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Friday, 19 January 2018 10:57

The intelligent players - are we missing them?

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Guest feature: Russell Taylor of Futsal Escocia
The great Xavi once said "In futsal, you see whether a player is really talented. You notice the small details in quality, class and tactical understanding".
In futsal you have limited space, the equivalent of 37 v 37 on an 11 a side football pitch.
Futsal is fast and intense. Your mind is constantly active. It is both physically and mentally challenging.
In possession you are required to think fast:
• where and when to move and create space for you our your teammate
• when to pass, dribble or shoot
You have to be technically good and have good game awareness and intelligence to  find space, retain possession and create goalscoring opportunities.
Once you lose possession you are required to: 
• have the desire to work hard for the team
• track back and follow runners
• press at the right time 
• have a tactical understanding 
• regain possession without conceding a goal
 Every player on the court is involved in the game. Intelligent and more technical players get the opportunity to shine, both on and off the ball. 
In my opinion, the way Scottish football is structured, players with the aforementioned attributes can be overlooked in favour of fast, powerful kids that can kick the ball harder. These kids are less talented but are more productive on a football pitch at that time. 
Kids start off playing fun 4's and 5's and those with the pace, power and will to win dictate the majority of games. Sometimes you'd be better playing 1 or 2 a side as they are the only players touching the ball.
Towards the end of 5's when space is more limited and the game is more challenging, what happens? We move to a bigger pitch and bigger goals. Who does this benefit?The same process happens on the transition from 7 to 11 a side.
By this time, academies are full of players that have been excelling on a bigger pitch with more space. Do they have the same qualities once all the players mature and physically develop? Are they intelligent enough to break down a team that parks the bus with 21 players playing in less than half a pitch?
Personally, I feel academies frequently (not always) recruit the wrong players. They recruit what appear to be good players, but once you look closer a lot of the players lack in game intelligence and awareness.  
I believe the structure of our game dictates the type of player selected. Although we play non competitive until under 13 age group, there's far to much emphasis on selecting a winning team from 7 years old. Winning comes before development.
I set up a winter futsal league 3 years ago and numbers have continued to rise year on year. This winter we hav e an amazing 93 teams involved in futsal in Fife, with over 900 players involved. 
You may or may not be surprised to know that although the leagues have been successful and that 18 of the top 20 players in world football come from futsal backgrounds, very few people from the professional game have came to have a look at these players. 
The question is why? We should be embracing something that has a proven track record of developing WORLD CLASS players. 
If you take the time to look, there's intelligent, creative and technically gifted players out there.
On his way to an unbeaten season and winning the domestic treble in his first year in Scotland, Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers spoke to UCFB about the importance of education for an aspiring coach, and gave students vital advice on succeeding in a career in the football and sports industry.
Speaking to UCFB from Celtic’s Lennoxtown training base, Rodgers said: “It’s (education) vitally important. There are lots of elements of teaching and coaching young players which require knowledge, and for you to gain that knowledge you need to go out and research and find it.”
The former Liverpool boss added: “If you’re going to be the very best that you can be then it’s very important that you can enrol on courses and that you can travel and find different ways to pick up this knowledge.”
Many students at UCFB are on sports coaching and physical education based subjects, such as BA (Hons) Sports Business & CoachingBA (Hons) Football Coaching & Management and BA (Hons) Physical Education.
The Ulsterman added that while education is essential for those who aspire to coach and are looking for their break into the football and sports industry, he believes that education must continue even once you have already made it as a coach.
Rodgers, who spent time in Spain as a young coach to learn other ways of working, added: “What you learn from experience is that you need to find a way in order to communicate with your players. I look to go and speak other languages in order to help people. I see it as part of my coaching.”
Asked for a final piece of advice for UCFB students looking for a career in the football and sports industry after graduating, Rodgers said: “Have a real belief in yourself. Be ready to work hard. If you’re going to reach the very top there’s a lot of work in it, there are no shortcuts.”
The Scottish Football Partnership Trust has been given funding by the European governing body UEFA to help kick-start their new GoFitba project.
UEFA awarded the Trust €50,000, (£44,000) after they were nominated by the Scottish Football Association to the UEFA Foundation for Children for the funds to start the project, which will aim to cater to nearly 500 primary school children across Scotland.
The project, GoFitba, is a football based health and wellbeing project delivered by The SFPT in association with community football clubs.
The 12-week project aims to provide 480 children with a fun platform for physical activity as well as developing an understanding of the importance of healthy eating.
The programme will offer them a chance to enjoy an hour of fun football-based activity led by club coaches to develop their physical skills, attitude and confidence, followed by an hour where they will be taught how to lead a healthier lifestyle through diet and nutrition.
James Clydesdale, Chairman of The SFPT said: “Football can be a positive tool for personal and community development. We are extremely excited to be delivering twelve projects across the country and to be given the opportunity to engage with local schoolchildren and encourage them towards a healthy and active lifestyle.”
And Stewart Regan, Scottish FA Chief Executive said: “We were delighted to nominate The Scottish Football Partnership Trust for this award from UEFA and are extremely proud to have been involved in securing funding for such a noble and worthwhile project.

