Friday, 10 September 2010

Saving Scottish Football - Part Two: Youth Development

This article probably comes at a time when Scottish Football received arguably it's biggest wake up call after the stuttering 2-1 win over the minnows of Leichenstein.

Immediately, let's scrap the "we've found our level" nonsense and really dig beneath the major problems on the surface of our national game. What embarrassed me the most was the ability for the Leichenstein players to play a very simple pass and move game, where as, we launch the ball up the park in desperation.

Henry McLeish told us in his report that he felt we needed to invest £500m in facilities. I'm not sure I agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I do believe Scotland has enough good facilities, especially with schools. 99% of primary and secondary schools have indoor and outdoor facilities and I would say the money would be better invested maintaining and developing these facilities - especially replacing the blaze surfaces with a proper flat surface. One of the startling things I regularly see is the goalposts being removed from school pitches and the gates being chained up during the summer holidays. Totally sums up this countries attitude towards youth football.

We don't use our school facilities enough in my opinion. Physical Education, from my recent experiences, is something that pupils can actually withdraw from if they do not want to participate. In all honesty, I do not see why this country persists with having Basketball, Badminton and Volleyball as key parts of the PE curriculum. Football is our national sport and, again from my recent experience, the only thing that boys are actually keen on doing. For me, the basic requirement should be that school kids participate in 4 hours of physical activity throughout the school week. Our education system is too concerned with pushing students into the door of university rather than actually bothering about their health and well-being.

School Football was previously seen as something that produced the stars of tomorrow, but sadly, with poor coaching knowledge and poor facilities we have seen the competitive edge of School Football removed. I have seen very good footballers removed from School Football teams due to poor behaviour - something I do not agree with at all. For me, the Scottish FA should be offering free coaching courses for these volunteers who put their time and effort in to running school football teams. If they had any basic knowledge of drills and how to run a team then we might see this begin to thrive again.

Coach Education is clearly a major problem within Scottish Football. I have heard many coaches complain at the poor standard of the coaching courses that are run by the SFA. Again, instead of investing £500m in new facilities which end up charging £100 to rent a pitch, why not invest money in totally revamping our coaching ladder with courses that educate coaches on touch, technique and control. In my opinion, we should be employing full-time SFA coaches that are UEFA qualified to work with kids in primary and secondary schools across Scotland. These people should be out in schools all day and helping coaching teams maybe once or twice at night a week. Even during the holidays, these coaches should be offering 3 and 4 coaching sessions a day rather than just the 1 session that usually the Council offer as part of their summer programme. During the winter, Futsal is something which could be used in the indoor school facilities that we know most schools have.

Until we get rid of the "kick and rush" attitude amongst Scottish coaches we will never see the elite talent coming through. Sadly, players are judged on their physical ability rather than technical ability and that is probably quite evident in the current Scottish national team. We MUST emphasize small-sided games and we MUST emphasize that the ball is infact your friend and you should treat it the best you can rather than kicking lumps out of it. Touch, technique and control are the three basic elements that should be used throughout our coaching system.

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