Fun Fours football in Dundee is thriving.
The tailor-made environment for teaching five to eight year-olds skills previously picked up on the streets has a home at the Dundee International Sports Centre on Saturday mornings which the Scottish FA runs – in partnership with local authorities – nationwide.
200 children from across the city play in small sided games designed to provide more touches of the ball, greater chances for 1 v 1s, opportunities to make on-field decisions and, most importantly, make playing football fun.
The programme has been running in the City of Discovery for three years and has gained a reputation for providing children with a positive and friendly environment to play football.
Explaining the success of the format, Al West - the Fun Fours co-ordinator who puts it all together - said: “I think the big thing has been the Positive Coaching Scotland (PCS) programme.
“The kids come from eight of the Quality Mark clubs in Dundee and play in a non-pressure environment, so there is very little drop-out. The kids are encouraged to express themselves. It’s not about winning.”
With all clubs having Quality Mark accreditation, there is a guarantee that the PCS philosophy – which advocates the importance of creating an encouraging environment for children to play football in – is instilled.“This gives added appeal,” Al said. “All coaches have had come through the same coach education courses so everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
“There are no arguments, there’s no aggression, it’s a safe and fun environment.”
Working alongside Al is Gavin Tinley – football development officer for the Scottish FA and Leisure and Culture Dundee.
“This programme has gone from strength to strength over the years because it is a format which works,” Gavin said.
“We have had great support from the clubs in Dundee who buy into what we have created.”
Watching from the side lines is a large crowd of parents – a group who have been impressed with the programme.
Paul Gordon, whose stepson plays for Dundee United Social Club, said: “We never had this when I was a kid.
“What they are doing is absolutely incredible. I’m 31 now and I just went straight in at 11-a-side when we were kids.
“Now you have this, then 7s at under-9s then 11-a-side for under-13s.
“I think it’s the best way for children to learn the game early on the right way.”
Former Aberdeen and Scotland international Phil Maguire takes his two sons along each Saturday.
“I really like this format,” he said. “It’s a good sized pitch and is competitive without being over the top.
“There’s a good atmosphere here which the boys like.”
Keep up-to-date with the latest football activities in the East region on Twitter @sfa_east