During the August bank holiday, Gen Z football brand Rising Ballers & Sports Direct hosted the inaugural Trenches 2022 Showcase. Taking place in West London, the showcase brought together 64 of the best unsigned male & female footballers in the country.
Being scouted to join a professional football club can be seen as an elusive achievement. Most football players are scouted at a very young, and occasionally you will hear of a player like Jamie Vardy breaking through at an older age. The Trenches Showcase was designed to connect elite talent with elite clubs, something fresh and rarely achieved in grassroots football.
The completely free showcase event was the finale of the Rising Ballers x Sports Direct Trenches initiative; an annual campaign each preseason featuring Premier League & WSL footballers. The Trenches taps in to Gen Z’s constant aim for self-improvement. Aspiring players across the country that follow Rising Ballers & Sports Direct receive free football drills, challenges, interviews and more each season. This year, Rising Ballers x Sports Direct Football wanted to go further than content, connecting professional scouts with unsigned talents. The event draws parallels to the widely acclaimed NFL Combine in the US.
The inaugural Trenches Showcase saw thousands of entries, narrowed down to 32 male & 32 female players aged 16-24. Alongside the game, players were treated to inspiring talks from professional footballers Chris Forino (Wycombe Wanderers defender) & Hannah Godfrey (Charlton Athletic & Scotland national team defender).
Both fixtures on both days were very competitive, and the scouts down on the day were impressed. Most importantly, several players impressed on the day. Alongside receiving positive feedback from attendees on the day, the event had follow-through. Multiple players were noted down by clubs in attendance, with 3 players being scouted for follow-ups and potential trials.
Beckie Stanion, Chief Marketing Officer at Sports Direct, commented: “A huge ambition of ours is to be able to create equal opportunities and provide solutions to accessibility issues in sport – which is why we’re so passionate about events like this. Working with a brand like Rising Ballers allows us to tap into the stories and energy of the Gen Z demographic, and days like this just goes to show how much untapped talent there is. In being able to provide these players with genuine connections, which up until this point they wouldn’t have had access to, is a real game changer.
“Once a teenager leaves secondary school, pathways are limited” says Eni Shabani, Director & Founder of Rising Ballers. “Most scouting is done ages 5-13, leaving players 14+ to fall through the cracks. There’s been a lack of opportunity for young players across London, especially amidst COVID where things were particularly difficult. A showcase event like this, totally free, breaks down barriers and provides hope for young players. The level on each day was very high, and to see scouts from the Premier League & WSL through to League 2 follow up with us and provide positive feedback is testament to how important this initiative is.”
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