Friday Oct 14, 2016
East Midlands Elite Soccer Launched!
James Belshaw caught up with the Tamworth Herald this week to talk about his new business.
TREADING the tentative pastures outside the 'comfort zone' is familiar territory for Tamworth goalkeeper James Belshaw.
Having worked through the academy system at Notts County, an 18-year-old Belshaw opted against accepting most young footballers' dream of a professional contract.
He signed as a scholar at Walsall but stayed in sixth form and completed his A-levels – achieving top grades.
When the full-time Saddlers offer came his way, Belshaw opted instead to jump on a plane and head to North Carolina to study at Duke University – one of the top 20 universities in the world.
His life-changing choice came back in August 2009 – fast forward seven years the Tamworth shot-stopper is once again pushing the boundaries when many would be content with the status quo.
Juggling a full-time job in engineering, which includes plenty of travel, with his commitments at Tamworth FC that see him frequently heading miles from home, Belshaw has chucked in another ball to keep up in the air.
But he wouldn't have it any other way.
Alongside Tamworth assistant manager Mike Fowler, Belshaw has launched East Midlands Elite Soccer, a brand new football coaching company.
"It's something I've always wanted to do," he said. "To work with kids and help give them the kind of guidance I got and maybe open up the kind of opportunities that I benefited from in my career.
"I'd thought about it for a while and I had a conversation with Mike Fowler and we said 'let's do this together'.
"So it started from there.
"Mike is moving up to Tamworth and I live in Nottingham so we decided to do it over my way.
"There was a lot to get sorted like logos, first aid courses, we got a block booking at a facility and put it out there for any young players, between under-10s and under-13s age groups.
"We're working with local clubs, we're not looking to poach players. We're happy to work alongside clubs and help develop young footballers and help them grow as players, but as young men too.
"The response we got overwhelmed me. We didn't know what to expect but over 50 lads arrived to enjoy some elite coaching and help develop their games."
Belshaw has developed a strong working relationship with Fowler at The Lamb and he believes the duo – who are at very different stages of their coaching careers – can form a formidable team.
He said: "I am currently working through my coaching badges but I think the lads will benefit from being coached by somebody who is playing the game at a decent level.
"I think it's important to have that, and it not just be retired players who are not playing the game.
"Mike is a fantastic coach and I think we complement each other perfectly.
"Our coaching styles are different, but our team ethos is the same.
"I am out of my comfort zone, but I like that. I like challenging myself and this is something I really believe in.
"I rang Mike stressing a few times in the early days but he calmed me down and made me see the bigger picture.
For Belshaw, helping the young footballers develop on the pitch is only part of his goal for his fledgling career in coaching
"I came through the system at Notts County and had some of the best coaches around.
"I want to be able to give the same advice I received when I was developing as a player.
"Aged 18 I was offered a pro-contract but I turned it down to go and study in America. Education is important to me and I want it to be for these young lads too.
"I want to see them develop as players, and as men, and I am looking forward to playing a part in that.
"The first session was fantastic and we are working with a number of local clubs to work alongside them.
"We will be having another trial session to start whittling down the numbers and work with these young lads to help them achieve their goals.
"We have got some games lined up against some of the top academies in the country."
The goalkeeper's dedication to the cause for Tamworth has seen him play every minute of competitive action available for his club for over two years. Adding another key commitment to his life will no doubt be undertaken with the same drive and determination that exudes from him unassumingy as we spoke.
"I have a full-time job, I train with Tamworth twice a week and play once or twice a week and now I'll be doing this too," he said.
"But it's something I believe in and I feel it is the right time for me.
"I want to help make a difference to some of these young players and seeing them develop through the programme gives me a huge sense of pride and achievement."