The Scottish FA's devotion to grassroots football and personal development grows stronger by the year. This season, three different initiatives will encourage new faces to the game and improve the skills of those who are already involved.
McDonald’s, an old friend and partner of Scottish football, recently announced its continued long-term commitment to improving the standard of grassroots football in the UK with the renewal of its partnership with the four home nations' Football Associations, including the Scottish FA, for a further four years.
A new, participation-based programme called Fun Football aims to provide five million hours of football activity for the first time for over 500,000 children across the UK by 2022, "a massive undertaking" according to Andy Gould, Head of Football Development at the Scottish FA.
Another initiative is the 'PCS Plus for Football' training programme for coaches across Scotland, which is a result of a continued partnership between the Scottish FA and the Winning Scotland Foundation.
The revamped content of its five workshops – Mastery, Mindset, Confidence, Life Skills and Values – aims to provide coaches, parents, leaders and volunteers with new skills and expertise.
Meanwhile, Donald Gillies, head of girls' and women's football at the Scottish FA, oversaw 24 coaches, coordinators and national team staff involved in Scotland women’s football during eight days in France to learn from the FIFA Women’s Under-20s World Cup.
The visit was courtesy of funding from the European Union Programme Erasmus+ until 2020 with the aim of continuing the Scottish FA's impressive coach education development.
GRASSROOTS | Caroline Weir & Charlie Mulgrew helped announce our new four year deal with our grassroots partner McDonald’s last week.— Scottish FA (@ScottishFA) 9 August 2018
The new @FunFootballUK programme will provide five million hours of football to children at grassroots level.
➡️ More: https://t.co/exWMHA6CbK pic.twitter.com/bZQLtrbgdF
McDonald's has been a long-standing supporter of the game in Scotland and, in particular, are synonymous with grassroots football.
Their most recent initiative will encourage a wider base of aspiring young footballers from Dumfries to Thurso to get involved and enjoy football for what it is - a game.
"We are targeting kids who want to get into clubs but can't due to capacity, or maybe parents who are not sure about club football," says Gould , speaking about McDonald's 'Turn Up and Play' scheme.
"There is less pressure on the kids. They come and play different games, with no pressure and expectations; they just play.
"It will be a nationwide programme aimed at creating opportunities for boys and girls to fall in love with football.
"The end game is to have more people playing football. We are really excited. Clubs are thrilled by it. People can sign up on-line at the Scottish FA's website or even turn up on the day."
The PCS Plus For Football initiative is a brainchild of former Scotland rugby player, Sir Bill Gammell, and will enable clubs to ultimately carry out their own expansion and development.
Gould said: "Gammell wanted to find some way to give something back to sport, to encourage people to become leaders and entrepreneurs. He discovered this initiative in America called positive coaching alliance.
"He liked it and invested in bringing it to Scotland and it has been rebranded as Positive Coaching Scotland (PCS). It is wider than just football - it can be applied to other sports like rugby and athletics.
"It has been ready for a revamp. There is brand new investment and we are looking at three phases.
"Phase one will see 12 workshops being made available across Scotland between now and the end of the year, which any coach at any level can book on to for free.
"In phase two we are going to change our approach. It is about enabling. We will say, 'here is all the material, send someone, we will train you and now go and do it for yourself. If you truly believe in it, go and do it for yourself'.
"It is mainly focused on coaching so phase three will probably help us reach parents more by develop an E-learning version.
"It is about philosophy, giving coaches more tools to make it about longer-term thinking as opposed to the short term and really emphasising the importance of practice while understanding and embracing the idea that making mistakes is part of learning.
"We want these tools to be available for everyone from academy coaches who work with elite players, to grassroots coaches that take an under-9's girls team".
Gould has witnessed radical changes in perception of Scottish football since he became involved in grassroots football in 2000.
Where once Scandinavian clubs were providing a lot of ideas for best practice for Scotland to follow, now Scotland is pioneering new projects such as PCS, which has stuck a chord with the Norwegian FA's Head of Grassroots football, Alf Hansen.
"He visited as part of UEFA to hear about PCS Plus and he was very enthusiastic about it. People outside Scotland look at what we do and want to take it back to their countries.
“It is very encouraging that we now have those kind of clubs and find that what we do in grassroots football is held in very high regard across Europe.”
There are more females playing in Scotland than ever before and consequently the drive to improve the coaching they receive is being ramped up by the Scottish FA.
Gillies highlights the growth in girls' and women's football with some pretty impressive figures.
He said: "We have over 12,500 registered players at the end of 2017 between ourselves and Scottish Women's Football (SWF).
"Five years ago we had around 6,500 to 7,000 so the numbers are increasing every year and that is providing us more scope to develop our work.
"We work together to provide an all-round package for the girls and women's game, whether that is a five-year-old girls coming into the game for the first time or 55-year-old females who just want to play every now and then. We will continue providing opportunities and raising the standards and hopefully that number will continue to increase.
"The numbers are going in the right direction, so we want to make sure we are developing the coaches to help push them on."
The visit to the FIFA Women’s Under-20s World Cup, which was won by Japan, saw coaches from all levels of women's football in Scotland attend eight games and subsequently undertake match analysis tasks as well as taking part in practical on-pitch sessions at a nearby facility.
Gillies said: "There is a common thread of how we develop our talented players. We need them to know what stage of the journey they are at; the coach knows what stage of the journey the coach is at and they all know what they are working towards, whether you are a club coach, a developmental talent coach, a national team coach and so on.
“It was very worthwhile. It was really fascinating to see a range of different styles and ways of playing at the tournament.
"The coaches really enjoyed it and they want more. We want to focus on developing coaches working with the youth.
"So the next step will be following up with a series of other coach development opportunities which teased out that content to a wider audience both at grassroots and elite level. We are taking feedback on board and pushing it on and it is really exciting."