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Youth coaches from Rangers and Celtic were guest speakers at a recent South West region coach development day.
Over 100 coaches from the grassroots and professional game were in attendance in Ayr as Martin Miller – Head of the Junior Academy at Celtic – and Jim Sinclair – Academy Director at Rangers – explained the philosophy behind their youth development systems.
Martin has worked at Celtic for 16 years, joining from grassroots club Mill United FC.
Martin shared the Celtic Academy’s purpose – ‘to create champion’s league players’, the objective – ‘to create a world class academy’, and the philosophy – ‘to develop the player, and the person.’
“What I’ll share with you today won’t bring you instant success or a result on Saturday,” he said during the presentation.
“Winning is important at Celtic, but what we want to do is give these young players skills that will be with them throughout their whole career and will become part of their football DNA.”
All staff involved in the Academy know the values and philosophy, and the club ensures that parents and players also know the purpose and - most importantly – the hard work and effort required to achieve it.
Celtic’s Junior Academy recruit and develop players aged seven to 12, before they progress to the ‘Intermediate Academy’ from 13-15 and ultimately the ‘Professional Academy’ from 16 to 20.
Celtic’s Junior Academy coaching sessions commence with 20 minutes of passing routines, followed by 25 minutes of ‘Celtic Turns'.
This involves an array of ball manipulation exercises used as an introductory activity before all training sessions and matches where players receive between 2000 and 4000 touches of the ball.
Jim joined Rangers as Academy Director in August 2006 from his role as Director of Football Development at the Scottish FA.
Jim’s presentation focussed on the theory and philosophy of the Rangers Youth Academy, and the importance of player recruitment in the overall process.
The key aspects assessed are: attitude, ability, awareness, and athleticism. Jim explained the key competencies required under each of these headings, and what they mean for scouts in identifying players and coaches with the responsibility of developing the players further.
He used examples of top players and top managers to highlight what this skill-set might look like and again highlighted the importance of effort and determination for any young player looking to progress through the system at Rangers.
He pointed to the number of academy players who have played in Rangers’ first team, with the majority of these players being recruited between the ages of nine and ten.
He also made reference to the importance of ‘winning’ as part of the Rangers Youth Academy.
Grassroots football supported by the Scottish FA incorporates the Positive Coaching Scotland programme.
This is a philosophy aimed at creating a football culture where young players are developed positively, learn to win through effort and develop skills for life through footballprogrammes.
Jim’s vision of success through effort and a player-centred development programme compliments PCS ideals.
“We want to win," he said. "We want to win every sprint at training, and every 50/50 tackle. In any competitive sport you should want to win. We might play and lose 5-4, I’m not kicking water-bottles and behaving like an eejit because we don’t win, but I want to try to win, and I want to know my players are trying hard to win.”
Scottish FA South West Regional Manager John Brown said: "One of the most interesting parts of the day was the very different approaches both clubs had to developing players.
"This gave all attendees great opportunities to debate and discuss what they had seen - and possibly even challenge their own ideas on coaching and development.
"The day provided another assurance that there is not only one way of coaching, or one way of developing players, nor is there a ‘magic drill’ or exercise that will revolutionise player development.
"What is key is having a plan and philosophy which everyone is aware of and everyone works hard to achieve.
"The South West region would like to thank both Martin and Jim for sharing their enthusiasm and willingness to share their ideas so openly."