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Youth Development Proposal: A Scottish Football Academy

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As we have covered on this site, Scottish Football is at its lowest ebb ever. We won’t rehash our articles, but what we will do is add our two pence worth into a proposal for the development of our youth system in Scotland.

One major reason why our youth system is failing is because of the lack of dedication from the new generation. The generation of PlayStation’s, Mobile Phones and the internet. I might sound like an auld fuddy-duddy, but only twenty years ago – when I was hitting my teenage years – I would spend every moment I had playing football with my mates whether it was at school or after homework and my dinner, whether it was sunny, windy or raining. We would use broken bottles and dog sh*t to hone our dribbling skills and not shirk out of tackling on red ash pitches, with our blooded thighs, knees and arms testament to how psychotic or brave we were going into challenges.

This generation prefers to do their dribbling with their thumbs, playing the likes of FIFA 11 or Pro Evolution Soccer. Councils are selling off parks and grassland to property developers to fill their coffers, and what grass there is available has a No Ball Games sign planted in it. And we wonder why our game has been in decline over the decades.

The purpose-built Toryglen centre near the national stadium is a superb facility, but we need many more of these facilities all over the country if we are to hone the skills of the youngsters in our nation.

But I have a radical solution to aid our nation’s youth development. Why not have a purpose-built Scottish Football Academy – a school and football centre in one. However I will provide evidence of a school that is already within our borders that can be used as an example.

School of Sport

While a Scottish Football Academy is a radical idea, it is not that radical as Scotland has already has an example to follow. In the grounds of Bellahouston Academy, Scotland has its first school dedicated to Sport, a first for Glasgow and a first for Sport also.

The School of Sport is the only school in Britain which helps up and coming sports stars to become better at their chosen sport. The school aims to nurture that talent and provide the best possible opportunities for the development of these future sports stars.

Bellahouston Academy has over 900 pupils, with that 132 of them are specialist sports pupils.

The school was set up in 1999 and is funded by the Scottish Government, run as a partnership between Education and Social Work services and Glasgow Sport.

The specialist sports pupils are first and foremost pupils of Bellahouston Academy and follow a curriculum that is balanced between their academic studies and their chosen sport.

These sports pupils receive coaching within the school day, carefully timetabled around their academic subjects. This provision is intended to ensure the pupils are given the opportunity to develop their sporting talents along with their academic education.

The School of Sport specifically focuses on five specialist sports – Athletics, Badminton, Gymnastics, Hockey and Swimming. Pupils can only specialise in one sport and entry to the school is by selection only, so they teach sports like swimming to girls from young age to create team sports for both genders, and parents can easily get Swimwear for Baby Girls online for this purpose.

A Badminton set is one of the most popular sporting goods. Badminton is supposedly one of the most played outdoor games in the world. Badminton is a game in which you need not have any professional training to play. Whether it is a picnic or a small family outing a badminton set is your companion for a day of fun. Badminton is one of the most famous and popular games over a thousand of sporting activities in the world. Badminton games can be stand with or without any professional training. Hence, you may enjoy this game everywhere with a court size space. Any outgoing activities may have a badminton set as a good companion for the day of fun. A good player will always come along with a complete good badminton set! Here is the best badminton sets for 2020 reviews.

The School has some of the best high performance coaching teams in Scotland, who have competed or coached at the top-level in their sport and have received top coaching awards. This team develops and delivers specialist individual programmes to pupils to aid their development.

How successful has the School been?

The school has had over 60 pupils represent Scotland in their sport. With pupils and former pupils representing Scotland at the Commonwealth games, Youth Olympics and other top sport competitions.

The School of Sport provides a full range of support services to ensure that pupils are fully supported in reaching their potential. There is a Strength and Conditioning Team who work alongside each sport tailoring the strength and conditioning requirements to the needs of each sport and developing individualised personalised programmes as pupils move through the school.

