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Threave Rovers announce brand new playing facility

  (Picture courtesy of SFP Trust)   Threave Rovers have officially announced the opening of their brand new ...

SPFL Development League - End of season review

  The fourth season of the SPFL Development League is now in the history books and it was a great advert for the youth game i...

GoFitba continues the journey in Inverurie

GoFitba continued its journey in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire with another fun packed day for the kids at Kellands Primary School, which i...

Early Sport Specialisation in Youth Footballers: Why it is Hurting Long-Term Development

  This article is part of a series by Jamie Henderson that will be coming to Youth Football Scotland on a monthly basis to he...

Portlethen move a step closer to a new 3G pitch

A public meeting has been held in the Northeast town Portlethen as a campaign for a 3G pitch led by ‘Portlethen Sports Club’ picks...

  • Threave Rovers announce brand new playing facility

  • SPFL Development League - End of season review

  • GoFitba continues the journey in Inverurie

  • Early Sport Specialisation in Youth Footballers: Why it is Hurting Long-Term Development

  • Portlethen move a step closer to a new 3G pitch


Introducing our blogger:
Steve Cuthbert was an ordinary Ayrshire football parent, then before he knew it he was a coaching assistant and soon after manager of Kilwinning Girls Under 11s. He coached Kilwinning for four years, becoming Scottish Cup winners at Under 13 level in 2009. The team were famed for organising many raiding parties south of the border before heading north again with the silverware! He took a break from coaching a year ago to be a taxi service for his daughter who plays with Rangers Girls Under 15s. Having spent the last year watching ladies games, girls and boys youth games he has recharged the batteries and may coach again. Looking at the female game, coaching styles and beyond... 

Entry 10 | 11th February 2013

It’s not Rocket Science

The Xmas tree is safely tucked away for another year and New Year’s resolutions are falling by the wayside. Can mean only one thing – pre-season training for the women’s game.

I have harked on in the past about the crazy methods used by dinosaur coaches who believe the three “F’s” (fitness, fitness and fitness) are the key words (see blog number 4). Running is critical to this approach as is the absence of a ball.

The “no pain, no gain” brigade come to the fore at this time of year. Unless you can hardly walk the next day, the “training” (running) has not been hard enough.

I have always advocated that pre-season training can be achieved much more effectively using a ball. Work on technique, while achieving match fitness by being exposed to match related situations. The old Mourhino quote of “the pianist does not run around the piano” springs to mind when explaining the lack of pure running at Real Madrid’s pre-season sessions.running-feet

Got me thinking – how could I get some empirical evidence for my claims? Step forward Erin, my football playing daughter and her trusty Heart Rate Monitor (HRM).

Let the experiment begin.

The first exercise, which I would not recommend, and I will certainly not repeat, was a timed 2.5 mile jog.  I measured the route in the car and followed the whole time to ensure she did not stop.  This was really exhausting for her and took just over 22mins. The HRM was in a mid to high zone the whole way.

In the second exercise a few days later, I set up two cones approx. 20 yards apart. She jogged from cone A to cone B and then jogged back. I mixed this up a bit by sprinting, jogging sideways, backwards, high knees etc., from cone A to B and either walking or jogging back to aid recovery. The HRM reached an average of 85% and peaked at 95% during the 10 minute session.

The third exercise involved me feeding the ball into Erin from 2/3 yards away. Once she controlled and returned the ball she would jog backwards for 5 yards before sprinting in again to control and return the next ball. The control element can be attained by using the chest, thigh, volley, head or various combinations as stipulated by the feeder. This drill, involving being on your toes and undertaking short sharp sprints, achieved the max heart rate much quicker, maintained this level for longer and resulted in a higher average for the session. This session was ended just before the 10 minutes as she was “knackered”.

The first exercise claims to build up stamina but Erin found her legs stiff and sore that night and the next morning. She pushed as hard as she could to get a reasonable time but this limited her ability to train the next day. The second exercise was a bit more game related in terms of the movements required. The last exercise attained the desired effect on the HRM but much more importantly she was achieving this fitness while improving technique. A conservative estimate of 200 + touches of the ball improving coordination, balance, touch and control.

