A number of prominent coaches in the girls and women's game travelled to Belgium last week, as a Scottish FA-led delegation attended the Women's Under-19 European Championship on a study trip.
Led by Scottish FA Girls’ and Women’s Performance Manager Michael McArdle and Head of Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football Shirley Martin, the group comprised coaches from some of the countries leading clubs, as well as representatives from Scottish Women's Football and the Scottish FA.
The Coach Education trip - which was funded by Erasmus Plus - marks the latest step as the Scottish FA looks to ramp up the Continued Professional Development (CPD) opportunities available to coaches and staff working within the girls and women's game.
The group attended six matches at the tournament, which was won by Spain, watching all eight teams as the coaches completed different analysis tasks.
The delegation also visited OH Leuven and Anderlecht to hear about their progress in the girls and women's game, while Bart Cauberg and Dr. Anna Stodter were guest speakers - educating on themes including individualisation, recovery, lifelong learning, communication and learning myths.
In addition, the week gave the Scottish FA the opportunity to present to clubs on the Girls and Women's Strategy, 'Accelerate our Game', and on key themes such as environmental sustainability in football. The clubs were also able to inform some of their experiences and practices around the girls and women's game.
Head of Head of Girls’ and Women’s Football Shirley Martin: "It's always a privilege to take in major international tournaments and this was a truly invaluable week for us, both on and off the pitch.
"With only eight teams competing at the finals, we were watching the truly elite sides in Europe and it was an important bench mark to witness as we continue to progress our own national team at youth level."
Scottish FA Girls’ and Women’s Performance Manager, Michael McArdle: "Getting such influential people in the same room - exchanging knowledge and discussing best practice - is crucial as we all work together with the shared aim of elevating the standard of the girls and women's game in Scotland.
"The trip also gave us the chance to explain some of the strategies we are introducing within the girls and women's pathway and we're grateful for the feedback that was provided.
"We extend our thanks to all those who gave up their time to attend and I would also like to praise our hosts in Belgium and the excellent guest speakers who contributed to such an educational week."
Greig Paterson, Head of Coach Education and Development, Scottish FA: “We are always extremely thankful for the funding from Erasmus Plus, which allows us to be somewhat creative in putting these trips together. It affords us the opportunity to bring subsets of coaches together and visit tournaments and clubs abroad, so that we can create an optimum learning environment and share knowledge acquired through travel with peers and colleagues in the game.
"As part of the funding, our UEFA Elite Youth A Licence students will visit SL Benfica later this year as well, and from speaking to our staff on this latest study trip, it seems that they have had a wonderful, rich experience. All those experiences will now be shared in written reports, at staff meetings, and at workshops with colleagues as we seek to implement best practice at our own clubs here in Scotland.”
Jane Bruce, Spartans Academy Manager: "It was incredibly useful to have such an intense learning experience full of varied activities.
"I will look to use the experience to inform how we best focus our efforts on improving the Spartans Girls Academy structure and resources going forward. The trip also reaffirmed for me the importance of creating a positive culture and learning environment at the club, based on strong values so that players and coaches can really thrive and become the best they can be in both their football and wider lives.
"I am thankful to the team at the Scottish FA for providing this great learning opportunity."
Kieron McAneny, Glasgow City Assistant Manager and Under-18 head coach: "The chance to connect and learn made this a memorable experience and something that will continue to aid and push my development as a coach. There were several learning opportunities that I can personally take back to my club and look to implement pushing the development of our own players.
"The insight from Michael and Shirley on the national team set-up, and what goes into the prepping, planning and organising these elite international events, was a highlight for myself. It shows what is required to work at that level. Also, hearing some of the potential opportunities coming in down the line is particular exciting for our game.
"Hopefully everyone involved in the trip learned something from myself - as I definitely learned a great deal from so many other people. It was great to come out of the trip a better coach and person, while new friendships throughout the trip that will be exciting going forward."