With all new facilities, Alford Community Campus looks set to bring sporting opportunities for the local community to a whole new level. Both Alford Primary School and Alford Academy are part of the Campus and will have access to the facilities, which include a swimming pool, theatre, gymnasium, dance studio and sports hall, as well as an all-weather astoturf for 7-aside football.
For local youth football club, Donside Juveniles, the new facilities offer greater training opportunities across all age groups. YFS caught up with coaching co-ordinator, Graeme McDonald, who gave a tour of the facilities as well as offering his thoughts on the benefits for the club and for the wider community.
The tour began at the current pitches used by the club, which were all being used by the 2005 and 2006 age groups for 7-aside fixtures. McDonald suggested that this is typical for a Sunday, with multiple 7-aside games being played simultaneously and usually with the addition of a regional league or cup game for the 2002’s or 2003’s age groups.
As the youngsters played, McDonald explained that over winter, the pitch can become waterlogged or frozen over, which limits training opportunities and can result in games having to be cancelled. However he is hopeful that the all-weather pitch and sports hall will allow training to continue despite such conditions in the future. “We’ve got the all-weather surface, which is going to allow us to train through the worst parts of winter, which has always been a struggle for us,” he said. “Hopefully we won’t have to cancel as many games now so that’s going to be a big help for us.”
However, it is not just the all-weather pitch that is going to improve the training for the club. McDonald said, “As well as the 3G pitch, we’ve also got tremendous indoor facilities. We’ve got a games hall which is allowing us to run indoor sessions for the youngest of the kids but also, we’re going to be running futsal sessions to improve ball skills and technique in all the various age groups at the club.”
McDonald led the way to the new 7-aside pitch which will not be used until next year, allowing the grass more time to bed down. From there, there was an excellent view of the all-weather pitch. Once again, McDonald expressed how this facility in particular would be beneficial for the training of the club but also explained how it will benefit the coaches, with training for SFA coaching taking place on the astroturf this week. He said, “In the next coming weeks, we are running 1.1 and 1.2 courses on both the children’s and the youth pathway, which is being done in connection with Mark Slater of the SFA North. So as well as player development, the new training facilities are going to allow us to improve the coaches as well. Donside is a club that is going to be moving forward towards our quality mark development award as well, so it’s about improvement all round.”
The new facilities will not only allow Donside to develop their own players and coaches, but also their relationships with other teams. The training for coaches that will be taking place in the next few weeks will not only be attended by coaches of Donside, but also by coaches from Kemnay, Banchory and Colony (based in Inverurie). Additionally, the training facilities are open to other regional teams. McDonald explained, “As well as Donside, Kemnay are also using the facilities here. Hopefully, it won’t just be us who benefit. Facilities are always a problem for clubs in Scotland, so we appreciate how lucky we are and if some other clubs get the benefit of that, then that’s fine!”
However, first and foremost the campus is for the community and McDonald explained how this would improve the relationships within the community of Alford as well. He said, “It’s not just a sports facility, it is a community facility. It really has been designed and built as a focus for the whole Donside community, which extends from Strathdon all the way to Dunecht. It’s going to be a big focus for the whole area.”
The exceptional quality of the facilities allow Donside to compete with any club in the North-East- an exciting prospect for them. With over 220 boys and girls currently registered to the club from the age of five upwards, Donside are hopeful that their new facilities will highlight the opportunities that they are promoting and providing within youth football. With a focus on the community spirit of the club and an emphasis on player development at all levels and for all abilities, Donside are sure to attract many new youngsters to the sport and to their club.