Not the most scientific test I grant you, but I think you all get my drift. No need for long distance runs around the pitch or endless “fitness training” sessions with no ball in sight. The dinosaur coaches I see regularly have more in common with the former soviet countries some of whom still believe low intensity, long distance, one tempo running is beneficial for players.

Please, please use a ball in all pre-season training. Don’t use the excuse that the players are not fit. That is just lazy coaching. Plan your sessions with the key words being “intensity” and “tempo”.  It’s not rocket science – it’s just sports science!!!!

On a different matter, congratulations to all the girls selected for the SSFA U15 squad.  A tremendous experience to travel down to the new St. George’s Park in Burton to play England, as well as a trip to Belfast to take on the home nations. Also massive congratulations to the girls selected for the SFA U17’s squad in what is a big year for this age group with UEFA qualifiers in August. The girls are going to Portugal next week – can’t remember these trips when I was a youth player.  Then again I was not much good!! On a serious note I watched the U17 trials at Toryglen on 2nd February and I was very impressed with this bunch of girls. Girl’s football is now benefiting from earlier involvement at grassroots level.   In years gone by there were very talented girls but they tended to carry the team.  This group did not have a single weak link in the team and equally importantly there is strength in depth – something that was not always there in the past. I have witnessed a massive improvement in standards over the last 10 years.  

A significant factor in this development is the increase in the number of girls that are now making a career out of football. Previously there was no goal to aspire to other than to play your best. Girls would still need to find jobs and fit football around their working lives. And for the majority this will still be the case. But seeing Lisa Evans and more recently Emma Mitchell and Jane Ross all secure professional contracts has given the women’s game a welcome boost and given this current crop of young girls something to aspire to.

And finally welcome head coach Angie Hind to the Rangers Ladies and to Shelley Kerr for being selected as the new manager for Arsenal Ladies. She will be a big loss to the SFA as I have heard many players tell me what a good coach she is. Put February 24th in your diary for Petershill as Shelley brings the Arsenal team up to play Scotland premier team Glasgow City.

Entry 10 | 27th November 2012

The annual rant

Talk of Christmas is in the air, so it must be time for Steve’s annual blog on the restructuring of the girl’s game!

Before my annual rant however, I must mention a few things that have been happening over the last few months.

toryglenFirstly I witnessed the U15’s play a double header v Germany at Toryglen, and what a great experience it was for the girls – many of whom were representing their country for the first time. Despite losing both games by a 3-1 score-line, with the Old Firm of Erin Cuthbert (Rangers) and Courtney Whyte (Celtic) grabbing the goals, the superior team won. I must say that the gap between the teams was considerably less than last year and their success was down to the Scots girls bonding well off the pitch and bringing this team ethos with them onto the pitch.

As in 2011 the Germans appeared bigger, stronger and quicker and very well organised. It may be that the Scots needed greater preparation time as this is the first time the girls ever played together as a team. Under such circumstances you don’t want your first game to be against the Germans!! On the flip side this tells the girls exactly the level of performance required to compete with the best. A lesson well worth giving I believe.

The SWF youth finals were at Toryglen and congratulations to all the winners and YFS for covering the event so comprehensively both in terms of the build-up and previews, the on the day coverage, and in providing reports and video coverage of the games in the days after. It is great for the girls to see themselves on video so well done YFS for helping to raise the profile if the girls game. Indeed the YFS website has a roll of honour for all the victorious teams in 2013 so check the site out NOW.

Now for the annual rant and I will use the Central/West 15’s league as an example. Of the 22 games Rangers were scheduled to play at the beginning of the season 5 games were conceded and thus never played. One game conceded is one too many but 5 is totally unacceptable.

Why does it happen? Because there are total mismatches and no apparent sanctions imposed for failing to fulfil a fixture. Of the remaining 17 games 9 of the recorded scores were not the official score. What does this mean? It means that the scored entered double figures (e.g. 15-0) and the recorded score was the maximum 9-0. Five of the remaining 8 scores were in excess of a 5 goal gap meaning only three could truly be regarded as competitive during the whole season. The rest were a mixture of a foregone conclusion or conceded. To a greater or lesser extent this situation was mirrored in youth leagues throughout Scotland.

