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A teenage volunteer in the Scottish FA’s South East region has told how his experience working with football coaches in the area has inspired him to pursue a career in the game.

16-year-old Darren McCraw is a former pupil of a School of Football in Midlothian.

The schools – run nationwide by the Scottish FA - develop the social and academic skills of boys and girls during their first and second year of high school by offering football coaching sessions within their timetable. The programme sits within the standard school curriculum alongside other subjects such as maths and English.

Darren said that gaining entry onto the programme changed his attitude towards attending school.

“I had anger issues when I was younger and didn’t like going to school,” he said.

“Thankfully I got on the School of Football programme where I worked with some superb coaches.

“I started to feel comfortable in my surroundings and knew I was in a place where I could develop as a result. “

Darren, who plays for Edina Hibs Rhinos, impressed Scottish FA player and coach development officer Chris Smith who runs the School of Football at Newbattle High.

Chris said: “Firstly, as a person, he was a genuinely nice kid, however he was prone to a sulk and an argument like a number of kids can be at that age.

“A lot of the players looked up to him as he was one of the most talented players in the group.

“I saw the benefits he would gain from some extra responsibility and so I had him help out with some of the coaching.”

This opportunity to take on a coaching role proved to be the break Darren needed.

“It was great to be able to get involved in some coaching,” Darren said.

“To have a coach put faith in me really gave me a confidence boost.”

Chris then helped him get on the CashBack volunteer programme.

This is an initiative funded by the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities fund which takes funds recovered from the proceeds of crime and invests them into free activities and programmes for young people across Scotland.

The programme offers people aged between 16 and 25 the chance to gain coaching certificates, free of charge, through volunteering at grassroots clubs or Scottish FA community schemes.

To get involved in the programme, contact the South East office on 0131 667 8245 or email:

“The skills I picked up during my time at the School of Football gave me the confidence to get on the volunteer programme,” explained Darren.

“I learnt the importance of determination, self-discipline, leadership and communication.”

It was during this time that he met Hibs legend and Scottish FA/Midlothian Council football development officer Keith Wright.

“Darren impressed me with his enthusiasm for coaching and dedication to improving as a coach,” Keith said.

“I gave him the opportunity to help out with my summer and Easter holiday programmes.

“He’s also been involved with delivering Midnight Leagues and coach education programmes.

“I think he’s flourished as a coach and as a person during his volunteering.

“It’s great to see what can be achieved when mentors offer young people some responsibility and opportunity.”

Darren is aiming to head to the United States soon where summer soccer camps offer aspiring football coaches the chance to develop their skills.

“After that, I want to come back and study sports management at university and then, hopefully, become a coach with the Scottish FA.

“I’d say to any young person interested in football coaching to apply for the volunteer programmes at the Scottish FA.

“You meet professional coaches who offer a lot of useful advice. It’s a way into football coaching which you might not otherwise have.”