We are grateful to Graham Bartlett from Thatcham Tornadoes who put the following together for us.
What's the background of the club?
Thatcham Tornadoes is a Charter Standard Development Club and is proud to champion Grassroots Football in Thatcham and the surrounding area since 1971. Our youngest members start out in our U6 training squad to develop their basic footballing skills. From here, parents take over the running of the squads and teams, supported by the club.
This year, we have over 400 members playing across 32 teams which means more children than ever are pulling on the Amber & Black colours to play football. We have teams playing in the Berkshire County Girls, Reading & West Berkshire, Peter Houseman and Newbury Sunday Leagues and over the summer, many teams take part in various club tournaments.
How is the club set up?
The club is going from strength to strength and like all clubs in the area, we have seen numbers increase year on year. There seems to be more children than ever before wanting to play football. We currently have 31 junior teams from U7 up to U18 plus a U6 training squad.
A Men’s section was added in 2008 as Tornadoes wanted to continue playing for the club beyond the youth teams. They play their matches at Douai Park at the same time as the youth teams and these guys set a fantastic example to the younger players. Now, these players are also getting involved as coaches as their children start their footballing journey – we’re now hitting the third generation of families coaching and/or playing for the club which is fantastic to see.
Girls Football came on board in 2014 and we now have five all-girls teams representing Tornadoes. Since becoming a Sister Club to Reading FC Women in 2016, we have seen the number of girls playing for the club more than double. Our girls have a choice of where they play their football. Most of the Girls choose to play in our girls-only teams whilst others relish the opportunity to play alongside the boys in our Mixed Teams. In some cases, the girls play in both teams with weekend football time managed by their parents!!
Is there any good practice your club has done?
As a club, we are firm believers of putting back into the Community that supports us. We run our Thatcham Tornadoes SPX Charity Speedshot at events throughout the year which raises money for other charities (it is not used to raise money for the club). Since its launch in May 2013, over £8,000 has been raised for various charities – so a big thank you to everyone that has stepped up and taken shots on goal.
Matches cannot take place without referees and we actively encourage our players aged 14 and over to take their Basic Referees Course. We do help subsidise the costs in return for these players refereeing at our tournaments.
Every October we host an Infant Schools Football Festival and welcome children from Years 1 & 2 at local schools. The emphasis is very much on taking part and having fun – everyone is a winner and all players go home with a participation medal – for many, it is their first chance to take part in an organised football event.
Our main Thatcham Tornadoes Tournament takes place in May each year and has gained an enviable reputation of being one of the best organised and well-run tournaments in the area. Last year we welcomed over 230 teams over the weekend. Whilst many teams are from the Thames Valley and Basingstoke/Andover areas, we do get teams travelling from the south coast, London, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire to take part.
With the addition of Girls Teams to the club, we held our first Girls Tournament in June at our Douai Park Home Ground last year. This year will see the tournament grow to include 5 age groups and will form the central part of the Douai Park Fun Day. This year, we will also be celebrating the opening of the new Douai Pavilion.
We run a free six-week Football Summer School each year for Foundation age children. It gives parents and children the opportunity to try football out and see if their children enjoy taking part in an organised football activity before committing and going to any expense.
One Berks & Bucks FA initiative we took advantage of was the offer of 50 hours Coach Mentoring. Our U9 Manager, Gareth Hillen, spearheaded this initiative with Jon Simmons from the BBFA and this proved very beneficial to the club and our coaches. Jon assessed a significant number of the coaches in the club and provided them with feedback. In addition he supported and mentored some of our newer coaches over several weeks. Jon also ran two Coach the Coaches for our coaches which were well attended and the coaches were credited with CPD. If any clubs have the opportunity to take this up in future, go for it! Huge thanks to Jon for the time he spent with our club.
What are your ambitions?
The club has come a long way in 45 years, but there is still a lot more we can do. We will be looking to add more Girls teams to the club over the coming years, and longer term, a Ladies team would be a fantastic addition. We currently have three ladies coaching our teams and would love to welcome more to the club.
Establishing an U21 would be another milestone the club would like to fulfil, however, as we lose a lot of children to university at this age group, this may be quite tricky to achieve. Moving further up the age groups, who knows, maybe we’ll see the addition of a Walking Football team in the club!
Oh, if we’re allowed to include personal ambitions … our Club Secretary, Steve Corcoran, would love to see Wales lift the World Cup!
What does the club need help with?
Our biggest headache each year is securing winter training space for all our teams, especially with the club growing and number of teams increasing. There isn’t enough astro in the West Berkshire area as it’s not just football teams that want to train on all-weather surfaces. If there is an opportunity to have our own astro space somewhere, this would not only benefit us, but also the local community.
Sponsorship for our two Summer Tournaments - the Tornadoes Summer Tournament is the main fund-raiser for our club and this enables us to pay for all teams to train on astro turf over Winter, for coaches to take their coaching qualifications, to invest in equipment for the club and teams and more.
We are extremely lucky as we have a very supportive group of parents who have arranged sponsorship for over 20 of our teams which has been a massive help and we are extremely grateful for their support.
Huge thanks to Thatcham Tornadoes Chairman, Graham Bartlett for putting together this information. For more information, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on either of our Tournaments, please contact Graham via email@example.com: Tornadoes Small-Sided Tournament (U7-U16) – weekend of 13th/14th May 2017 at Kennet School, Thatcham Girls Tournament (U8, U9, U10, U11 & U14) – Sunday 4th June 2017 at Douai Park, Woolhampton (nr Thatcham)
Previous editions of the club profile:
Club Profile- Harchester Hawks
Club Profile- Datchet Village
Club Profile- Tilehurst Panthers