Is this a healthy state of affairs? No. Is this a desirable state of affairs? No. Is this an avoidable state of affairs? Possibly.

I know people reading this will be screaming at me saying certain clubs “attract” the best players by fair means or foul. I am afraid this happens at all levels of the game from the Barclays Premier League downwards and will continue to happen whether we like it or not. So let us face up to the reality of the situation. As long as all clubs from a specific region are lumped together in the same league these horrific mismatches, that serve no purpose for either team, will continue to occur.

This may seem as a pet subject of mine but I can assure all that it is the single most raised issue among coaches, players, and parents of teams on BOTH sides of the mismatch coin.

Please, please, please somebody listen and do something about it. I am not pretending I have the perfect solution- any new structure will inevitably not suit everybody. Surely a group can be set up to urgently look at the issue of league restructuring. The issues could be discussed and various proposals developed. These could then be presented to each region separately and the proposals altered to take account of these consultations prior to being submitted to the SWF/SFA. I for one would volunteer my time for this purpose and I know of others that would do the same.

The invitation is a genuine one and I await contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Entry 9 | 5th November 2012

My previous blog on mixed footie was quite timely (unintentionally so). Since its publication the FA in England have decided to increase the age of permitted mixed football to 14. Positive move by the blazer brigade, and I take no credit whatsoever. Uplifting article also on this subject which can be read in full on the girl’s football forum section of this website.

Earlier in the season I attended the ladies league Cup Final in Scotland when Glasgow City played Spartans. Unfortunately the ladies game is still primarily a “friends and family” affair. How do we get interest from a wider audience? I was actually embarrassed watching sky sports news a while ago and the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen showed a 15-0 score line in the SWPL. This makes the product more difficult to sell – until we have a genuine competitive league then we can’t take the ladies game to a wider audience and it will remain a “friends and family” affair.

I watched a premier league game in June which was as equally one-sided. It was not my week because the Scottish Cup youth game I watched in the same week at Girls U15 level resulted in a 21-0 score line (well done the ref for keeping count because I gave up).

This is an old chestnut and I don’t want to dwell on it for too long but “Where is the development?” When 2 of the 3 keepers never touch the ball (even from a back pass) then it is time to rethink things. OK this was a cup tie and these mismatches can happen as part of the “luck of the draw”. But when double figures are being hit nearly every week then I as a parent and the players (from both sides) lose the will to live, Enough about mismatches – I have covered the topic before – suffice to say restructuring is needed.

On a positive note I watched a very enjoyable old firm game at U17 level which was incredibly hard fought and tense, but despite this had some excellent football. Celtic especially tried to build from the back. It is just a pity these teams do not have more games. One parent informed me that Celtic have played more challenge matches than league games since the start of the season. I know Rangers girls arranged a similar challenge match the following week.SWF

I also attended in June the U15 national camp at Tulliallan. Always a fun and educational time for the girls. Quick suggestion – take all the girls that will be playing together later in the year (1998’s in this case) and play them together against the other regions. They will get used to playing together and will be playing 1997’s – not a bad thing.

Unbelievably I am now getting to the main point of this blog – coaching. I attended a game a few weeks ago and was appalled at the approach of one of the teams. “Boot the ball as hard as you can the way you are facing” seems to sum it up nicely. Got me wandering – what on earth do these players do at training? There must be drills, technical work, ssg etc that they play. Why is there no attempt to bring these skills into games? Is winning at all costs so important? If so then the coach is doing a massive disservice to these girls, some of which, if given freedom, must have the ability to control a ball, be creative and actually enjoy their game.

Sad to say that the instructions from the touch line were to “hit it long” and “get rid” even if the long ball was aimless and not even in the general direction of a teammate! I do not wish to deride volunteers in the game – the lifeblood of all grassroots football. I do wish to lambast however, those coaches who adopt a “win at all costs” approach and are on an ego trip to create a winning team but lack any ability to prepare and implement a structured plan to achieve this.

