The managerial merry-go-round in the professional game each season suggests that improving a team in a short space of time is never easy. Implementing a new philosophy, however, takes even longer, and many a coach has been sacked prematurely due to suffering from an adaptation period. At youth level though, coaches are still allowed to work properly, which has paid dividends for Motherwell Girls FC 15s.
Adam Shaw has been at the club for three years, taking his 13s side up to 15s and 11-a-side matches. Reflecting on the development he has observed so far, the coach said: "In that period of time, the majority has been massive. When I first joined, no disrespect to the girls, they couldn't really pass a ball to be honest with you and they'll more than admit that themselves. But everything they've put in in the last three years, just the attitude, the commitment, has been ideal and you can see that in the performances now. They're starting to gel, they're starting to become a good football team, they're starting to become good friends on and off the park which makes life so much easier for you as a football team."
In a sense, 15s vice-captain Lauren Simpson embodies this development. A late bloomer, she only started playing football three years ago and, after a few positional changes, now fancies herself as a ball-playing centre back. Talking to Youth Football Scotland, Simpson echoed her coach’s statements about the team’s development when asked about how things have gone so far in the season: "Actually they've gone quite well. In our first season, halfway through the season, we moved up to the highest league and I think we got one point out of 18. This season, we've only lost two games with four games to go, so, a big improvement."
While saying that the girls "worked really hard during [their] breaks", she put a lot of that positive development down to the coaching team of Shaw and Maxine McCrindle: "For all of us, I think they've helped a lot, because when I started I had never really played football, and they improve very, very much. I could never really kick a ball, really. The two of them have improved together, they've learned to work together and have obviously helped us out lots."
It has been an eventful three years for Simpson, who admits starting so late was "hard, very hard" and came to training just to try it out: "I think I saw it on the internet or something and my mum said, ‘Do you want to go along?’ and I said, ‘Why not?’. I expected to last a week, and that's it, just go a week."
Commenting on her role in the team, she said: "I've been told that I can read the game very well, so if I sit back a bit, I can see where the play is going to go.You can see the whole game, so it's much better [playing at the back]."
Simpson has also been appointed vice-captain for her good communicational skills and key position on the park. She described herself as "loud and communicative", a leader on the pitch who "speaks out and organises a bit".
Listening to her coach talk about his influences, it is no surprise Simpson is quite a refined, modern centre back: "I'm a big fan of watching Arsenal and Barcelona, so just passing and possession football. I love how they get the ball out through the back. I've always said to the girls if we lose a goal from trying to play football, then it won't bother me, because at that age you can't discourage young players from trying to play football. Girls and boys of this age, they need to learn how to play football first and foremost before results."
And Simpson clearly enjoys that style of play: "It makes it a lot more enjoyable because you're not just playing for a win, you're playing to play football. Yes, I think that the way we've played football has made us closer as a team and I think that it has really worked."
In terms of administration and organising the club, Shaw is quick to point to the support he gets from his fellow coach and Motherwell FC: "I'm quite lucky because Maxine, the other coach, she does the majority of that for me, so it's just a case of me of getting the footballs and the cones in. I get to do more stuff on the football part, but I do help a hand and it's a lot easier, the club help us a lot. Motherwell feel that if you build a pathway, you get more faces in the game, so they're very supportive towards us, especially, and they're starting to do that towards other clubs that are coming up."
However, as Shaw points out, significant progress in promoting the women’s game has been made already: "Back then when I first joined, it was only 13s, 15s and there wasn't even a ladies team. There were just 13s, 15s, when I first joined three years ago, now the club have got a minor side, under-11s, under-13s, 15s, 17s, and we've now got a ladies team and are looking to make the step of a reserve team as well, so you can see that it's a work in progress but the club are building for the future."
Shaw and nine of his current players, including Simpson, will move up to the17s next year and are looking forward to further improvements.