Over 70 aspiring young Rovers players were given a fantastic insight into what it takes to become a professional footballer when Elliott Bennett joined them for a virtual Q&A.
The Rovers skipper spent over an hour speaking to the Academy youngsters online, offering invaluable advice about the hard work required and the sacrifices that need to be made to make it to the top.
Bennett, who has made over 450 career appearances and played Premier League football with Norwich City, was asked to take part in the session by Rovers’ Head of Academy Coaching Tony Carss, who has been running a full online programme for all the Academy players, from Under-9s to Under-18s, since the season was suspended due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
“What was really important to us as staff was that we created a really positive learning experience for the players during this difficult time,” said Tony.
“The key to this was developing a varied and stimulating programme for the players and giving them something different that would be both memorable and beneficial towards their development and Academy experience.
“We wanted to connect with the players and parents on different levels by doing things like family quizzes and family HIIT sessions, in amongst the players’ technical and physical programmes.
“As well as connecting the players and their families to the Academy, it was also important to connect them to the club and the first team. The quizzes we did linked heavily to the first team and some of the club’s recent history, such as the 1994-95 Premiership title-winning season.
“Alongside that, I felt I would be great if we could set up a Q&A for our Under-13 to Under-18 players with a member of the first team. Elliott was more than happy to join us and speak about his experiences and his career.
“What came across strongly was Elliott’s passion and love of the game, along with his enthusiasm for wanting to pass on his knowledge to our young players. For us as an Academy, we are extremely grateful to Elliott for giving up over an hour of his time and the key and inspirational messages he gave will be invaluable for the players going forward in their development.
“He is a fantastic role model for all of our young players who aspire to follow in his footsteps.”
Bennett was only too happy to share his experiences and offer some words of advice, which he hopes will benefit the boys going forward in their careers.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. “It was really good to see so many of our younger players taking an interest and wanting to learn from my experiences.
“To have 70 young players listening and asking questions was a really good experience for me and I just hope that some of them took some bits away from it and think about how certain things might work for them and how they can apply those things to their mindset.
“I made it quite clear that I was never the best player in my age group, but my sheer will and determination to try and be the best Elliott Bennett possible has helped me get to where I am today.”
The 31-year-old, who sees his role as club captain going beyond just his performances on the pitch, added: “Things like this are massively important.
“Of course, I want to play well on the pitch and do well for the lads, but when you’re not playing at any given time, I still feel like I’ve got a role to play in the dressing room and in the club as a whole, whether that be with the Academy or around the building.
“I like to try and help as many different people as I can, especially when you’re not playing, as is the case now, so I think it’s really important to stay connected to people who are also missing football. For some people, football is their release and the one thing they look forward to each week and that’s obviously been taken away from them at the minute, so if I can help people in any way I’ll always try and do it.”