Rather through ignorance or laziness they take the “boot it upfield “ approach for attempted short term gain. Many retire from the club after their brief flirtation with coaching, realising its not as easy as it looks, or more likely blaming the inability of girls to implement his “masterplan”. I refer to my first blog. How many coaches prepare session plans, which have clear objectives and specific coaching points that they wish to disseminate as part of a chosen playing philosophy? I will be observing training sessions from U9 to U17’s over the next couple of weeks and discussing issues with the coaches. You’ve been warned!!

Finally spent an enjoyable weekend at the end of June watching the League Cup Finals. Celtic won the 17’s Final against Glasgow Girls relatively easily and Glasgow City beat Falkirk in the U13’s Final. I was very impressed with the Glasgow City team who were comfortable and composed on the ball. Also went to Stenhousemuir on the Sunday to watch a very impressive Rangers display in securing the U15’s Cup against Falkirk.

Congratulations to all the other regional winners - a full list, gallery and reports are included on the youthfootballscotland website
Entry 8 | 24th August 2012

This blog was going to be all about the Olympics, women’s football, record attendances, inspiring a generation, and how the growing respect for the women’s game could be converted into renewed interest at grassroots level.

Sadly recent events have made me angry and frustrated in equal measure and I must return to the old topic of touchline behaviour. Sorry all.

In the last two weeks I have watched 7 female games ranging from U13 level to the ladies game. Only two of these games have involved my daughter (could do a scouting job for the SFA at this rate). Now the odd outburst, while unacceptable from coaches or parents, is to be expected. After all it is a game filled with emotion. However the continued and systematic abuse by parents and coaches of referees and players was shocking.

Kicking off (poor phrase to use in the circumstances!) was an U15 game last Saturday. The abuse and language of the coach of one team was totally unacceptable. This abuse and aggressive behaviour resulted in the game being abandoned – and it was only a pre-season friendly!

This weekend I witnessed equally aggressive and bullying behaviour directed at a referee – again at an U15 girls game. The outbursts were not isolated – every decision was disputed and the referee was approached at half time and full time to listen to more educated opinion just in case he missed the previous comments. The parents were equally vocal, not only towards the referee, but to opposition players. These are 13/14 year old girls receiving “comments” from adults on a touchline.

Isolated incidents? Sadly not. In the morning I watched two U13 Scottish Cup ties. During one game an adult deliberately stood outside the fenced playing arena. Apparently this gives him complete freedom to shout at the referee at every opportunity and to “coach” the girls on one team. To the referee he is simply “a man walking a dog” – it is only at the end of the game that it is clear he is linked to one club.


I have a simple message for these people – go away. Volunteers are vital to the grassroots game but do we need people that are doing more harm than good? The U15’s teams were poorly coached with little shape, structure, technical ability or creativity on show. These coaches obviously have serious shortcomings allied to their aggressive nature. These volunteers we do not need –Go Away.

They seem to take personally the deficiencies within their own team as a poor reflection on them and thus blame everybody and anybody but themselves for woeful performances. They have never heard of the “let them play” approach. I found myself thinking – what if this team had no coach and parents who were kept well away from the park? Well they would still have been beat but at least they would have played the game in an enjoyable and blame free environment.

The serious issue here is that these coaches are actually doing damage to the girls game and restricting individual player development. They are only interested in winning and when this does not happen it is everybody’s fault but theirs. Neither team, not surprisingly, has any girl in youth representative squads to the best of my knowledge. What is remarkable is that both clubs are charter mark clubs and well known within girls football. These clubs will have many good well intentioned people and are being let down by individuals within the club. The reply will be that they are volunteering and giving their time for free.

My answer is to tell them to go away - you are better off without them. I recently watched another U13 league game where the parents would not stand beside each other and some even traded insults and one coach would not even shake hands at the end of the game. Club politics and personality clashes all coming to a head in front of 11/12 year old girls. Message for you - work together and unite for a common goal or “go away”. Coaches must remember that the game is not for you – it is for the kids.

