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Soccer stalwart Ben Harris announced as community participation officer in the Great Southern

Calvin SimsAlbany Advertiser
Great Southern community participation officer Ben Harris
Camera IconGreat Southern community participation officer Ben Harris Credit: Football West

Football West has appointed long-time soccer devotee Ben Harris as the new community participation officer in the Great Southern.

The Albany Caledonians’ stalwart moved to Albany at the age of 12 and spent more than a decade playing and coaching in the UK and in Perth before making the move back to the region in 2020.

The 39-year-old said he was excited to be appointed and believed the benefits of being involved with the world game are wide-ranging.

“I’m a big fan of developing young people and football for me is a vehicle to develop life skills, such as resilience, physical and mental health, building friendships and increasing social skills,” he said.

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“I love football but bigger than that is building community and building a positive culture so this opportunity is a bit of a dream.”

Harris said the high levels of participation at a junior level boded well for the future growth of the game in the Great Southern and beyond.

“Youth football is my passion and there is a lot of potential down here in Albany and in Denmark and Mt Barker, too,” he said.

“The junior base is really strong, and Albany has more registered football players than any other code.

“Everybody knows me in football down here, which is really helpful.

“I was on the junior executive with Albany Junior Soccer Association last year and previously I ran an academy and at its peak, we had 200 kids.

“When they get to 14, 15, or 16, the ones that are really talented stay in the game and we’ll always lose kids who turn 17 and go to Perth for university.

“It’s the others who play for fun or with their mates, it’s about ensuring they have the core skills and stay involved.

“Coach development is a big part of that but they must have fun to come back.”

Harris will facilitate the Talent Support Program for boys and girls aged 13-16, a program that offers players specialised training in addition to what they do with their clubs, and the skill acquisition program which is open for nine- to 12-year-olds.

“Down the line, I’m also keen to set up a starter program for three-to-five-year-olds, plus getting an indoor five-a-side or futsal competition off the ground,” Harris said.

“I recognise the more we can offer players, the more engaged they are.

“You only had to look at the recent Regional Festival of Football to see how much people here support the game.

“There were two really good quality NPL games and the youngsters loved it, they mobbed the Perth Glory players at the end while the feedback we got from the schools and other stakeholders on the clinics and workshops was very positive, it bodes well.”

Football West general manager of football Perry Ielati said it was a great appointment for the region.

“It is exciting to have somebody of Ben’s talents and local knowledge to run our football programs in the Great Southern,” he said.

“He is a great asset, not only for the football community in the region but also for Football West, it is great to have him on board.”

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