“The GoFitba project is a fantastic way to showcase what Scottish football clubs and organisations can offer to the young members of their communities. It is projects such as this that positively contribute to changing behaviours and attitudes at an early age and we are delighted to have played a role in funding this initiative.”

The 12 community clubs involved are:


Aberdeen Community Trust

Cumbernauld Colts

Dundee East Community Sports Club

Falkirk Foundation

Glenrothes Strollers FC

Inverness Caledonian Thistle Community

Kilmarnock Community Sports Trust

Kilwinning Sports Club

Motherwell FC Community Trust

Pollock United Soccer Academy

Spartans Community Football Academy

St. Mirren in the Community

Saturday, 11 November 2017 10:51

The unknown damage caused from the touchline

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Every weekend all over the world millions of parents, children and coaches set off for their weekly sporting ritual 'Match Day'. Many will follow the same process each week and will never question their routine or behaviour.
Many of these parents and coaches are well intentioned, trying to support their child and their team through match situations totally unaware of the damage they may be doing by overly involving themselves before and after but crucially during the game itself.
I say that they are unaware because if they are not the current climate on the sidelines is far worse than I currently fear.
This morning I carried out a little experiment at an Under 8 grassroots football match in the UK.  I counted the number of tactical instructions yelled from the sideline by parents and coaches to the children.  There were 134 yelled out in 40 minutes of play.  I must stress that this did not include positive praise.
Now imagine as adults if we were embarking on a task and during this time we were being yelled new instructions, in this case approximately four a minute.  Now imagine on top of that, that some of these instructions were also contradictory.  I believe that not only would we struggle to concentrate but we would struggle to make the correct decisions that we were originally carrying out.  Just think how this must feel for a child actively involved in a sporting situation?
If parents and coaches are not aware of the damage they are doing by directing play and yelling tactical instructions from the touchline then I hope that this article will give them something to mull over.
Caught up in the excitement and emotion of a game, many parents and coaches feel that they are really helping and supporting their children whilst watching by shouting technical or tactical instruction.  Whilst this may on occasions in the short term prove successful there are major long term implications of this for the player.
1. It reduces problem solving skills
2. It decreases decision making skills
3. It reduces creativity in young players
4. It reduces the child's enjoyment
5. It increases the pressure on the child
6. It increases anxiety in the child
7. It prevents children from mastering life skills
8. It decreases the ability of the child to cope independently(particularly if the parent and the coach are not around)
Bearing all this in mind it is important that we then generate an understanding of how all of this is linked together with the behaviour that we are displaying.  The following infographic from our friends at believeperform.com gives us a very powerful visual image.
My message to parents:
Are you shouting tactical instructions on the sidelines?
If your answer is, “Yes,” then stop. Stop now.
I can already hear you justifying why. I can already hear you rationalising your particular approach. I can hear you because I could be you. I am you. I want to right the wrongs for my child. I want him to score. I want him to feel joy in victory. I want him to avoid the pain of losing. I want him to know I am there, that I love him, that I am his biggest fan.
But, let me ask you:
Do you think it helps?
It does not.
No justifications, no intelligent counter arguments. No nonsense. Screaming and shouting tactical instructions is bad. It is that simple. I did not make it up.
My message to coaches:
The above still applies however there can be a little bit of flexibility if you are trying to assist your team and individuals but it should be a very measured approach.
We have a number of parents who contact us who have been told by organisations what they would like them to do and how to behave but then they have to watch the coach do exactly the opposite.  Coaches must be great role models for parents and help create the right environment for the children by leading from the front.  Parents will then follow.
With positive support only on the touchlines can we regain control of an environment that is in real danger of spiralling out of control.  In its current climate the only people who are suffering in the long term are the people who we love and want to achieve the most; the children.
Article courtesy of Gordon MacLelland, from Working With Parents in Sport. Find them at the links below:
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 01:59

