The Scottish FA’s showcase event, the William Hill Scottish Cup final at Hampden Park, brings the curtain down on a season of professional football in spectacular fashion every year.

Players at the top of their trade, at their fittest, at their most confident, coached by some of the best and with the winners enjoying the adulation of thousands - an aspiration of many footballers and budding bosses in Scotland.

However, the Scottish FA helps make football dreams come true all year round, if not to the extent of a cup final appearance in front of thousands of fans and watched by millions of viewers, then in a broader base and weighted towards the grassroots end of the spectrum.

The governing body is working tirelessly to promote the game to the widest possible audience through its Football Development department.

The overarching vision of the One National Plan is the Football for Life initiative and the aim is to "inspire a nation", according to the Scottish FA's Head of Football Development, Andy Gould.

This grand plan takes a three-pronged approach: Football for AllSkills for Life; and Clubs for Communities. And every football programme that the Scottish FA offers at grassroots level falls under the category of one of the three outcomes.

The four-year plan, launched last September during UEFA’s Grassroots Week, "sets out the Scottish FA’s vision for grassroots football and our approach to delivering progress and improvement, creating opportunities for everyone who wants to participate in our game, regardless of age, gender, ability, geography or background, either as a player, a coach, an official or grassroots volunteer to get involved and stay involved”.

"We want everyone to have a chance to fall in love with football," says Gould. "We are trying to create opportunities for everybody who wants to play, regardless of age, gender, ability or location.

"But it is wider than just playing the game. Some people want to contribute as a coach or a volunteer. There are a lot of people who want to help develop the game.

"We need girls and boys, they are the lifeblood of the game and we want to develop them as players but also as people because they may be future supporters, coaches, volunteers or even become investors in the game.

"We want to nurture all of that. That is what Football for Life is all about."

The enthusiastic Gould personifies the commitment of the Scottish FA to take and develop the game the length and breadth of a football-mad country. He says the ruling body has embarked upon "a big journey over the next few years" as it looks to one day boast, in addition to several objectives and targets, at least 100 robust community clubs in Scotland.

"Our role is to improve the structure, the capability and capacity of our clubs," he said. "Can we have over 100 community clubs in Scotland?

“At the moment we have around 70 that can provide a strong reach in to the community. That might be anything from Aberdeen FCCT, with their professional community work, to Stenhousemuir and what they do, right though to a grassroots award-winning community club, like Drumchapel United. Our role is to support those clubs on and off the pitch.

"It could be a wide range of different challenges those clubs face and our role is to help solve those.

"That for us, is a vision that will ensure Football for Life can develop organically, grow and have a future. It is a journey that needs investment, guidance and strong partnerships but I certainly see more clubs going down that road with our support and backing."

The Scotland Under-19s Learning Disability Team

FOOTBALL FOR ALL

The Scottish FA is leading the world with its pioneering Para-Football work in the Football for All initiative.

The game's governing body will unite different varieties of groups, some established, some new, including amputee, deaf, learning disability, visual impairment football, power chair and mental health, to create a banner association that will support and create a network for Para-footballers in Scotland. It is an empowering project which builds on Scottish football's historic egalitarianism.

David McArdle, Scottish FA Para-Football and Equality Lead, is excited about giving Para-Football for the first time a "true voice".

"We are not just doing something for the first time in the Scottish game, we are doing something for the first time in the world game," he said.

"It is something that UEFA and FIFA are keeping a close eye on. It goes back to 2012 when we created the first strategy for Para-Football and started competition elements.

"All the different clubs are run by volunteers. We had to make sure we came up with a structure which allowed them to have an autonomy but which had a support network and they have all seen it as a positive and have been more than happy to sit round the table.

"We have an agreement with all the game-leader organisations to come together. They will sit on the non-professional game board alongside the amateurs, the juniors and that allows us to get support and funding. We are finalising everything, sorting out the constitution for the launch in 2019.

"The rest of the Scottish game has accepted it, from senior clubs to Scottish FA board members to grassroots clubs to the general public and it goes to the Scottish FA's AGM in June for final acceptance. 