There you go. Feel better. Rant over. Before I go I urge you to read an article by Jim Erwin on the best way forward for the girls game. Please click here.

Entry 8 | 8th May 2012

Mixing It Up
First off I would like to mention what a great experience it was for the players (and parents!) who represented the Scottish Schools Girls U15 team in their 4-0 victory over England at Toryglen – and the presentation of caps at Hampden afterwards brought a tear to some (yes you were spotted!!).
In conversation with English parents I was reminded that so called “mixed football” is more restricted south of the border. Unless you have a good reason mixed football is not permitted after U11. We in Scotland, I would like to think, have a more enlightened view on the issue and this is to the benefit of the more talented girls in Scotland. Looking around the Scotland team I am aware of a number of the girls who have played mixed football until recently.
What does this mean? Well the boys tend to be quicker and stronger so girls must both face and deal with the physical challenge. While some girls relish this challenge others develop strategies to deal with the pace of the game- they learn to think quicker and release the ball faster so that the game does not become a physical battle. At the U12/U13 level girls learn the importance of creating space in boys youth teams, I would argue. 
For those talented girls, within girls football, the temptation to “take on” a number of opponents becomes irresistible. They do it because they can!! Their touch, dribbling ability and speed are greater than most of the players around them so why not? Encouraged in equal parts by coaches and parents they become the so called stars of the team.  But are they developing the way they should?
If they stayed in “good” boys teams in a highly competitive league the option to dribble and beat one player after another is simply not there. They are facing physically stronger and often faster players. Thus development comes in the form of link up play, quicker decision making, having vision and awareness and acquiring individual skills to use in tight situations or to beat a player in a 1v1 situation.
There are many talented girls in girls teams spread throughout the country – I have seen them. I believe many of these girls would benefit from staying within mixed football for much longer. The “trade off” however is a big one. They must sacrifice the lure of playing for the best girl’s team in the area with the chance of winning cup and league medals, for playing in a challenging boys (mixed) league with a lesser chance of winning silverware. However playing in a team that does not win every week is maybe not palpable to parents more than players.
Need to hark back to the “German experience” again. In Germany the girls are actively encouraged to play in boys teams. The resultant strength, speed, stamina and speed of thought were there for all to see.
As always I would go one step further! At present girls can play in mixed football up to U15 level. This is about right because after this level (U16) I think it is very difficult for girls to compete. To aid girls development why not give a dispensation to boys teams at U14-U15 level that they are allowed to play an over-age player if they are a girl? Up to this level (U13) girls must play within their own age group within mixed football. Daft idea? You tell me. What I don’t want to hear any more, and I here all too often from some parents, is a criticism of the lack of competition in the girls game. If the leagues appear uncompetitive then, as Paddy McGuiness would say on a Saturday night, “the power is in your hands.” Do your research and pick an appropriate local boys team for her to play in. No immediate glory, perhaps, but long term gain I would argue. 