The Next Step: Young Saints

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Tommy Wright continues to work miracles at St Johnstone as the Perth club competed in Europe for the fifth time in six seasons and now the Saints are looking at the future to continue this trend.
The head of St Johnstone’ youth academy, Alistair Stevenson, believes the club are now improving and attracting the best footballers in the Perthshire region: “This is the first time since we started the programme that we’ve had that kind of number coming through from the academy. The problem in Perth was that the talent was probably always there, but they weren’t exposed to the same level of training and playing.”
These five players have featured for the development side and will hope to feature in the first team in the coming years and join the likes of Ally McCoist and Stevie May in making their mark at St Johnstone at a young age.
Jamie McKenzie
Part of the Under 17 squad that went 2016 unbeaten, McKenzie is a Perth born midfielder that has joined up with the under 20 development squad for the 2017/18 season. He featured, and scored in St Johnstone’s Bill Tracey Memorial Shield victory over Vale of Earn at Market Park in Crieff.
Shaun Struthers
Another member of the unbeaten Under 17 side, Struthers, like McKenzie is a Perth born midfielder that came on for the last ten minutes in St Johnstone’s Under 20s side defeat to Aberdeen in the first round of the Irn Bru Cup. He played in a friendly against Manchester United at McDiarmid Park back in 2015 where he had an effort on the stroke of half time go just over the bar.
Euan O’Reilly
The right-sided midfielder from Auchterarder, O’Reilly featured for Scotland in the 2017 Centenary Shield as the Scots beat Wales and the Republic of Ireland in the competition. Signing a two-year contract, O’Reilly was another member of the squad that played in the friendly against Manchester United and was unlucky not to score with the last kick of the game.
Ben Quigley
Another player to have signed a professional contract at St Johnstone from Auchterarder, Quigley was another member of the unbeaten under 17 side and also featured in the friendly against Manchester United at McDiarmid Park back in 2015.
Ross Sinclair
The youngest player out of the five to sign a professional contract, Sinclair only needs to look at current Saints goalkeepers, Zander Clark, for proof that you can graduate from the youth side to the first team. From Scone, he has been involved in the Scotland national development setup and Sinclair is tipped highly by the head of the Saints Youth Academy, Alistair Stevenson.
Stevenson: “It’s great news to know that St Johnstone have one of the best young goalkeepers in the country. He is a good height, very agile and has a fantastic commitment towards his training – so he has all the attributes to become a top goalkeeper in the future.”
Monday, 25 September 2017 02:56

