The first group of players have kicked-off the Scottish FA's North Regional Football Academy.

The new partnership between the Scottish FA, Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen College, Aberdeen Sports Village, The Scottish Football Partnership, and local women's football clubs, provides players with the opportunity to combine football with their studies.

Amongst the first group of players to attend the academy is Scotland Women’s U19 captain, Aberdeen's Rachael Small.

Scotland Women’s U19 national coach, Shelley Kerr, welcomed the first students to their induction at Aberdeen Sports Village. The 59-times capped Scotland defender oversees the academy structure, which also includes a National Academy at Stirling University, and Regional Academies in Dundee and Edinburgh.

The academies offer a training and support programme designed to help talented students to reach their sporting potential. The aim is to help young players to achieve or maintain their selection in Scotland’s national squads, whilst encouraging them to continue their studies in Scotland.

Shelley said: “The creation of the academy structure is a bold and exciting move for women’s football in Scotland.

“If we want to continue to grow the game in this country, it’s essential that our young players have access to the best possible coaching and sports science professionals. And because of the amateur status of the sport, it’s so important that we support players as they pursue their chosen careers.

“We’re very much looking forward to working with Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College, and I have no doubt, that as a result of partnerships like this, we’re building a positive future for the national team, and clubs around Scotland.”

Filippo Antoniazzi, Director of Sport at RGU: SPORT, said: “The new academy will provide fantastic opportunities for young, ambitious players across Aberdeen and beyond. With the facilities and infrastructure that Robert Gordon University has in place, and our track record of supporting up-and-coming Scottish athletes, this is a project that we’re very excited about. We’re looking forward to helping to develop future stars of the Scotland National Teams.”

Moyra Cowie, Lecturer at Aberdeen College said: "This is a tremendous incentive for young women footballers in the North-east and recognises the growing respect for their sport. The Academy has received a great deal of interest from our students and I am delighted that three of the first group of players to attend are from our NC Sport & Fitness course.  The College will be supporting the girls with their training and look forward to sharing our expertise with the other partners in the academy."

As well as specialist coaching, players at the academy benefit from a sports science programme including performance analysis, psychology, strength and conditioning, nutritional advice, and lifestyle management.

To gain entry to the academy, players must have the necessary qualifications to get on to their chosen course at Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University or Aberdeen College (it doesn't need to be a sports-related subject). Their football skills will also be assessed by Scottish FA regional and national staff.