Features & Blogs (93)
Last weekend's action across the country was largely halted by the intervention of Jack Frost. Fortunately the snow has seemed to pass and we are looking at having a full card of fixtures on show this weekend.
Cup competitions are the focus this week, with Scottish Cup quarter finals taking place at U13 and U14 level.
Here are the pick of the games from across the country this weekend:
Portobello CFA vs West Lothian U13 - Stewart Brien Cup - Quarter Final
Both of these sides occupy the top two places in the SERYFA U13's First Division, meaning that we can expect a really close contest in thei Stewart Brien Cup Quarter Final match.
Portobello will go into the match as favourites, having fared much better in cup competitions this season than their opponents, as well as still holding a 100% record in the league.
West Lothian will be motivated however. They are in good form and sit top of the league at the moment. They will also be looking to avenge their defeat against Portobello earlier in the season in the Lothian Buses Cup, losing 5-2. Here is hoping for another high-scoring game on Sunday.
Dundee Celtic BC vs East Craigie Swifts U15 - Tommy Clark Trophy - Semi Final
These two played each other in December, with Dundee Celtic emerging as 1-0 winners, and a close match is expected once again in this highly anticipated semi final clash in the DDYFA.
Both sides are pushing hard in the league, occupying the second and third spots in the DDYFA U15s G Taylor League. Celtic occupy second, just two points above East Craigie having played one game more.
East Craigie will be looking to avenge their defeat to Celtic earlier in the season and both teams will be hoping that this game beats the weather.
Banks O'Dee Albion vs Dyce BC U15 - ADJFA U15's A League
A match with real ramifications at the top of the ADJFA A League takes place this weekend as Dyce BC travel to Spain Park to take on Banks O'Dee Albion.
Both sides have had great runs in the Scottish Cup. Banks O'Dee made it to the fifth round before being cruelly knocked out on penalties in a classic against Kilsyth Athletic, whilst Dyce have made it to the semi finals of the competition.
The last meeting between these two ended in a 1-1 draw so it will be interesting to see if anyone can come out on top this time.
EKFC Blue vs Hurlford BC U19 - Scottish Youth FA Cup - Quarter Final
Familiar opponents for both of these teams this weekend. These two contested the Scottish Cup Final last season and will clash for a place in this season's semis.
On that occasion it was EKFC who emerged victorious with a 2-1 win after extra time and it is expected that this match on Sunday will be equally close.
Hurlford will have their eyes set on revenge as well as a semi final place, whilst EKFC will be looking to complete consecutive cup triumphs.
Livingston goalkeeper Liam Kelly believes coaching is vital to a young shot-stopper and insists happiness will help young keepers reach the top.
Kelly was on hand to make a guest appearance at GK Icon’s free taster session on Friday night, with the training being led by Clyde’s goalkeeper coach Chris Fahey and Stranraer goalkeeping coach Eric Phillips. He explained why he wanted to help Fahey’s and Phillips’ initiative.
“I’ve came to support GK Icon because of the great work Chris and Eric do with the young kids. They give a lot back to the young goalkeepers in the Paisley and Renfrewshire area, so I want to be able to support that and answer a few questions the kids may have. I’m just happy they have the chance to work with great coaches like Eric and Chris."
Kelly is enjoying his first stint as a regular Premiership goalkeeper, having left boyhood club Rangers in the summer. He has played a vital part in what has been a great season back in the top flight for Livi. He shared his thoughts on what he thinks is key for a young keeper in the modern game.
“I think it’s important to listen, that’s a big thing. You should have an opinion, tell your coaches what you see and just try and get better everyday and in every training session.
“Every game you have an opportunity to become a better player, a better person and a better goalkeeper. Everytime you have a ball and a set goals with your mates is a chance to improve as a keeper, so just give it your best shot. As long as your happy just try and play to the best of your ability.”
Having made it to the top level, Kelly is aware of how hard it is to make it as a professional goalkeeper, and the demands of the modern game. He gave his advice on the best way for young keepers to develop their skills.
“When you get the opportunity to work with great coaches like Eric and Chris, I would take it if I was their age.
“In the grand scheme of things in terms of their career, it’s all about being happy. When times are tough just remember there is another game around the corner to put it right. Just enjoy playing your football, and then you can try and get to the highest level possible, wherever that is.”
