Get fit. Get healthy. Have fun.
That’s the objective of GoFitba, a new project from the Scottish Football Partnership Trust that’s offering primary school children the chance to improve their football skills and learn the importance of a healthy diet.
Across the twelve-week programme, kids are invited along to participating community football clubs, where they spend an hour working on their skills on the pitch, followed by an hour of classes where they’re taught about nutrition and are even treated to a healthy meal as a reward for their efforts.
And at the Falkirk Foundation, which has just completed session nine, the project has proven popular with both kids and adults.
David Mackay, Head of Community Football at the Falkirk Foundation, discussed why the club got involved in GoFitba:
“This programme has been fantastic because it’s given us the opportunity to feed the kids some fruit and healthy meals.
“The tie in with the football is great. Most of the kids here are local and supporters of the football club so it’s easy to get them in here, and then we can go through the content of the workbook.
“Hopefully, we can hit them with the lifestyle messages that will take them on as they get older, especially at such a young age.”
The programme in Falkirk is open to pupils from a number of local schools, including Victoria Primary and Comely Park Primary.
This week, as an added bonus, they were treated to a tour of the home changing room before taking to the pitch at the Falkirk Stadium to grace the same surface as many of their heroes.
On the field, week nine put the spotlight on defending and, despite the weather being miserable, effort and enthusiasm was high from everyone.
Following a match at the end of the football hour, the kids made their way back inside to the warm-up area of the stadium, which had been transformed into a make-shift cafeteria.
Here, they’re given a meal (pasta bolognaise this week) before making their way through a workbook as a group.
Subjects include: the importance of 5-a-day, water and hydration, energy and proteins.
On the menu this week was salts and sugar, and why it’s important not to binge them.
Mark Miller, a coach at the Falkirk Foundation who takes charge of both the football coaching and the nutrition teaching, talked of the importance of teaching the children about living a healthy lifestyle.
He said: “I remember the first week we had them in, some kids were saying all they ate is chicken nuggets and things like that. So, getting the message of what to eat and how to eat it makes a big difference.
“The first few weeks they were a bit unsure about whether to eat the food, but as we’ve gone on they’ve all started eating it and responding really well.
“Just having the opportunity for the kids to come in and do stuff like this is really good. I speak to the parents every week, and they all say it’s been brilliant that the kids get the chance to come in and do this.”
And what do the kids themselves make of GoFitba?
Nine-year-old Jayden, from Comely Park Primary, said: “I used to eat a lot of junk food, but I’ve quit now and I’ve lost weight.
“I think after the 12 weeks are up I’ll be healthier and better at football, and it’s my dream to be a football player.”
Ten-year-old Archie, also from Comely Park Primary, had similarly positive things to say about the impact on his diet.
He said: “When this started I ate junk food every single day, but now I eat healthy food like bananas. I still do have some junk food but not as much anymore.”
Having proven a resounding success, Mackay is already relishing the chance to bring the project to more children later in the year.
He said: “We’re looking forward to running another programme in the new term in August where we will target other schools.
“It’s the same programme replicated, we get two programmes worth from the Scottish Football Partnerships Trust which is great because it allows us to have a connection with even more children.”