Entry 7 | 19th April 2012
A Load of Blarney!
Headed off to Dublin over Easter with the Scottish Schools Girls U15 squad. Arrived at Castleknock
Hotel and Country Club on Monday 2nd April and my first thought was what a tremendous location
this would be to base a football team. My second thought was how great it was that the team were
not based here – peace and quiet for 5 days.
The Bob Docherty Cup is an annual event predominately for the home nations – a mini home
internationals series if you like. The squad travelling went through a rigorous selection process and
intensive squad preparation days – so a big congratulations to all who survived the culling process.
Lets get the results out of the way for starters as this is a blog and not a series of match reports. May
I say that excellent reports and pictures of the games can be found on the Scottish schools website.
First up was reigning champs (and eventual winners Northern Ireland and despite dominating the
game the Scots lost 3-2 to a last minute goal. Next up was a ROI select squad and the Scots were
off the mark with a deserved 2-0 victory. Then it was the “big one” on Thursday and the Scots girls
played brilliantly to record a 4-0 victory over the “auld enemy” England.
My thoughts. Well first up must be a mention to the Scottish schools set-up. I remember the old
days of wee Gordon Stachan live on a Saturday afternoon at Wembley with good old Brian Moore
as commentator. The schools set up has taken a bit of a battering since those halcyon days but I
have noticed, both in the girls and boys game, the prestige of representing Scottish Schools has risen
again. I found the whole experience was wonderful for my daughter and I am sure others would
agree. The girls went through an extensive selection and preparation programme involving training
days and practice matches. The organisation and professionalism was superb and it obviously meant
as much to the coaching team to be successful as it did to the players. It is obviously a “big deal” to
represent your country at any level, and the passion for which the girls sang the national anthem
clearly demonstrates this.
Thanks Scottish Schools for taking the girls game seriously. Not always the case with youth clubs
throughout Scotland where girls teams are sometimes seen as an “add-on” to generate more
revenue or secure more funding. The best is yet to come with each girl having been fitted for a dress
uniform and a presentation of caps at Hampden Park on Saturday April 21st April after the England
game at Toryglen. All this adds up to a great and enduring experience.
Can’t leave it there though can I? Just a quick plea to the SFA to have a more extensive programme
for U15’s Girls. Greater exposure to international teams, both home and abroad, can only be a good
thing. There may be good reasons for the limited number of games organised at this level. I believe
the Germans in November is the only planned fixture, but surely the logistical or resource based
issues are not insurmountable. In addition increased coach interaction with players can only help
both player development and coach opinion.
In the meantime lets celebrate the girls achievements by going along to Toryglen this Saturday 21 st
April. A big crowd will be a fitting end to a superb season for the girls.
To witness a great pile up check out the link below:

Entry 6 | 2nd April 2012

Mystic Steve looks ahead to the new season
As the new season gets under way, hopes and expectations abound within clubs throughout the league and some may have just be feeling a little trepidation too!
Thought I would whiz around the leagues and have a bit of fun picking my winners. Starting off with the Women’s Premier League and I am afraid I can’t see past Glasgow City doing it again. Celtic, Hibs and Spartans will challenge again but I think City will prove too strong. Into the First Division and while I think Celtic and Hibs will have strong youthful teams I am going to go for Queens Park for a bit of fun. C’mon the spiders.
Hibernian Girls vs Buchan Quines - Under 17s
In the Second Division North I am going for Aberdeen Ladies Res and in the East region I am going for Dundee City. Off to the South East Region and I will plumb for Hibs 1875 for no other reason than I like the name. (Think you may all be catching on to the idea that some of these teams may be picked with my eyes shut and a needle in my hand!) In the West Region Murieston and Hamilton Reserves will fight it out along with Glasgow Girls and East Kilbride Galaxy. Think I will plump for Accies Res out of that lot.
In the youth leagues my selection process is equally flawed. In the North 17s I will go with Aberdeen Ladies and in the South East region I will go for those old perennial favourites Hibs. In the West/South West league I think Celtic will prove too strong despite having a young team.
In the U15s section I will go with Dunfermline (no insider information – just did not want to go with Hibs again!) and in the Central/West I think Rangers will prove too strong for the rest. In the East 15s league I will pick Dundee USC to pip Celtic Girls, while in the North Region I will say Forfar will pip Aberdeen. Finally in the South West league I think it will be a straight battle between Kilwinning and East Kilbride with Kilwinning just edging it (I would say that wouldn’t I)
Racing through the 13s leagues and I will pick Falkirk to reign supreme in the Central/West League, Forfar Far to edge out Dundee U in the East league and in the other East league I will take a wild guess (as if I have not been doing that already!) and go for Dunfermline. In the Ayrshire league it is Kilwinning for me and in the Lanarkshire/Dumfries version I will take Hamilton Accies to edge out East Kilbride. Finally last but not least I will pick Glasgow City to edge out Celtic in the West 13s league.
Cup predictions
Scottish Cup: Glasgow City
League Cup:  Glasgow City
Girls 17’s: Celtic
Girls 15’s: Rangers
Girls 13’s: Kilwinning
I am going to award myself five points for each of my teams that finish top, four points for second and so on down to one point for finishing fifth. Who fancies a bit of fun? Get your selections on the YFS forum and let’s see who has the most points at the end of the year. Don’t know some of the leagues? No problem neither did I! All leagues and teams are posted on the website www.scottishfa.co.uk/swf and can be viewed under “fixtures results and league tables”.
On a more serious note well done to Scotland Women at the Cyprus Cup – good win over Holland and a fine victory over South Africa to finish with. Also U19s out in La Manga and just recorded a fine 4-0 win over France recenlty. Remember an important date for your diary - 5th April and Scotland at home to Republic of Ireland in Euro 2013 qualifier at Tynecastle. Get along if you can.
I am off to Dublin to follow the Scotland Schools Girls U15 squad that week as they take on the Home Nations in the Bob Docherty Cup. No Guinness I promise.