They are monitored closely and there is a comprehensive fitness testing programme in place to ensure athletes are fit for their sport. A sports nutritionist and sport psychologist also visit the School of Sport on a regular basis. The National Stadium Sports Medicine Centre at Hampden provides injury diagnosis and rehabilitation for pupils who become injured.

A Scottish Football Academy

The School of Sport may focus on five sports, why not have a school dedicated solely to Football – it is the national sport after all.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the lottery fund, the SFL, SPL and the SFA the academy would encompass the academic building dedicated to following the Scottish education curriculum, subjects such as Mathematics, Science, English etc. And importantly the Football Academy, which would mirror that of the Toryglen facility plus top coaching by those who have played and coached at the highest levels of the game.

The Academy would be run by a board made up of a member from each of the following – Education board, government, SPL, SFL and the SFA. It would not be controlled by any one body, but ran by all bodies through the board.

Academy facility

  • Indoor synthetic football pitch
  • Outdoor synthetic football pitches
  • Outdoor grass pitch
  • Gym – Strength & Condition zone
  • Seven a side pitches

The academy would be for two sets of pupils – day pupils and boarders. The Day pupils are those who live in the surrounding areas and who have gained selection to the academy, while the boarders stay on the school grounds during term time. These pupils would be selected from all over the country to attend the academy and the process would focus specifically on football ability, with the addition that the school helps the pupils to gain academic qualifications also.

Pupils from the ages of 6 to 16 are eligible to gain entry to the school. At the age of 16 after taking their Standard Grades, they can progress to clubs up and down the country through an NFL-style draft system with clubs picking players,which I have been informed means the lowest ranking side would select a player first. Or the clubs could be drawn out of the hat in the order they would pick their player – first out of the hat chooses.

For every pupil signing terms with clubs – a transfer or compensation fee is paid – which would be ploughed back into the school to cover costs such as wages, maintenance etc. These promoted pupils will then either join the club youth system, reserves [if it has been reinstated]or the first team.

The pupils at the age of 16 can of course sign professional terms with Scottish clubs, but the major issue that our game has currently is our talent being nicked by English clubs for pennies. So in order to curb such an issue – every pupil would sign a contract and if an English club comes in for them, said English or foreign club then needs to meet a clause in that contract which would be significantly more than what a Scottish club would pay for said pupil/player.

Given the money in the English game such an increase in compensation would not be a significant hindrance to the clubs, but it would provide our game and specifically the academy will significant funds.

As for the staff for such an academy. The academic side would consist of teachers that you would find in any school in the country, and who would follow the Scottish curriculum. For the football side of things, the academy would hire coaches from across the UK, as well as Europe.

Pupils at entry-level would train the same way as those at exit level, a system that the Ajax academy installs throughout its teams, however entry level pupils up to the age of 10 would focus mainly on the basics of the game – first touch, passing and movement. 11-16 year olds would then focus on honing these skills and starting to develop players into positions based on physique, mentality, ability and speed.

Each pupil would have individual training and dietary plans.

  • Technical, positional play, power, agility, mental side of the game
  • Personal development plan per player
  • Dietary advice, if required

As I said earlier, this is merely a proposal for the people in power to consider. They can look at it from every angle, break it down, research and develop every aspect of such an idea. But such an academy would make sure future Scottish football talent has the dedication that for the most part would be missing from those who are outwith the academy. It’s a start isn’t it?

Readers Suggestions

It’s fairly elitist though and could exclude many hundreds of lads at boys clubs up and down the country.

The problem is the age that we consider grass roots to be; too many believe pro-youth or the 11-16 age group is where it starts. I’m afraid that concentrating efforts here means spending many a precious training hour correcting bad technique.

Invest money into producing top coaches then assign these coaches to the 6-10 age group allows you yo instill the very essentials of football; first touch, passing and movement. Once these players have these skills under their belt progression will begin and valuable hours at 11-16 can be spent honing these skills and starting to develop players into positions based on physique, mentality, ability and speed. Just my thoughts!

– David Charles

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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