Feature: Fuelling your child's ego

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Large amounts of money spent on swanky football kit and boots, vast use of hair products to make them look like mini professionals and lavish praise being heaped on them by parents regardless of their performance.  How much damage are we doing to our children and their long term development by fuelling their ego?
The big question is ‘Is it the child’s ego’ or ‘is it the parent’s ego?’
What started off as just trying to get our children involved in some physical activity has morphed into something completely different, the moment they show a modicum of ability parents are certain their child will become the next great star.
This is itself is dangerous, even more so when their progress is documented on social media for all to see. What happens at the point where they fail? At some point they will – it’s part or growing and learning.
Going back many years ago there was not as much organised sport.  Parents used to drop children off and leave them in the care of coaches and go and do something for themselves.  A lot of the sport was unwatched, players and referees were not shouted at and the whole experience was about fun and playing with your mates.
How many of us as families, now have our young people at the centre of the universe based around achieving something (however minor) in a chosen sport?
No budding young sportsman or indeed an adult elite performer should ever be satisfied with what they are achieving, once a challenge is completed they should be looking at the next step to improve further.  The most current example of this in a solitary sport is that of Andy Murray who has worked tirelessly in the pursuit of excellence over many years and deservedly deserves to top the world tennis rankings.  Once he became the best in Britain, he did not rest on his laurels, stop working hard and say look at me I have made it.
Instead he found the next goal to conquer the world rankings and I am sure now that he has achieved this that he will be looking to add more grand slam titles to his name as well as hold onto that ranking for many years to come.
As parents our attitude and behaviour to creating this type of sportsman is crucial if we want to see our children succeed not just in sport but also in life.  It is about us creating a culture that allows a growth mindset in our children not just for sport but for everything they participate in.
As parents we need to create a society for our children that fosters this environment.  Telling our child they are brilliant encourages a fixed mindset, a mindset that when the challenges become tougher and they no longer feel brilliant that many children just give up and fall by the wayside.
If however, we can praise effort and hard work our children will take this on board and learn from challenges therefore increasing their abilities and achievement in the long term as opposed to the short term.  
We need to offer our children the challenges, we also need to see that mistakes are part and parcel of learning and we should see ourselves that mistakes are opportunities to learn and our children need to see it that way as well.
If we make a big deal of mistakes then our children will never attempt the same thing again, as a result there is no way they can continue to grow and improve as they will be limiting their capabilities.
Likewise, if we do nothing but fuel their ego at a young age their chances of long term success remain a long way from their reach.

This article has been written by Gordon Maclelland of www.parentsinsport.co.uk. They can also be followed on Facebook @wwpis and on twitter [email protected]
The first round of fixtures in the City of Glasgow Cup is in the books. The tournament sees Glasgow’s four clubs: Celtic, Queen’s Park, Partick Thistle and Rangers go head to head at Under 17s level, in a group format between August and March for the right to lift the prestigious trophy.
Rangers stormed to the top of the table with a comfortable victory over The Spiders at the Rangers Training Centre, a week after current holders Celtic came out on top in a seven-goal thriller against the Jags at Lennoxtown.
City of Glasgow Cup: Round One
Celtic 4-3 Partick Thistle
Rangers 8-0 Queen's Park
The Light Blues sported a side that featured many recent Scotland youth internationals including the likes of Zac Butterworth, Kyle McLelland, and Dapo Mebude, Nathan Patterson and Josh McPake but it was Matty Yates who attracted most of the attention with a second half hat-trick.
The Hoops looked to have Thistle dead and buried at 3-1 but the Firhill side showed no signs of giving up, and fought back to 3-3 before Kieran McGrath grabbed his second goal of the day in the final minute.
Round Two, due to take place in October, will be dominated by the first Old Firm clash of the tournament as Celtic and Rangers face off at Lennoxtown, and should there be a winner the group will have an outright leader. Partick and Queen’s will both be looking to put their first points on the board before they face the Old Firm sides again in November. Their match is scheduled to be played at Lochinch.
Rounds Three and Four will be played in November and December respectively, and the latter will see the reversal of the first round of fixtures.
Rounds Five and Six both take place in February, and Rangers and Celtic will return to action against one another at the Rangers Training Centre while Queen’s and Partick play at Lesser Hampden. The last round has Celtic hosting Queen’s Park and Partick hosting Rangers.
Remaining fixtures:
Round Two

Wednesday October 11, Lennoxtown, 7.00pm 
Celtic v Rangers
Friday October 13, Lochinch, 7.15pm 
Partick Thistle v Queen's Park 
Round Three
Wednesday November 8, Lesser Hampden, 7.30pm 
Queen's Park v Celtic 
Wednesday November 8, Rangers Training Centre, 7.30pm 
Rangers v Partick Thistle
Round Four
Friday December 8, Lochinch, 7.15pm 
Partick Thistle v Celtic 

Wednesday December 13, Lesser Hampden, 7.30pm 
Queen's Park v Rangers
Round Five
Wednesday February 7, Rangers Training Centre, 7.30pm 
Rangers v Celtic

