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Westdyke Community Club in Aberdeenshire has become the first in the Scottish FA’s North region to be awarded the Legacy Quality Mark Award.

Quality Mark is the Association’s accreditation programme designed to support and recognise the work of grassroots clubs and teams who have a desire to be the very best they can be.

There are five levels - Entry, Standard, Development, Community or Legacy – all related to a list of criteria on areas such as club structure, coach education and administration.

Legacy is the highest level. This means a club has met every requirement of the Quality Mark programme and has twelve teams or more represented in the children, youth, adult and female game.

Westdyke, founded in 1996, has become a pillar of its community since its establishment, catering for over 600 players, guided by over 50 coaches.

Westdyke executive secretary, Graeme Burnett, said: “To get the Legacy award was unbelievable.

“It opens doors with regards to access to funding and provides a prestige which attracts the support of various organisations such as the local council.”

Scottish FA club development manager, Mark Slater, assisted the club with their Legacy level application.

He said: “The work that they do on and off the park has benefited not only the players within the club but also the local community.

“I am delighted that they have been recognised by this award.”

The club’s president, Brian Bridgewater, who is one of the founding fathers of Westdyke, added: “Quality Mark lets people from outside know the quality of the club.

“It shows the high standards that we have here.”

For mum Jacqueline Watt, who has a boy and girl at the club, the Legacy award acts a guarantee of quality for parents considering taking their child to a football club for the first time.

“It’s important to send your child to a club with the right ethos,” she added.

“My kids love playing here – that’s down to the right environment having been created by the coaches.”

Positive Coaching Scotland (PCS) – a culture change programme incorporated into all Scottish FA grassroots schemes – is in place at the club.

PCS educates coaches, players and parents to be aware of the importance of creating a positive environment in order to raise overall performance levels on the pitch. To read more about PCS and pledge your support to the programme, click here.

“PCS has been huge for us,” said Graeme. “The programme has made a massive impact here.

“You can see a real cultural change happening with the parents. Every player, parent and coach has made the pledge.”

The National Player Pathway - which has young players playing in the appropriate format for their age to ensure they develop in the right way – is in place at Westdyke. This is one of the criteria to be met on the Quality Mark programme.

During the primary school stages of six to eight and nine to 12-years-old, players take part in the small-sided game formats of 4v4 and 7v7 on a developmental and trophy free basis, focussing on effort, learning and fun rather than match results.

Later, at youth and adult level, the 11-a-side game becomes the favoured match format.

“The pathway is superb,” added Graeme. “It’s a breath of fresh air and one of the best things that ever happened to youth football in this country.

“You can see a difference in the players’ technical ability and game awareness when they make the jump from seven-a-side to 11s.”

For Philip Leat, manager of the Amateur side at Westdyke, the pathway has helped youth players make the jump into the adult game.

He said: “They do find it a big step up physically but the pathway helps them with the technical side, their understanding of the game is good.”

Developing stronger links between clubs and schools is an aim of the Scottish FA’s football development department who view it as helping to increase participation in the game.

Westdyke is a shining example of how this is done. Links with local primary schools have been formed, creating a steady stream of new players into the club.

The beauty of the Quality Mark scheme is that it helps clubs reach whatever level they aspire to. Where to next for Westdyke?

The club is not one to rest on its laurels.

The next step is facility development, an issue which affects the grassroots game across the country.

Brian said: “We have around 300 players and have to use town facilities because there is next to nothing here.

“Yes, our pitches look good in summer but in winter, bad weather damages the surface. It’s imperative that we get a 3G surface so we can use it for training all the year round.

“The hurdle is the funding.”

To find out more about Quality Mark and register your club on the scheme, click here.