Loui Blake, together with professional Preston North End goalkeeper Declan Rudd, is the co-founder of Future Football Elite.
The pair started the academy in their home-town, Norwich after both realizing that there is not much access to elite coaching within the Norfolk area, outside of the professional game.
‘'Unless you were apart of Norwich City academy, your access to an elite club was non-existent'' said, Loui.
This is why Loui and Declan's academy serves as a way to fill that gap. All of the Future Football Elite coaches are minimum UEFA B-Licensed coaches and work with a small group of players to utilize their full potential.
Starting Future Football Elite
Like many British kids, Loui fell in love with football at an early age. Getting his first Norwich City shirt when he was four, he started in the development centre for Norwich City Academy but eventually got released from the club.
Realising he wasn't good enough to play professionally, Loui began coaching and volunteering at the early age of 16 as his love for the beautiful game always remained.
As an 18-year-old he went to Mexico to work for a football academy and that's where he really started to live, eat and breath football. ‘'I would say that a lot of people view Mexico as a third world country but it is not. They have good coaches and facilities over there and I learned a lot just from watching them.'' Having the same friends circle and playing against each other as kids, Loui and Declan quickly became friends, a friendship that has now lasted 14 years.
Once Loui returned from Mexico and Declan Rudd had himself moved to Preston North End, the two started to seriously consider to start an academy in the parts they both grew up, a dream which had been discussed before. Declan Rudd is one of few players from Norfolk who plays in the top flights of English football.
Declan Rudd is emotionally invested in the academy as he himself feels very lucky to get picked up as he believed that there are thousands of more kids with the same potential who never got an offer. Only eight players born in Norfolk have played for the English national team.
Compare this to Shropshire who has more than double that amount of players yet only half of Norfolk's population. Loui does mention that the Future Football Elite does not want to compete with Norwich City in terms of talent. ‘'Norwich City obviously takes the best players, which is great, however, what we are doing is increasing the number of good players in the area''.
Driven by purpose
Loui's other project is running a highly reviewed vegan restaurant called Erpingham House in Norwich. For Loui, money can't be the motivating factor when deciding how to deal with business, it has to be purposeful.
The restaurant wants to influence people to make healthy choices, the academy wants to influence kids to get into the sport, living a healthy lifestyle and grow as players and humans.
Both Future Football Elite and his restaurant share the same goals in terms of educating people about healthy living and knowing how their choices can have an impact on the environment and their health.
Loui mentioned that in the academy they sometimes ‘'go out on a Sunday to clean litter off the streets, engaging kids at a young age and making them understand the impact that their choices can have on the environment.'' Believing it is important to start these conversations early, Loui believes that simple things such as the impact of throwing a can in the right recycling bag could have a massive impact in how the future generation tackles the issue.
Philosophy of Future Football Elite
Loui explains that the main philosophy of Future Football Elite is connected to their name. ‘Future' means that they want to bring new ideas to British footballing academy systems as well as utilizing the new technology that has now become available to the grassroots level. Loui is happy with the partnership Future Football Elite has with TAGPAY. Loui stated that TAGPAY has made registration and tracking people's attendance easier as well as creating a necessary dialogue between parents and coaches.
In terms of the coaching aspect, the philosophy of Future Football Elite surrounds to create an environment where all their players can have the opportunity to reach their full potential. ‘'If you are an early bloomer, players tend to use the physical side to their advantage but when you get older more and more players will match their physical abilities. So its all about developing the players and catering their strengths and weakness.'' Loui also explains that the psychological training is very important as well.
He has seen some players with very high technical ability but lacking in mental confidence. He continues by stressing the importance to give these players the tools to believe in themselves and create an environment where they don't need to be anxious or worried to make mistakes.
‘'I think it is important for coaches to be aware of what is going on with their player's life outside of football and to match what they're doing with what the players are going through in the stage of their life.''
Loui mentions that, especially at the higher levels, the pressure can become too much for a young player's psyche and he feels there is a lack of giving the players tools to cope with this pressure at football academies.
This is something Future Football Elite wants to eliminate by their coaching. ‘'I think some players believe that football is the only option and I believe we as coaches should give them more of insight to the idea that there is a life outside the professional football world.''
When starting Football Future Elite, both Loui and Declan believed that a lot of academies have goalkeeping only as a side offering. They both wanted to offer a programme that labelled goalkeeping training as an equally important aspect compared to the general academy training.
Declan has been instrumental with the structure of the training as he talks with Loui on an everyday basis on what direction the academy is going and what steps to take next.
When asked whether the academy had plans to expand beyond the borders of Norfolk, Loui mentioned that this is an idea that is always considered when deciding the future of Future Football Elite. Loui mentions that if this would become reality, they need to refine the model as every area needs to have a slightly different business plan.
Loui and Dec have a few friends that play professionally but don't know what to do when they finished their football career.
The idea is that they could offer them essentially a turnkey model for a business where they can come in and do what they're good at, whether that be in Norwich or not. There has to be a purpose after all.