Friday February 9, Lesser Hampden, 7.30pm 
Queen's Park v Partick Thistle
Round Six
Thursday February 22, Lennoxtown, 7.00pm 
Celtic v Queen's Park 

Friday February 23, Lochinch, 7.15pm 
Partick Thistle v Rangers
The City of Glasgow Cup is organised by the Glasgow Football Association and sponsored by City Refrigeration Holdings Ltd.
Tuesday, 12 September 2017 10:11

The goal that inspired a generation: 10 years on

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“It was late in the second half and I had been playing up front on my own. It was tiring and chances were few and far between. As the ball came to me, I was ready to turn on it and knew I was going to shoot if nobody was pressing me. I turned, took a touch, and then luckily for me I caught it perfectly.”
You don’t need to be a football anorak to tell which goal James McFadden is referring to. It is without a doubt the most iconic Scotland national team goal of the last decade. That night in Paris was the pinnacle of a career, which began taking shape nearly twenty years earlier. 
“I first began playing organised football when I was about 7. I went along to Celtic North Boys Club, but they only had an Under 10s team. This meant I could only train, but I went along every week anyway. It did me good to play with lads a few years older than me.
“I progressed to playing with Celtic Boys Club and then went to Motherwell when I was around 12. At the time, you could play with your boys club at the weekend and with the pro club midweek. I kept playing with my boys club and moved onto West Park United.
“It was at West Park that I worked with one of my favourite coaches, Bert Rowan. Bert, who sadly passed away whilst I was still at the club, loved the Dutch ‘Total Football’. He worked you hard on the training ground, but it paid off. We were playing brilliant football, winning all sorts of competitions and enjoying ourselves.
“I was also playing for the Glasgow Schools select squad. Chris Burke was in the team and I remember being impressed by his talent. Even then, you could tell he had a great chance of making it at the highest level.
McFadden was given the opportunity to move to Hearts and he grasped it, signing schoolboy forms with the Edinburgh club. However, Hearts required him to give up boys club football – something the hungry young winger wasn’t prepared to do, so he returned to his boys club and to Motherwell. A few years later he broke through to the Well first team and the rest is history.
James went onto a successful and exciting, at both club and international level. However, McFadden still places one moment from his youth career alongside any moment of glory from his professional years. 
“I was playing for West Park and it was a league deciding game against one of our rivals. We had been working on a short corner routine at training all season. Although it was a big match, we gave it a shot. A couple of passes and the ball was worked to me on the angle of the area. I had a shot and it went in, which gave us the league title.”
When asked if it was anything like his winning goal against Holland in 2003, McFadden modestly shrugs, “aye, now you mention it, I suppose it was similar.”
Before bringing the interview to a close, we couldn’t resist asking one last time about THAT goal. 
“We had been training in the stadium the night before and, at international level, you play with the chosen footballs of the home team. The balls the French had selected were moving everywhere. I thought to myself – ‘if I get the chance to shoot tomorrow, I’m going for it’.
“It was a tough game and France were coming on strong as they pushed for the winner. I’d been putting in a fair shift up front by myself and was beginning to tire. I knew if a chance for a shot came along, I was going to have a hit. The goal kick was a lengthy one and the French player misjudged it.
“My first touch was decent, it killed the ball and allowed me to swivel. I took a touch out in front and it looked like the centre half was going to charge, but he backed off. Then I hit it.”
And in one strike of a football a nation erupted with joy and a generation of young Scottish players started to dream.  
(Gary Curneen, left, during a visit to Hibernian when he took time out from his busy schedule in the USA).
Here at YFS we speak to a variety of people, all walks of life and who perform all sorts of roles for the sake of the beautiful game, we were lucky enough to have someone different along to have a conversation. Gary Curneen is the current head women's soccer coach at Cal State University, Bakersfield, and the founder of Modern Soccer Coach Education. His role is full-time in nature at a college in the USA who compete at the Division I level. When asked about the role itself, he said: “Like most people in the game I am passionate about developing players, teams, to succeed on and off the field.”
But how does the girls game in America operate, and how does it compare to the rapidly growing equivalent in Scotland?
“I'm not familiar with the Scottish landscape so can't compare. The girls game is huge in the States and the players are fortunate enough to have huge amount of opportunities with both games and training. The college game is the destination for most top players and it becomes a full-time environment with training every day and access to top facilities and full-time coaches.” 
Curneen originally played in the US, once his playing career was completed he continued life at a coaching capacity for an additional two years. “I originally was going to go into the business world and corporate America but got cold feet. My college coach gave me an opportunity to stay on and help him out, along with getting my masters in business and administration and I took it." 
After settling into the role he mentioned that “I realized I had a completely wrong perception of what coaching entailed." He continued: "I got introduced to tactics, systems, training models, science, psychology and was hooked.” He is now owner of a UEFA A licence thanks to the services of the FA in Ireland.
Gary has added to this by writing a book Modern Soccer Coach 2014 adding his own take on what he says "sets the greatest coaches apart in today’s game and how to create a culture of excellence within a programme.”
So overall the girls game appears to be rich in opportunities, in Scotland the girls game is catching up with more and more clubs linking up with their mens equivalent, more and more work is being done creating the pathway from the younger age groups all the way through to the senior team. “I think cultures in the US and UK could learn a lot from each other. Players in the US excel in the physical side of the game and I think with more resources and funding in the women's game in the UK, it will allow Scotland to continue to excel.” 
Adding to that he also mentioned that he had recently came along to have a look at the women’s game in Scotland. “I was there in February and visited Hibs and Celtic ladies teams. I really enjoyed it and was very impressed by the level and the coaching.
"Hopefully I can come back more often."
Tuesday, 05 September 2017 12:24