Clyde goalkeeper coach Chris Fahey is helping young keepers learn from the best- and hopes that his GK Icon sessions encourage youngsters to put on the gloves.
Fahey runs his GK Icon sessions every Monday and Friday at the MOBO Sports Arena in Paisley alongside Stranraer goalkeeping coach Eric Phillips. He enlisted the help of Livingston keeper Liam Kelly and Falkirk’s David Mitchell to help run a free taster session for young goalkeepers.
He hopes the kids have learned from their experience training with professional keepers: “I was really pleased with the turnout we got. There were about 60 or 70 kids here, so that was good. They all had smiles on their face, and I hope they have learned something from me, David, Liam and Eric.
“I was pleased Liam and David came along and gave that bit of inspiration to the boys and girls that were here. They are playing at a really good level, so it’s good for the kids to see them here.”
Fahey and Phillips’ sessions are all about learning the fundamentals of goalkeeping, whilst enjoying themselves in the process. Fahey revealed his own experiences growing up inspired him to start up his own goalkeeper sessions for youngsters.
“When I was a kid, I never had any goalkeeping coaching. When I was young you were told to go into the corner, and kick a ball around with each other, I never really knew about technique or how to become a goalkeeper.
“That’s why myself and Eric started this. We now have a bit of experience behind us, and hopefully we can pass that on to the kids.
“Some of the kids we train do the same drills now as the ones I do with Clyde’s first team, the kids just pick it up very quickly.”
Having played for many teams across Scotland, including Albion Rovers, Raith Rovers, and Stenhousemuir, Fahey has plenty of goalkeeping wisdom and knowledge he can pass on to aspiring keepers.
He shared his top tips for young goalkeepers: “The main thing is being told how to be a goalkeeper. This means they won’t pick up bad habits from a guy who has never played in goals before.
“Guys like me and Eric have played professionally all our lives and we have guys that are professional just now coming in and telling them what to do and what not to. Coming to classes like this even if it’s only an hour a week will really help their development.
“My biggest piece of advice for a young goalkeeper, and their parents, is if they make a mistake don’t worry about it. Turn on Match of the Day on a Saturday night and you’ll see players on £100,000 a week making mistakes. You just have to get on with it.
“The biggest thing about being a goalkeeper is to learn from mistakes and try not do it again. All goalkeepers make mistakes. I think managers and parents have to realize that."
Stephen McManus believes Motherwell have done all the right things to deliver a successful youth academy.
McManus was part of the Scotland squad that featured at Star Sixes, valiantly fighting for a joint third place finish in the star-studded tournament.
His focus now returns to Motherwell, where he coaches at various levels, from U18s, to the first team and the former Scotland international says the club have the right staff working with the different groups at Motherwell.
“I’ve been working at all different stages at the club, from youths to the first team I’m not really in the academy as much myself, I’m based at Fir Park. I am dealing with the academy for about an hour and a half a day, but the people at the club have been great with them.
“Steven Hammell and David Clarkson are based at Braidhurst, whilst I’m based at Fir Park. It’s good to have people in the right areas developing footballers for the first team.”
Motherwell have several young academy graduates in their team, with Chris Cadden, Allan Campbell, and David Turnbull all regular features in Stephen Robinson’s matchday squad. 16-year old Stuart McKinstry was named on the bench for the Steelmen’s Boxing Day fixture, highlighting the pathway to the first team for young stars.
McManus hopes to not only produce players who will play for Motherwell, but stars that will go on to become household names.
“We want to grow players that want to play for their country and play at the highest stage they possibly can. We have people that are ambitious all the way throughout the club, and these people are helping to drive the club forward.
“Whatever team you’re in, obviously the goal is the first team, but ultimately the aim has to be to play for your country and play in the biggest games you can.”
McManus thinks Fir Park boss Robinson is a massive part in this motivation for youngsters. He has seen the Northern Irishmen deliver the important message of youth development at Fir Park first hand.
“The manager really drives the message to our youths. He wants them in the first team, so he can sell them on, and see them play for their country, wherever there from. The fans demand good players, so through our academy, we try and produce good talent.”
