over the last two years, Sam also has some advice to give to current and future students who wish to follow in his own footsteps to America: “If any players were looking or were interested in exploring this pathway I would be more than happy to answer any of their questions, having spoken to players who have been through the same process, it allowed me and my family to gain a better understanding of what we needed to do. I had to take an SAT exam which I found very difficult having not done English or Maths for 18 months so staying on top of these subjects alongside the BTEC would be my advise if anyone was looking at trying to gain a Soccer Scholarship.

“I would 100% recommend the NPLFA to any 16 year old especially if they were looking for a future in football or sport in general.”

Everyone at the NPLFA would like to wish Sam the very best of luck in America and we look forward to catching up with him on his first year of university in 2019.

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