A Billingham teenager is flying the flag for the area as she lines up a promising England football career whilst singing the praises of NCS, a government-backed youth programme available to all 16-17 year olds.

Lioness Eleanor Dale, 17, claims completing National Citizen Service (NCS) last summer helped her achieve new success and set her confidence soaring, making her feel ‘unstoppable’ and ready to take on new challenges.

In May, Eleanor was selected and played for the England Women’s Under-17s squad for the UEFA European Championships in Bulgaria, donning the famous number nine shirt.

Reflecting on her NCS experience, Eleanor said:

“I really enjoyed my experience with NCS. It has thrown a lot of challenges at me and also gave me many opportunities to form new friendships and go on some amazing trips.

“I would definitely say that some of the skills I gained from NCS have helped my approach to football as I was entering a new team. I took the social skills that I had learnt from the summer into this to allow me to make new friends easier. Also the programme has allowed me to realise the importance of the team and that you are much more successful at challenges when working together and all getting along. Plus this makes everything more enjoyable.

“NCS has also taught me to not be scared of getting out of my comfort zone, as on NCS this is something which you really develop from and helps you adjust to new circumstances quickly.”

Eleanor took part in NCS with local provider Hartlepool United Community Sports Foundation (HUCSF). NCS brings young people together with outdoor team-building, a residential to hone life skills and community-based social action.

Following the programme, Eleanor has also taken part in graduate opportunities with NCS, including a volunteering trip to South Africa in April.

HUCSF’s NCS Manager Vicki Burton said:

“Eleanor is a very talented young lady; her social skills, resilience and effort were absolutely fantastic and she was able to lead the group as well as supporting others to do so.

“As someone who has a big background in football, I know that it is not just footballing talent that gets young players to the very top, but actually a significant amount is down to their character, desire and determination to get there and Eleanor certainly has that in abundance.”

Looking to the future, Eleanor added:

“Life after NCS feels exciting for me. This season has been my first one with Middlesbrough Women FC and I have been very successful and had the honour of making my England debut and going to the Euros finals this year.

“My aspirations for the future are to be as successful as I can in football which will hopefully result in a professional career as well as playing in as many international fixtures and tournaments as I can because they are priceless experiences.”

NCS takes place during the summer holidays, with a limited number of places remaining for Teesside teenagers. Visit NCSYES.co.uk to find out more or to book a place. Bursaries are available for young people in receipt of free school meals.