Aaron's legacy lives on through football academy

Bucks Free Press: Youngsters from the Aaron West Academy Youngsters from the Aaron West Academy

A DETERMINED mum wants to ensure her son's legacy continues now that a football academy set up in his memory has firmly established itself.

The Amersham-based Aaron West Goalkeeping Academy is going from strength to strength three years on from Aaron's death, even employing a professional coach to help teach youngsters.

A promising goalkeeper himself, Aaron wanted to set up an academy to give young footballers the benefit of the training he never received himself.

It finally got off the ground after a year and a half, and 18 months later it is now flourishing.

His mum, Dax, admitted it had been a struggle to get the academy up and running - but all the hard work has been worth it after seeing what it has become.

She said: "We remembered what he wanted and listened to what he said to other people. I took what I could on board and learnt from that, and with everybody's help and advice took it to where it is today.

"It's been really hard, especially when you don't understand football. The people I've asked have all been mums and they've got no idea how to do it either. It's basically been remembering what Aaron wanted, hope it's the way he wanted it, and asked questions.

"We've had lots of children go through the academy as they've got older. It's going really well now as word's got out. It's all word of mouth - parents talk to other parents and more children are joining us slowly.

"It's been a real learning curve. I have been doing things I never thought I would - getting people I have never spoken to before on board to help get things done and asking for help, which I don't do. It's made me a stronger person."

Aaron was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer in 2010 at the age of 16, dashing his hopes of making it as a professional player after being invited to join in training at the Watford FC academy.

Determined not to let the illness beat him he took his GCSEs at The Amersham School while undergoing chemotherapy, and continued to look at college courses with the intention of getting his coaching badges to teach youngsters the art of goalkeeping.

The first stage of raising the money needed to get the project off the ground came from a charity game in October 2010 - but Aaron lost his battle against the disease two days before it was played, meaning the match instead became a tribute to him.

Dax said: "For six months I had the emotional side of a grieving mum but also respecting people's wishes and wanting to make it happen, to show that's where their money was going.

"It was easy to raise money at the beginning because everyone wanted to do everything and be part of it. As time's gone on people have moved on and there's a new generation who've moved in and they don't know about Aaron, and he's the reason behind it.

"It was Aaron's dream, not mine. He was working towards his exams and reading up on college courses when his illness took him and he wasn't around."

She said: "He researched it [becoming a coach] when he was 13-14 and there was nothing out there. Being a goalkeeper himself he thought, 'I haven't had any training' and he realised that's what he wanted to do. He wanted to teach kids and to do that he needed to be professional. That was his aim.

"He didn't ask me, 'Can you do this for me?' because he wasn't afraid of dying."

After the initial struggle to raise money the academy has been given a boost in recent months with the arrival of coach Mikhael Jaimez-Ruiz, who has played professionally for Aldershot Town and AFC Wimbledon.

Dax said: "He is doing it from the heart - he's been the main driving force behind it.

"The hardest thing has been to take a step back because Mikhael knows what he's doing. I have done what I can and he's taking it to the next step.

"I'd love to have Aaron back so I can say, 'Look at what we've done for you', but it doesn't happen that way."

The Aaron West Academy is a registered charity and it costs between £3,000 and £4,000 to run it each term.

Dax said: "Charities take so long to build up what they are. We are still taking baby steps but we're getting there."

The Aaron West Academy is open to children of all abilities aged from 8-16 wanting to become goalkeepers. For more information go to www.facebook.com/AaronWestsGoalkeepingAcademy or contact daxey.40@tiscali.co.uk or 07771530420.

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