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Monday, 30 April 2018 11:31

GoFitba continues its healthy educational journey in Paisley

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GoFitba continued it's successful start in Paisley with another fun-packed day for the kids of Glencoats Primary School last Friday.

The project, which is being delivered by the Scottish Football Partnership Trust in association with community football clubs across the nation, was in its fourth week at the sunny venue of St Mirren Park.

St Mirren in the Community were the hosts, with several coaches delivering a two-hour session to the kids of Glencoats that promoted nutritional health values, as well as giving the kids their hour of activity in the club's stunning football dome.

The day was wrapped up with another healthy meal for the kids, which was scoffed down by all as there wasn't a crumb to be found!

Stephen Gallacher, one of the coaches involved with the St Mirren in the Community group, stressed the importance that the kids bonded with each other and have nutritional values educated into them.

"A lot of the kids can be stuck in the house all day within some of the communities where they live, so when you're getting them out and getting them to build friendships and eating together, then that community friendship and community spirit can be very important to them.

"If you look at the numbers of the kids coming along - we've had a full house every day - you can see the kids are enjoying it and obviously the parents are happy that they're coming along and seeing that they're getting involved in active activities.

"The programme is all about giving the young people an opportunity to be healthy, and then to provide them with a healthy meal at the end of it.

"The training session today was more to do with working in their team games - teams of two and groups of fours - and taking that into the game at the end. Obviously, we're hoping that they can then work as a team at the end and get some goals"

And get some goals they did. The kids, whose smiles couldn't be wiped off their faces, spent their hour in the dome practising dribbling, shooting, and control drills in small groups. The coaches tried to emphasise the need for concentration on the ball, and this was taken on board by the Glencoats pupils, who loved every minute of it.

This was transferred to their short games at the end, where the two groups had individual games against each other, with some lovely team-goals being scored and an appreciation from the kids about sharing possession of the football.

Stuart McCaffrey, whose leading the project across all member clubs, spoke about the importance of the kids getting involved in the football side of things to help boost activity levels.

"The ultimate goal is happier, healthier, more engaged children. 

"Football is a very powerful tool and can be used to help lives for the better, and I think that projects like this have a real chance to engage with children at the right age where we can try and give them some positive messages. They can take these on throughout their life and can stay active and give themselves the best chance in life.

"I think it's been a fantastic start (for the project). It's been very well received with the children, which is the most important thing. Teachers have received it well too in terms of supporting that key element of one hour of activity to get the kids active. 

"The project takes the kids on a 12-week educational journey, and it helps to make small changes so that their lives can be better and more active. There's a lot of team-building and other skills that are developed throughout the project. 

"I'm obviously very excited with how it's started, and there's obviously a number of weeks still to run in this initial block."

There can be no denying that Stuart wasn't the only one excited with the project, as the kids of Glencoats showed real enthusiasm for football and a keen desire to learn throughout their hour of football inside the dome.

However, as well as the activity, GoFitba puts a high emphasis on nutritional values and educating children about the positives of a healthy, balanced diet.

This took us to hour two of the day, where the kids went out to the main stand for a quick picture in the St Mirren dugout, before heading up inside the stand to start the educational section of the day.

Week four is all about educating kids on how food is your body's fuel, and they certainly needed no reminder of that when they wolfed down their lasagne and garlic bread for dinner!

McCaffrey felt that the kids responded tremendously well to the health tips and nutritional education laid out to them, and described how GoFitba gets this message across to the young footballers of tomorrow.

"We spent a bit of time and researched how best to put that to them, so we created a 12-week interactive learning journal for them. Each week it's a colourful page they look at, and we try and make the learning creative and interesting for them.

"We try and relate it to football, and the nice thing is that the journey then goes home with them after week 12 - it's something they can share with their parents, brothers and sisters, and it's a chance to extend that learning.

"We try to make it as fun as possible in a football context, but also to use the learning journal to try and emphasise these positive messages."

GoFitba continues to express a message that positive, engaged children that live on a balanced diet can have greater performance in both school work and sport development.

McCaffrey confirmed that the project will culminate with a "showpiece event" in week 12, where the families of the kids involved can come along and see what their young ones have been learning over the block.

But what did the kids make of their fourth day at GoFitba? 

YFS spoke to Mazy, Ryan, and Aaron who all spoke of their enjoyment at the project and how they couldn't wait to go back this Friday.

All three kids learned something new about nutrition and football from the day - ranging from Ryan's tip of drinking more water on a daily basis to Aaron's newfound ability to pass with the inside of his foot.

St Mirren in the Community's Gallacher believes that the project emphasises what community clubs like St Mirren are all about.

"I think it's in part showing that we're giving that hand back to the wider community. Being a community club, it's good to get the badge into wider places and to see that we're involved in not only the football part, but also the healthy choices.

"There's other programmes that St Mirren in the Community do during the day, during the holidays and after school - there's quite a few. It's to do with looking after the community and not just about playing football all the time - there's other parts St Mirren do and they have the community at heart first and foremost."

McCaffrey seconded those words about community from Gallacher, and stated that he hopes the project can only grow in the future.

"I think the coaches that involve themselves in clubs like St Mirren and other community clubs are so enthusiastic and want to make a difference to young people - they want to give them an opportunity to take part. I think that opportunity is the key thing - we're really giving people a chance and perhaps get the inactive active. Some kids maybe don't get the chance to play at clubs and maybe don't have the confidence to get involved.

"But the coaches we work with are there to improve their confidence and improve their skills, and hopefully give them a taster of what it would be like to play football more regularly and sport in general. This project gives that opportunity, and the coaches are key to it because they deliver the positive messages, the sessions, the educational resource - they're the catalyst for success.

"I think it can grow. It's something that we want to expand on, but the resource has been created and the project is up and running and straightforward to deliver. We've taken care of sessions on and off the park with the educational journey, right down to what the kids eat on a weekly-basis.

"We feel it's something that can be replicated, whether that's in the schools directly or by our delivery partners. 

"And of course, the sport could easily be changed and it could be branded as something else, because the principles between the project and what it's trying to achieve can be transferable and can certainly be replicated.

"People need an opportunity to take part, and I think when people do take part and have that chance then they tend to stay in the game."

Whether the kids of Glencoats Primary stay in the game or not, there is an overwhelming desire from them to stay with GoFitba and continue what has been a tremendously fun journey for them.

It's been a strong few weeks for the project so far, but in the grand scheme of things, GoFitba is only just getting started.

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