"The fact that it's going to be ground-breaking, a world's first, is a pat on the back for the Scottish FA. It is going to be something that countries from all over the world will be looking at and saying, 'Can we do something similar, can we support Para-Football better from within our individual countries?'

"Every aspect of society is being catered for and the people from Para-Football will have the same voice and the same say as the rest of the game, which has been established for so long. Which is just fantastic."

The Cashback for Communities-funded Schools of Football help develop the skills of young people.

SKILLS FOR LIFE

Skills for Life extends way beyond the dribbling, passing and shooting for 90 minutes.

The far-reaching programme uses the powers and influences of football in an holistic approach to the development of young people in Scotland, in a bid to nurture their life skills as much as their on-pitch techniques.

Many of those youngsters involved come from disadvantaged backgrounds which can bring with it issues of esteem. The initiative looks to, amid many other objectives, foster confidence which will reap dividends in life as much as on the football pitch.

Gould said: "We have 44 Cashback for Communities-funded Schools of Football across Scotland.

"The pupils get football every day, that it is the hook, but a fundamental part of Skills for Life is developing the skills and capabilities of the young people and we are seeing good results.

"Along the way it has also helped produce some fine players such as Jai Quitongo (Braidhurst High School & Morton) and Kyle McAlister (Renfrew High School & Derby County) and Scott Tiffoney (Renfrew High School & Morton) and in terms of women's football, Karsey McGlinchey (Govan High School & Glasgow City).

"But there is more to it than just football. Recently it was revealed that 95 percent of head teachers at those schools really believe these programmes are having a positive effect on the people involved, such as increased attendance at schools, improved confidence and a general improved capability in the young people, all of which will help them reach more positive destinations in their life."

Pollok United are a Legacy level Quality Mark Club who go beyond football to positively impact their local community.

CLUBS FOR COMMUNITIES

The Scottish FA's Clubs for Communities project is borne of an "an aspirational vision" where support for clubs, of all shapes and sizes, to reach their full potential is key.

Gould revealed the governing body's role is to help clubs achieve the ambitions they may have, from the smallest to the highest, and become a strong asset in their local area.

He said: "It is important to note that we don't deliver, it is the clubs who deliver. Our role is to support those clubs and the wonderful people at clubs to become better.

"Our Quality Mark (QM) scheme is a key part of the Clubs for Communities tool kit. That is about raising standards on the pitch and off the pitch.

"We have 534 QM-accredited clubs and it is growing. We have a Legacy award, the top award for the bigger clubs who do more than football. We have over 49 Legacy clubs, which is a fantastic achievement for them, and they are doing a lot of community work as well, changing the lives of not so fortunate people with social programmes.

"Spartans FC are one club who have been achieved Legacy Award and it goes all the way through to a one-team amateur boys' club or girls' club. We realise all those clubs are important and we need to support them.

"Aberdeen have become a mentor to grassroots clubs in the north east. The development of the game relies not on keeping ideas to ourselves but on sharing and supporting.

"We can all help each other, we can all work together. It is all about the collective and helping everyone to improve."

COACH EDUCATION

Who coaches the coaches?

The Scottish FA is delighted to be at the leading edge of coach development in Scotland. While the Football for Life programme is a huge part of the Football Development department's current remit, Gould stresses the importance of its Coach Education and development programme, which offers a pathway into all levels of the game through training and education courses.

"The Coach Education programme is the bedrock of what our department does because our game is only as strong as the workforce, the volunteers and the coaches out there," said Gould.

"We ran over 400 courses last year with over 10,000 coaches from across all levels of the game. That tells us there is an appetite and a passion for learning among our coaching community. They are very keen to know more and curious as to how to improve so that the young person with them in their charge is getting a better environment.

"There is 6,500 hours of coach education run annually and we have 26 different Coach Education courses on offer, from coaches who coach children, to goalkeeping coaches, to coaches who work only with Para-footballers.

"The diversity that we have now is the big thing. Wherever you are in the game, there should be something there for you which allow you to develop."