Former England goalkeeper David James believes that money has its pros and cons for youth development, but thinks the modern game allows young players to grow and mature.
The ex-Three Lions stopper was in Glasgow for the Star Sixes tournament, which his side eventually won, beating the Rest of The World 3-2 in the final. James spoke before the final day of games about how hard it was for him to break into squads as a youngster.
“There’s a boy I’ve been speaking to whilst I’ve been here, who I used to play with in my school boy team at Watford. I didn’t recognize him because it was a few years ago now. At that stage in football though, we had four apprentices at Watford.
“These schoolboys played with the youth team, so the opportunities were difficult back then because there were less spaces to fill. The influx of money means more players can be afforded opportunities”
With more time being given for players to develop, it has given young stars a greater period to grow, as both a footballer and a person. James offers Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn as a prime example of this.
“Players like Angus Gunn. Gunn is 24, and prior to his spell at Norwich last year, he hadn’t played a professional game. In a sense, it’s took him till 22 years old to make a professional appearance. You would never have got away with that 20 years ago. There’s more numbers in the game, but there is more space to get into a better position.”
James feels that an extended growth period in academies are a great way for youth prospects to fully prosper in modern football, but knows how hard it can be to break through, regardless of the circumstances.
“The money has allowed people to grow, rather than the difficulty to get into a starting 11. I think it’s given people longer periods to develop. Smaller clubs suffer though, because they haven’t got the money to hand out equal opportunities.”
“It’s never easy, when you do the numbers it’s something like 2,500 positions that have to be filled. That’s not many, and when you've got players like Joe Cole who have had long careers, sometimes these positions don’t come about very often.”
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Macfarlane, from Fife, had set herself the target of running a lap of the pitch at the national football stadium after months of gruelling physiotherapy and on the 4th December, she reached her goal.
It hasn't come without hardship though, and Macfarlane has suffered more in the past three years than anyone could possibly imagine. In 2015, Kim was diagnosed with a rare bladder condition called Fowler's Syndrome, which affects the ability of young women to pass water normally.
Living with this incurable disease is extremely difficult and it came to a head for Kim, when in 2016 she tried to take her life.
Kim reached out to YFS in an effort to inform everyone of the effects of Fowler's Syndrome, as well as to thank two specific charities who greatly helped her through this very tough period in her life.
"On the 17th of March 2015 I went in for surgery on my nose having previously broke it while playing football. After the operation I had some difficulties passing urine and ended up in retention. I ended coming home from the hospital with a urethral catheter," said Kimberley when contacting YFS.
I was perfectly healthy (bar the broken nose) before going in for the operation. Skip forward to the present day I now have a suprapubic catheter and I am holding out for a urostomy.
"Because of this my mental health deteriorated when everything came to a head on 22nd August 2016, after being sectioned I ran away to a bridge and jumped off. I ended up breaking two vertebrae in my back and had a horrible brace for three months."
The first charity Kimberley wanted to thank was The Express Group. Based in Fife, they have been helping people in the region for 40 years and Macfarlane is clear about the impact they have had on her life.
"I can safely say that without this group I really don’t know where I would be. They have stood by me through some of the darkest days of my life.
"They are a registered charity and rely on donations/funding to be able to deliver a safe space for anyone aged over 18 to attend."
The second charity she wanted to thank was Support Within Sport, which was launched in 2016 by former Inverness CT manager Richie Foran, in an effort to provide help for players and coaches struggling with mental health issues.
"Before February I had never heard of them. After a dip in my mental health they got in touch with me and wanted to offer some help. So I met up with a doctor who managed to put in place physiotherapy at Hampden Park.
"For me football has always been a massive part of my life and to have that taken away from me left a hole in my heart. But thanks to my physio Joanne I am building up my goal of trying to get back to playing football. Considering I was struggling to walk, let alone run meant we had a massive task on our hands. But amazingly she has stuck by my side and inspires me to be the best I can."
"So really, these two charities give me hope. Hope for a better tomorrow. For a better future. So I just want to thank everyone in my life for helping and encouraging me to be who I want to be."
If you would like to support these two charities, or if you are suffering with mental health issues yourself, you can find out more by following the links below:
"After an agonising wait (which would be one of many in the weeks to follow), we were told that the scans and tests were all clear however more intrusive surgery was a necessity. Ruaridh was back in the operating theatre five weeks after his initial operation - this time the surgeons removed his right hand pectoral muscles (both major and minor) plus some lymph nodes from under his right arm.
