So for our lovely audience, make those introductions?
My name is Caitlin O'Hara, I've been involved in football of the female variety for a number of years, more specifically player coach for Glasgow City Ladies.
A coach you say, tell us more?
I've coached since I was a youngster, maybe 16/17.
I was down doing some extra training one night at the pitch when one of the youth teams were down. The group of kids looked like they were having such a good time, as did the coaches. That's what probably caught my eye at first, eventually going on to work with that group, learning from the other coaches and then progressing to taking my own sessions.
I guess it all snowballed from there. I went on to be an assistant coach at the West Regional Performance Squads at U16s level which I loved. I learned so much about myself as a coach and about the game. I had great mentors and it was a real step up for me working with elite players. It was really out my comfort zone at first but looking back it really shaped me into who I am now as a coach.
I am currently a lead coach at U12s of Glasgow City Youth Academy, the girls have just made the transition into 11 a-side complete with the challenge of playing in a boys league. The girls have been on a real journey and it's fantastic to see them reap the rewards from their hard work.
So what drew you to the prospect of player development?
I strongly believe that at youth level winning should not be the be all and end all. It is far more important to develop yourself as a player both technically & tactically. Everyone develops at different rates and stages in their careers. Winning is great, everyone loves to win but it's so much more important to see the process and the journey that you go on. Go outside your comfort zone, challenge yourself against stronger players, faster players because it will be of huge benefit long term.
Personally I don't see the point in going out and playing teams you know your stronger than and putting 10 past them. Who's that helping? What does anyone learn? You will actually learn more being on the other end of that score. It allows you to reflect and think on what you can do better, how you can improve, make quicker decisions, play in tighter areas. I think that's why I was drawn to player development, it's not all about right now in this moment, it's about doing things in your time and seeing the long term benefit.
Make mistakes, who cares. Football is a game of mistakes, that's the only way you can learn.
Do you have a specific philosophy when it comes to player development?
I wouldn't say I have a specific philosophy, no. I like the players to get on the ball and move it around. I like them to be creative and express themselves. I encourage them to play with both feet at all times I think it's massive for players even at a young age to be adaptable. Play in different positions, learn new roles and responsibilities. I'd say for me that's what I build my foundations around. I think it's so important to see past the footballer and see the person. Take time to get to know how your players are, how there day was, what interests them. Make sure their environment is fun and somewhere they enjoy coming develop and learn. Build good relationships and team morale. Build confidence and re-assure them it's ok to make mistakes. This way they will play with freedom and they will flourish.
With those foundations do you have anyone in your age group that you would consider a success story?
It's difficult to pick out just one from the age group I'm currently working with as they are still young and finding their feet. Although not a success story, there has been 4 or 5 who have moved up and played at U15 level which is 3 years above them. That gave me a great sense of pride and motives me even more to give a platform to the players so they can go and showcase what they have. In terms of a success story I'd have to go way back to when I first started out coaching with Tommy Little at u13s, he had a great pool of players who all came through the u16s West Regional Squad. The majority have now played for their respective national teams and at first team level, but if there is anyone specific it would be Brogan Hay. She has been at Glasgow City through every single age group and has now made the City senior team.
Even from a very young age she had great technical ability. She would do things on the ball that you just wouldn't believe, what sets Brogan apart from the rest is her attitude.
She leads by example with her 100% committed performances, inspiring her team mates to offer the same levels of hard work and energy. One to watch!
Going back to you mentioning your group are in a boys league, how is it different?
Yes we actually played 7-a-side in the boys league as well but recently made the transition to 11 aside earlier this year. It's a lot different, firstly moving into 11 aside already provides its challenges with players having to adapt to the change of size in the pitch and covering bigger distances, not to mention having more players on the pitch and learning different formations and positions. Boys are naturally much more quicker, more powerful and stronger than girls so it gives the girls a chance to play at a higher intensity than what they would if they were in the girls leagues. I wouldn't say there is a difference at all technically or tactically. It's just having to deal with the physical attributes. The girls have to play with fewer touches, in tighter areas and have to make decisions more quickly. The boys don't give you time to take 3/4 touches, get your head up and play or they'll be in on top of you. I'd be lying if I was to say it's been easy. It's been a real learning curve and the girls have had to overcome a lot of hurdles but credit to them. they have dug in and continued to stick to our principles and now they are seeing positive outcomes.
What do you have in mind for this season, for yourself and for your group of kids?
Personally just to keep learning and looking for ways to improve. I've got a great bunch of coaches around me who continue to push me to be better everyday. Eventually hoping to secure my UEFA B Licence if all goes to plan. For the kids, hoping to get as many as possible into regional performance squads, also looking to get a few to turn out for the squads above their age. I'd be more than happy with that.