From Saughton Park to Scotland international

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Scotland’s Under 21s take on the Netherlands tonight in the first match of their UEFA European Championship qualifying group. In the squad are some notable first-timers: new West Bromwich Albion signing Oliver Burke and Celtic up-and-comer Anthony Ralston. These players both have stories worth telling. Burke’s combined transfer kitty is in the lofty region of £30m already, and Ralston was invited to train with the full squad ahead of the Lithuania match. But Jason Kerr, a name that might not stand out on paper, has perhaps an even more remarkable story to tell on his journey to the national set up. The Penicuik-born starlet shone at boys club level and has enjoyed a spectacular rise to the top level in just three years.
Kerr starred for a Tynecastle side alongside his twin brother, Gregor, which reached five Scottish Youth FA Cup finals between 2010 and 2014 and won three. In the 2014 edition, Kerr grabbed a late – as in last minute of extra time late – equaliser to keep his side’s hopes of a trio of cup wins on the cards. But he and his team mates were to suffer the heartbreak of a penalty shootout defeat at the hands of Antonine FC, a team Kerr would probably describe as a nemesis during his youth career. 
But the mark of a proper footballer, or indeed any athlete, is how they bounce back from adversity and Kerr proved he was up to the task. His stellar individual form at Saughton Park continued and on July 1 2015, exactly one year and two months after that painful defeat in the Scottish Cup final, he was signed up by St Johnstone.
Kerr has made his mark for the Saints as a central defender, as opposed to the box-to-box, all-action midfielder he was known to be at Tynecastle and at Eskmill beforehand. A trawl through the YFS archives finds descriptions of Kerr darting down the left wing and charging into the box and one would assume these situations are less common now.
After two loan spells at East Fife, one of which yielded a League Two winners medal, Kerr returned to Perth in the summer and signed a two-year contract extension. Kerr said that the new deal provided him with the impetus to make his way into the St Johnstone first team, be that from within the confines of McDiarmid Park or on loan at a club further up the pyramid.
“It’s great to have the next two years sorted and during that time it’s my intention to push myself into the manager’s plans at McDiarmid Park,” he told Scotzine.
“I’ve really enjoyed my involvement with East Fife and it’s given me loads of experience but I’m ready to step up now and whether that’s another loan club further up the leagues or with Saints, I’ll just need to wait and see.”
The latter option is where Kerr finds himself now, with Championship side Queen of the South. And, perhaps to some surprise for a defender, he scored a goal on his first full start away to Falkirk.
It might be even more of a surprise to see him score tonight, but maybe those charges into the box aren’t so rare after all.
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