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Gemma Bonner credits The Leeds United Foundation for the help and support provided to achieve her dreams as she prepares for the inaugural Women's Super League.
The 19-year-old's move to the new FA WSL at Chelsea comes after an impressive 10-year record at Leeds United which includes representing England in two World Cups and three European Championship matches.
Gemma is a shining example of Leeds United's successful Foundation with the club's sports participation programme which enables talented and gifted players to commence a journey to the Girls Centre of Excellence and possible International recognition.
Gemma recently captained the team and cites her main achievements at the club as reaching the FA Women's Cup Final in 2008 and the League Cup Final last year.
The defender was handpicked for success when The Leeds United Foundation - the club's charity arm - spotted her football talents at one of its weekend fun days when she was just nine years old.
The youngster, who attended the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic primary school, was playing local football when she was invited to join the Leeds United Girls Centre of Excellence. Gemma trained at the Girls Centre of Excellence at Thorp Arch from the age of nine to 16 where she honed her football skills and got the opportunity to play against the likes of Arsenal.
Now, Gemma is keen to promote the value of The Leeds United Foundation and the successful female football programme and credits the Girls Centre of Excellence for teaching her about healthy living and improving her self esteem.
"Although I've decided to join the new Women's Super League at Chelsea I've got a lot to thank Leeds United for as they've provided me with fantastic training opportunities and have supported me every step of the way," said Gemma, a sports student at Leeds Metropolitan University.
"My dad's a lifelong Leeds United fan and has been incredibly supportive of my career, travelling everywhere with me, he's very proud.
"I'd encourage anyone to join the Leeds United Centre of Excellence as it's about much more than just football. You learn to be healthy, to work as part of a team and it all helps to raise your self esteem.
"The Foundation and Girls Football also gives women the opportunity to go on to become football coaches which is something I'd like to get into after my football career.
"I'd say the key highlights of my career have been winning the European championships in 2009 and getting to the semi finals of the Under-17s World Cup playing for England. "
The Leeds United Centre of Excellence aims to identify players from its grassroots programme and recruit the most talented girls within the locality of the Centre of Excellence and to develop a pool of talented football coaches.
Through The Foundation, the female and girls section have implemented a comprehensive Coach Mentoring Strategy to promote the development of female coaches and works closely with international teams to make sure players have the opportunity to be scouted.
Mick Ferguson, Head of Community Affairs at The Leeds United Foundation, said: "Gemma Bonner is an example of what can be achieved at the Leeds United Girls Centre of Excellence and we would encourage girls of all ages to get involved through the centre as they can expect to have a bright career ahead of them.
"We are very proud of Gemma's achievements and will be sorry to see her move on, but she's had ten very successful years at the club and we wish her well.
"As a Foundation, we offer opportunities and exit routes as we constantly strive to develop players to a standard consistent with the highest levels in women's football. Our centre of excellence considers the needs of each individual player and takes into account what stage they're at in terms of their growth and maturity.
"We have implemented a football programme aimed at developing young players who have the ability to maximise their potential both in the short and longer term and Gemma Bonner is just one of the success stories to come out of our youth system."
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