On Saturday, six years of pilot schemes and painstaking preparations will culminate in the induction of seven Regional Performance Schools as part of the Scottish FA’s commitment to elite talent development.
More than £15m has been committed over the next four years by the Scottish FA, with more than 100 of the country’s most promising male and female footballers benefiting from technical, tactical and lifestyle development by specially appointed Scottish FA coaches.
The schools are the crown jewels of the Performance Strategy overseen by Mark Wotte, the Scottish FA’s first-ever Performance Director.
Performance Manager Neil Mackintosh has watched the likes of Paul McMullan and Craig Sibbald flourish from the pilot project at Graeme High School, and he believes the schools will enable Scotland to reach for the stars once again.
“Ultimately, I want to see Performance School players representing Scotland in the World Cup in Qatar in 2022,” he said. “That has to be the objective. The Scottish FA has made a huge commitment and it is important we set out the extent of our ambitions from the outset.”
While the costs are significant in setting up the programme at seven schools, Neil believes the benefits to talented young players will prove priceless.
“The process began six years ago, when we put the first plans together for the pilot initiative at Graeme High School in Falkirk,” he recalled. “That was a leap of faith; for the parents, the pupils, the schools, the teachers and the Scottish FA.
“It has been a resounding success and the benefits of that investment is demonstrated through two young players who have represented their club and their country - Paul McMullan, of Celtic, and Craig Sibbald, of Falkirk.
“The Regional Performance Schools are an extension of that pilot and a culmination of a lot of hard work. The benefits of the schools are obvious. Young players will get double the amount of training and that can only help them develop skills and fitness.
“We conducted research with the help of Stirling University and as well as those sporting benefits there were also improvements in their commitment to the curriculum, overall health, and individual improvements in communication, time planning, problem solving, diet and effort.”
Wotte and Mackintosh’s first task was to consult with educational authorities and local councils for buy-in, which resulted in the schools across the country signing up: Braidhurst High School (Motherwell), Broughton High School (Edinburgh), Graeme High School (Falkirk), Grange Academy (Kilmarnock), Hazelhead Academy (Aberdeen), Holyrood Secondary School (Glasgow) and St John’s High School (Dundee).
The next challenge was appointing a coach to each school. Ray McKinnon, the former Dundee United midfielder, Brian McLaughlin, the former Celtic winger, and Ian Ross, the former St Mirren player, have each been assigned to an RPS. Gordon Craig, Greg Miller and Andrew Goldie bring a wealth of experience in youth coaching to complete the team, with a further appointment to be confirmed tomorrow.
“Mark Wotte summed it up when we recruited the coaches,” said Mackintosh. “He said he was looking for football teachers; coaches who understand the need for young players to develop as people as well as players, to be caring, organised and open minded and allow these young players to flourish. We want to be cutting edge in everything we do and the coaches keep telling me they cannot wait to get started.
“The schools were selected based on criteria agreed with each local authority, including accessibility, travel times, school capacity, support and commitment of teachers and head teachers and, of course, facilities. Above all, the schools’ ethos was important: it was vital that the teachers had a passion for football and understood what we collectively strive to achieve.”
A series of football festivals throughout the country enabled the coaches to select up to 20 pupils per school. “The identification process was fascinating,” said Mackintosh.
“When you are looking at under-12s, talent ID is much more difficult than in later years, when the skill becomes more apparent. I liken it to an iceberg: the top of the iceberg is the performance that everybody can see but the potential is below the water line and is more difficult to witness, and this is the aspect that is likely to be the most important in determining success. We have endeavoured to take into account all the aspects of these young people in our selection process.”
Each school will have a commitment to making football part of the daily curriculum, designed to double the number of sessions for pupils and help them strive for the gold standard of 10,000 hours of practice.
“The timetable will involve a recovery, stretching or hydrotherapy session on a Monday. Tuesday to Thursday will focus on technical and tactical improvement, with Friday a day where the coaches and pupils have individual practice,” said Mackintosh. “The schools will come together and play Best v Best.
“The support from the clubs is vital and has been excellent throughout. Many SPL and SFL clubs have players attending the schools and that shows the importance of the relationship between the clubs and the Scottish FA. We must work together with the same aim: to develop better players at club and international level.”
Regional Performance Schools and Coaches
Braidhurst High School (Motherwell) - Gordon Craig
Broughton High School (Edinburgh) - Greg Miller
Graeme High School (Falkirk) - Ian Ross
Grange Academy (Kilmarnock) - Andrew Goldie
Hazelhead Academy (Aberdeen) - TBC
Holyrood Secondary School (Glasgow) - Brian McLaughlin
St John’s High School (Dundee) - Ray McKinnon
Monday, 06 August 2012
Tuesday, 07 August 2012
Tuesday, 07 August 2012