We all remember those early days of being involved as a kid at our local club.
Lacing up our boots at the side of the pitch and jumping straight into the action. Trying our best to pull off that latest trick and laughing at our friends falling over as they try the same thing. Running about daft with those very same friends, pretending that the pitch we’re gracing is the hallowed turf of Hampden surrounded by 50,000 fans cheering us on, then heading inside for some food and looking forward to doing it all again the next day.
It’s the very essence of the beautiful game.
With the small-sided games season kicking off in earnest, thousands of young people across Scotland will be given a chance to experience the joy of our game for themselves over the coming months as they take their first steps on their footballing journey.
The Player Pathway, which has evolved to provide fun, age and stage appropriate games, is a core component of the Scottish FA’s ethos of allowing young children to enjoy the game in a relaxed environment, building their love of the game and their skills in tandem. Developed in conjunction with the Scottish Youth FA and Scottish Women’s Football, the Pathway relies on the care and attention of parents, coaches and volunteers continuing their support by allowing young players to flourish without any external pressure. At its heart, the message “Let Them Play” aims to ensure that football remains a fun and enjoyable environment for all of Scotland’s young people.
“The Let Them Play campaign is about encouraging grassroots leaders and coaches to provide an environment where young players can thrive, allowing them to play freely, make decisions, solve problems and be creative,” said Scottish FA Head of Football Development Andy Gould.
“Providing young players with an enjoyable and supportive environment allows them to take the first step on their footballing journey, with each step aiding not only their footballing progression but also their development as individuals.”
Beginning with boys between the ages of six and eight and girls in the seven to nine age range, the first stage on the pathway focuses purely on the enjoyment of the game, with 4v4 and 5v5 allowing for greater freedom of expression and a higher frequency of touches on the ball.
The pathway then progresses to 7v7 matches for 9-12 year-old boys and 10-13 year-old girls, as young players begin to develop their skill-set and confidence whilst remaining within a fun environment.
Enjoyment remains at the heart of the Player Pathway, however, something that Gould is quick to emphasise.
“The most important element in a young player’s development is ensuring that their enjoyment of the game remains undiminished. This starts with the grassroots leaders, coaches and parents taking a step back and allowing them to play on their own terms” he said.
“Our work with the National Player Pathway, as well as the workshops provided to support grassroots leaders and coaches across Scotland, is rooted in making sure that the football community is one within which children from all communities can play, feel safe, confident, relaxed and ready to create magic of their own and build their dreams for the future.
“Parents, coaches and grassroots volunteers nationwide are helping to foster a lifelong love for the sport amongst our young footballers, simply by letting them play.”