"The surgery went well and the surgeons ended up leaving the muscle above his clavicle knowing how sporty he was – Ruaridh had been selected to represent Scotland surfing in the British Cup but was unable to go but had been playing football for Edinburgh City 2006s the day before the operation (assisting with an amazing cross to enable his team to win through to the next round of the Scottish Cup!)."
The next stage of Ruaridh's treatment involves him undergoing something called 'Proton Beam Therapy', a treatment which, as of now, is only available to Ruiaridh in the United States.
Elaine went on to say, "We’re currently in the midst of our next period of uncertainty whilst a decision is being made as to whether Ruaridh will get NHS funding to allow him to be sent to America for Proton Beam Therapy as we don’t currently have a Proton Beam centre open in the UK – one is currently being built in Manchester however isn’t scheduled to be opened until sometime next Spring/Summer.
"If the go ahead is given then the NHS will fund the treatment, accommodation and flights for Ruaridh, Martin and myself plus a small amount of living expenses however it wouldn’t fully cover our costs plus also won't include taking Ruaridhs siblings, Tamzin and Owen. This would be a horrendous blow for Ruaridh as he's very close to both his siblings and at this moment in time needs them more than ever.
"Having always given to charities, we never thought we'd ever have to do any sort of fund-raising for our own family however we are going to need help to fund Ruaridhs treatment in America (assuming it gets the go ahead) and to ensure all his family are around him to help support him.
"We have been overwhelmed by the generosity, kindness and support we have received from everyone and, as part of this fundraising, we would like to give something back to both Teenage Cancer Trust and CLIC Sargent who are charity funded organisations and provide amazing support to children with cancer and their families."
If you would like to help Ruaridh and his family out during this very difficult time for them, you can donate to their crowdfunding page here.
A parent’s nightmare in many ways. In training, your child consistently out performs other players, looks strong and confident, kicks, throws and hits the ball better than most, but the moment the competition element kicks in they do a disappearing act faster than Houdini!
For coaches it can be confusing, but for parents it is both confusing and painful and often parents do not know where to turn. So what can you do as a sporting parent?
You could gently encourage them, allow them to go at their own pace, which would all seem sensible strategies but many parents can struggle at this stage and often resort to yelling or threatening.
Regardless of whether any of these messages are used, there are no guarantees that they will work. You are stuck between a rock and a hard place, as you watch your child struggle with the competition and in some cases the spill over into normal everyday life.
At this stage, it is a vital as a parent to look at the best interests of your child as opposed to your desires to see them succeed, this is all the more difficult when you can see them perform so well in training and know they are perfectly capable of executing the skills and decision making that is eluding them.
Many parents can also fall into the trap of thinking that it is something their child is in control of, I can guarantee you that if it was that easy, they would not be making themselves or everyone else around them miserable at competition time.
So what could be causing the issue?
Nerves – some children struggle with the thought of others watching them, others just get incredibly nervous.
Making mistakes – everyone makes mistakes, that’s how we learn. However, your children may not know this.
Perfectionism – some children are born perfectionists, but it is an elusive goal and can add to the pressure.
Disappointing others – your children may not want to disappoint you or their coaches.
Lack of belonging – it could be that your children are not totally engaged with the sport or feel like they fit within the group.
Scared of getting hurt – this can make your children tentative
A worry of losing – some children worry about the reaction of adults if they do not win the game or competition
How can we help manage the above as a parent?
Nerves – let them know it is ok to be nervous and it shows that they care. Let them know that top sportsmen and women also get nervous but can still perform. Have a consistent match day routine, perhaps play the same music on the way to a game. Children love familiarity and consistency particularly when heading into the unknown.
Making mistakes – let them know that everyone makes mistakes, it is part of the learning process. Share some of your own mistakes or use examples from the TV.
Perfectionism – support your child in focusing on the hard work and improving skills, not worrying too much about the outcome.
Disappointing others – Remind your child that they are playing for fun. Make sure they know you love them and are proud of them on a regular basis regardless of their sporting performance.
