BY CHRIS MCNULTY
CHANTELLE Grant has had quite the journey.
The 21-year old from Glencar in Letterkenny lines up for Bonagee United in Sunday’s Glencar Inn Cup final against Fanad United at The Diamond Park, Ballyare, but her voyage there has been via a scenic and educational route.
Now a coach with Finn Harps’ Schools Programme, Chantelle spent 18 months playing for the Chelsea Ladies Academy.
Growing up she had played for Bonagee Ladies and then moved to Lagan Harps’ successful ladies side.
In August 2010, Chantelle moved to England. While with the Chelsea Academy she undertook a Fetac Course in Sport at Kingston College.
Football was her number one, though.
The Chelsea Ladies play their home games at Cobham.
A £20m complex, Cobham is where the Chelsea senior team is based for training. Included on the 140 acre site are 30 football pitches (three with undersoil heating and six to Premier League standard), an indoor artificial pitch, a media centre, a medical centre, gyms, cold immersion pools, a sauna, a steam room, a HydroWorx pool and a 56 ft hydrotherapy pool.
“The facilities there are amazing. It was a big step up from that wee pitch in Manor,” she smiles.
“It was a bit crazy at the start.
“It was daunting. going for pre-season training was a real eye-opener.
“It was a lot different from what I’d been used to before – it was more fast paced and every player was of a top standard. You were just pushing at every training session to make the team for the next game.
“Any slip up at training at all and you’d have been benched. It was tough, but I really enjoyed it.”
The Letterkenny woman headed for London with centre midfield her favoured position; now, she prefers playing as a sweeper.
After returning home last year, Chantelle returned to Letterkenny Institute of Technology where she completed her Degree, a Bachelor of Business with Sports Development and Coaching – she graduates next month.
She fell in love with coaching at an early age.
She said: “Before I went to England and I’d have helped out at the Easter Camps they’d have held.
“I started the degree at LyIT and that kick-started me getting my badges. We had to coach kids for our assessments and it was something I really enjoyed doing.
“When I was in London, I learned so much about coaching – that spell at Chelsea really helped me to that end.
“Ive always enjoyed coaching. I want to do it full time. I’ve done my KickStart 1 and KickStart2 so I’m hoping now to get the Youth Cert now before Christmas.
“You have to be associated with a club because you need to have so many hours of coaching clocked up.
“They recommend that you have a couple of months done before you start into the course.”
One night last winter while scrolling through her Facebook feed, a page caught her eye. The Finn Harps Schools Programme were advertising their activities.
“I thought it was a great chance for me to get experience,” she said.
“I gave John Campbell a ring and asked if I could shadow the boys in schools.
“I me him and they took on board. I haven’t looked back since. We have recently launched the ‘Eat Right Play Right’ programme and that starts back in two weeks time again.”
It is a programme that offers much more than coaching soccer skills.
She explained: “We go into the school and will do a twenty-minute presentation about healthy eating and get the kids to do a worksheet to complete.
“It is really educational and, of course, very beneficial for them. Healthy eating in schools is so important – it gets kids off on the right footing.
“We take for activity too and will have 35-40 minutes of football. It’s something the kids really enjoy.
“Even if soccer isn’t their sport – and there are so many sports out there now – they can at least take the information back into their own games.
“I have GAA and athletics badges too. You try to bring things in from all over. I find the athletics really good because a lot of those drills are about agility, balance and co-ordination – which are all vital for soccer players.”
While based in London, Chantelle worked as a cashier in the kiosks at Fulham’s Craven Cottage ground.
An avid Manchester United fan, the prospect of joining Chelsea was something she didn’t have to think twice about: “It might have been different if it was a Liverpool top – that could have needed persuasion!”
She joined Harps’ coaching staff in January and is based mainly in the Letterkenny area, with coaches taking school groups for six-week blocks at a time.
This Sunday she has the playing hat on.
Bonagee are back with a bang in the Donegal Ladies League again – and they face Fanad in the Glencar Inn Cup final at Ballyare.
The plush surroundings and the diamonds of Cobham it may not be, but Chantelle will feel quite at home at The Diamond Park.
She said: “I love playing, too. I’m one of those people who can’t walk past a football without kicking it.”