(Photo Credit: Scottish FA)
17-year-old Ayla Esen was recently nominated for the Scottish FA's Grassroots People's Choice Award and although she was ultimately unsuccesful, to be nominated for the award at such a young age is a testament to her commitment to coaching.
Esen has been coaching for the past three years and recently reached the milestone of over 500 hours of coaching as a volunteer. She was one of four nominees for the award.
On receiving the nomination, she said, “It’s just an honour to be even nominated for the award, I didn’t really think I’d be nominated for it so to even be thought of in that regard is kind of amazing I guess.
Esen has a lengthy background in the game, having started playing football at the age of nine. She began coaching just three years ago and has maintained a strong interest in football ever since, coaching the Hibernian Under 9's squad as well as playing for the Blackburn United Ladies Team.
"Football as a sport it just means kind of everything to me, it’s something that I do mostly seven times a week, whether that’s playing myself or coaching.
“I think I dedicate so much of my time to football cause it’s something I enjoyed as a kid, so I kind of want to give that back to the younger generation and kind of show them my love for the game as well."
Ayla's dedication to the game has not gone unnoticed, and her fellow coach Allan Telfer is not surprised that she hsas been nominated for this prestigious award. “I think Ayla deserves this award because, for such a young person, she’s worked very hard and it’s all volunteering for her so it’s hard work to do that many hours.
“Ayla has changed a lot in the last couple of years, when I first met her she was a very shy girl. When I see her now coaching she’s very assured of herself, she’s confident, she likes everything to be perfect."
Neil Gallagher from the West Lothian Youth Foundation echoes these sentiments. "“Ayla is enthusiastic but at the same time she is really calm around the kids, which kind of creates that relaxed environment in our sessions which is the best way for the kids, come in and play, come in and learn, and also for the young girls it’s a good female role model for them to look up to."
Ayla's dedication has allowed her to have a positive impact on those she coaches and will likely be an integral part to her community for years to come. Win or lose on the night she can be proud of the impact she has made at such a young age.