Lack of belonging – Are they really enjoying the sport they are playing? Is it right for them? Do they get on well with the rest of the group? Is the coaching a positive experience for them? Keep revisiting these questions and don’t be afraid to move your child if necessary.
Scared of getting hurt – Ensure your child is practising safely. Talk to them about playing the moment rather than worrying about what may happen and set small progress goals, change may not happen overnight.
A worry of losing – Ensure they understand why they are playing in the first place. To have fun and be fit and healthy is a good starting point. Winning and losing are just part of the game. Ensure you as a parent are modelling good sportsmanship at all times, your children will soon follow suit.
Irrespective of what the issue may be, your child’s physical and emotional well-being are what’s really important here and what should always be foremost in your mind in all of your interactions with them.
If your interest in your child’s performance results eclipses your concerns them, then you will end up doing far more, long-term damage to him/her. Great sports parenting is all about being tuned into where your child is coming from and what they are feeling, then communicating back to them that you truly understand and care about their feelings.
If your child consistently does much better in training than they do on match day, don’t be part of the problem. Let go of your performance expectations for them. Focus on some of the processes that we champion so much here, work rate, effective communication, determination, resilience and being a good team mate to name just a few.
Show some empathy, try to understand the pain and frustration that your child may be facing without immediately trying to fix it yourself by increasing the pressure to produce. Keep in mind that under these trying circumstances your child needs a supportive, loving environment from their parents.
They do not need to hear about your frustration or disappointment and they certainly do not need to know in any way that they are letting you down.
They need your unconditional love and support. They need reassurance that the most important thing between the two of you is and always will be your relationship and their feelings, NOT their sporting performance!
Pressure to produce is one of the primary culprits in the creation and maintenance of many performance problems. The pressure can come from the child, it can come from the coach, it can come from the parents, or from a combination of all the above.
As a loving, caring parent you want to completely remove yourself from this pressure equation. Instead, you want to be a source of compassion, support and love. This means that you have to let go of your own performance expectations for your child.
This is NOT an easy thing to do. However, it is critically important that you rise to the task.
A race they were meant to win, a match that did not go their way and disappointment that they were not selected for their school or club team. A list of potential failures through the eye of a child, all with the potential to have a negative impact on their future sporting endeavours.
Children choose to play sport. (Hopefully, in most cases anyway). It’s a voluntary activity and as long as they are going to play sport, it means they will have to agree to certain conditions. One of those conditions is that, at various points throughout their time in sport, they are going to fail. It’s going to happen to your child, whether you want it to or not.
What can you do to assist them as a sporting parent?
First and foremost, you need to ensure that your behaviours are focussed on all of the processes that make up the sporting experience as opposed to the outcomes achieved each week or in competition, and celebrate those processes with your child on a regular basis.
Success in sport isn’t necessarily accomplished with the battles won during competition. Success is accomplished away from it. How does your child deal emotionally with sport and competition? Do they cope when the going gets tough? Do they compete when the stakes are raised and do they bounce back effectively the next time they play or do they suffer from a type of hangover from the previous experience?
Failure will come at some point. You need to help support your children to be mentally and emotionally equipped to deal with it. Here’s several ways you can do just that.
Work on changing their overall mindset towards failure – Stop them fearing it.
From a young age, children are essentially brainwashed and conditioned to fear losing and failure. Parents, coaches, teammates, friends convince them that failure is some kind of awful thing, creating environments where children are unable to express themselves, try new things and be creative.
The reality is that the most successful, happy, emotionally balanced athletes don’t fear failure. It’s not something that scares them. They are merely playing the game, have it all in perspective and are having fun.
The types of question you ask them as a sporting parent post match and post training will help with this, what you value at home and your overall attitude towards your child’s sport can have a huge impact on helping to change this fearful mindset.
The biggest impact you can have as a parent in helping your child bounce back quickly from failure is not done after the failure has already happened. It is in being proactive before the failure even happens.
It comes from you and your child changing your overall mindset and outlook towards failure and not seeing it as some dreadful event to be afraid of. As a result, when failure does arrive you are able to move on and past it with relative ease.
There’s always the next race, the next match, the next trial or even the next season. There’s always going to be the next opportunity and as a parent you need to be emphasising this to your child.
