Young Chelsea ladies star ‘proud’ and ‘privileged’ following SSE Next Generation selection

Young Crawley footballer Zoe Cross insists her career can hit new heights after being selected for a prestigious athlete support scheme, an opportunity that came at the perfect time after she began training with the Chelsea Ladies first team.

Cross, 18, is one of just 100 young athletes who will receive specialist mentoring, nutritional advice, media training and financial support from the SSE Next Generation programme, which identifies the potential podium stars of the future.

Earlier this month, she attended a workshop at the SSE Arena Wembley, where she had the opportunity to meet two-time Paralympic silver medallist Libby Clegg.

And with the support of the scheme guiding her through the early stages of her career, Cross, who also plays for England under-19s, admits the future looks bright with SSE by her side.

“I think the scheme is amazing. I started off in sport young and it’s quite hard for me to get into football, so they help with all my expenses as well as giving me the information to help me perform to the best of my ability,” she said.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to take and I look forward to receiving their support for the rest of the season.

“I’m really proud to have been chosen for this scheme. They only support 100 athletes so I feel privileged and I’ll definitely use their support as well as I can in order to help me.

“The workshop has been a great experience and I’ve learnt a lot, especially with the nutrition workshop because it is obviously very important for an athlete and we’ve had some tips that we might not get at home and new recipes that will help me perform at my maximum.

“Time management has also been really helpful because as an athlete, we’ve got a lot to juggle, like friends, family and school so I think that will be very beneficial.”

As well as her Paralympic achievements, Clegg is also a Commonwealth Games champion and a five-time World Championship medallist, meaning she has a wealth of experience to pass on to the athletes of the future.

And she insists after receiving the support of SSE and SportsAid throughout her career, she is only too happy to give something back.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting the athletes over the years and I want to continue to get involved, inspire kids and pass on any advice I can,” she said.

“When I was growing up I never had any mentoring, any schemes or workshops that I could attend, so this is absolutely amazing.

“I wish I would’ve had something like this when I was younger, it would’ve made a world of difference.

“When you’re younger you sometimes think things are a lot bigger deal than they actually are, so it’s quite nice to talk to somebody that has already experienced those things, to pass on that knowledge and tell you the mistakes they made in the past.

“It’s great for the parents too, to be able to pick the brains of former athletes, ones that are there at a high level still – it’s a fantastic opportunity for them.”

SSE’s Next Generation programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future. Keep up to date with the latest @SSENextGen

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