If you have created a positive sporting environment at home and one that does not define your child on their sporting prowess then both of you will be in a happy place regardless of any sporting success or failure.
Don’t allow them to create a false narrative in their mind.
This is so, so common. A young player will fail at something, and then almost immediately, they start the process of convincing themselves of some kind of false narrative. They weave a story in their mind along the lines of, “If I failed today, I’m probably going to fail tomorrow”, or numerous other kinds of negative plots they plant into their head.
There is no connection between the past and the present. Whatever results they achieved yesterday, will have no real impact on or have anything to do with what they are capable of achieving today.
You can help your child by creating a blank canvas every time they play their sport. Try not to bring up past mistakes or negative experiences. New day, new start! This can be easier said than done but it does create a far healthier environment.
To help your child bounce back quickly from failure, remind them that what happened today/yesterday is done, and what happens tomorrow is going to be dictated by what they do that day, not by what’s happened before.
Turn a negative into a positive
Are you able to use the experience of failure for your child and turn it into a positive learning opportunity?
Can you help them to see failure for what it truly is – an opportunity to expose their weaknesses so that they can see precisely where they need to improve themselves and so that they can allow themselves to succeed in the future.
This once again goes back to the importance of focussing on the processes and not the outcomes. If your child is process driven, the outcomes will take care of themselves anyway.
Encourage your child to be compassionate towards themselves
The scientific research on self-criticism is clear and irrefutable. The more your child harshly criticises themselves, the more damage they will be doing to themselves, both physically, mentally, and in terms of their future success.
Research also shows that self-criticism has a negative impact on goal motivation and goal pursuit, NOT a positive impact.
Are you as a sporting parent, helping create an environment that fosters this? Or do you fall into the trap of bringing up the negatives, criticising the failure and mistakes and not allowing your child athlete to move on?
In order for your child to bounce back quickly from failure, don’t criticise them too much or allow them to be too harsh on themselves. Encourage them, inspire them, and lift them up. Get them to do it for themselves as well. It’s in moments of failure when treating them with compassion becomes the most important thing.
If you can help your child rid themselves of the fear of failure, prevent them from creating a false narrative in their mind, see failure as a great learning opportunity, and be compassionate towards them during these moments, you’ll have done a great job in allowing your child to be able to bounce back from failure effortlessly.
An amazing skill not just in sport but also in life.
Dom Thomas may only be 22, but that isn’t stopping his aspirations of becoming a successful youth coach.
Dom Thomas currently plays for Dumbarton, on loan from Kilmarnock, and has also enjoyed spells at Motherwell and Queen of the South. Despite being in the infancy of his career, Thomas explained he is eager to get into youth football coaching sooner rather than later:
“The way Scottish football is, for me, is that its downfall comes from coaching. I want to make my mark on the game as early as I can." said Thomas.
“It’s frustrating to watch young kids playing up and down the country go into pro youth football and coaching. I feel that the ability gets knocked out of them a bit and they're not allowed to go and express themselves, which I don't agree with. I’ve experienced it myself and I just think the way some players are coached, I just don’t agree with it.”
These thoughts have Thomas determined to provide coaching to youths in his local area of Cambuslang, which he has done through his Dom Thomas Soccer School.
“I set up the academy about a year ago but it mainly consisted of small group sessions. I decided to do some camps over October which I felt was the perfect time to start doing the camps. We’ve had 64 boys come through which is absolutely amazing. It’s good for me also as it taking place in Cambuslang, which is where I grew up playing.”
Thomas, having finished his early youth career, is hoping he can leave a good impression on those who come to his camps: “For me I want to make it as enjoyable as possible. I make sure they play with a smile on their face and make friends. The kids have been polite and well-mannered as well which make it easier for me as a coach.
“Obviously there are serious elements to it but if I get a talented kid in, I tell them to express themselves, take as many touches, and make that great pass. In this country you’re told you need to be big and strong, for me I want to express my kid’s ability.”
Thomas already has plans for the future, and hopes he can continue to influence the way young people from Cambuslang play the beautiful game: “I want to teach the younger age groups what I have learnt from my own experience.
If you have an ability, go and show your ability. Whether that be through my camps or out with your friends, because sooner or later you’ll look back and wish you had done certain things better.”