Entry 5 | 6th February 2012

All set for a new season
My previous blogs have been single issue “get it off my chest” type blogs. So this time around I thought I would take a gentle amble through the girls/ladies scene in Scotland.
altFirst off on the agenda is the increasing use of social media by clubs and individuals. Twitter is being used by many clubs to communicate to the wider world as well as their own followers. One great example of the power of this medium was the crusade by Glasgow Girls for new changing facilities. Apparently a local councillor objected to their application, and through the power of twitter, GGFC were able to mount an effective awareness raising campaign resulting in great media exposure for their cause. This was picked up by local press, TV and other websites who all provided the oxygen for greater publicity for the issue. Many clubs also use Twitter and Facebook to publicise up and coming events and fixtures and produce links to match reports. Youth Football Scotland are now the premier source for youth football in Scotland due to them fully embracing social media. Also worth a particular mention is the swfitba.co.uk site which is an excellent site for all things related to the ladies game in Scotland.
It was refreshing to here that the new performance schools announced by Mark Wotte of the SFA WILL include girls as well as boys. Thought the SFA were going to miss a trick there but I was proved pleasantly wrong.
I have been a big advocate of the need to improve the standard of coaching girls receive. In this respect it is nice to see Anna Signeul and Shelly Kerr leading the way as both are currently completing their UEFA Pro Licence at Largs – I believe they are the first women to go through the course at Largs. Good luck to them both. While I am on the national team the next home game is at Tyncastle on 5th April 2012 and is a Euro qualifier against Republic of Ireland. Get along and cheer the ladies on.
Also helping to raise the profile of the ladies game is Glasgow City who are currently featuring in a TV documentary series on Alba which is screened on a Thursday night and repeated on a Sunday evening. Staying with Glasgow City and Lisa Evans is off to Turbine Potsdam for a trial. Now for those who do not know Potsdam are the German team that knocked City out of the Champions league. So whats so special about this? Well Potsdam are a professional club and Lisa has a chance to secure a full-time contract. This can only encourage all those girls out there that slowly things are changing and opportunities are starting to present themselves to those girls dedicated to becoming the best.
Special date for your calendar is Sunday 19th February when Glasgow City will entertain Arsenal Ladies in a pre-season friendly. The game will be at Petershill with a 2pm KO. Another small step forward as Glasgow City are now viewed as credible opposition. 
Had to laugh when Brian Reid (Ayr Utd) had his public spat with Kenny Shields, the manager of Kilmarnock after the Cup semi-final at Hampden. In defence of his teams tactics he stated that they were part time and trained twice a week! Having witnessed first hand the dedication and commitment of the girls at Glasgow City who train four nights a week and are expected to do gym work the other night, then it is a scandal that they do not get paid anything at all.
Back to the grassroots level and I had a girl, playing for an U17 team and currently training 3/4 times a week say to me “hope all this training is not for nothing.” What she was meaning, after seeking an explanation, was that she does not want to train 4 nights a week to play in a league with a few teams and little competition. This takes me back to a previous blog and I fear the powers that be have not fully considered reorganisation. If they have not then they are letting this girl (any many others) down. I fear the worst but I have already been pleasantly surprised once recently!!!
I attended the Scottish schools trials for the girls U15’s at Toryglen on Friday 3rd February. There were some excellent skills on show and good luck to all those who are selected to represent the Scottish Schools. While in the congratulatory mood a big well done to the Scotland Ladies who recorded a 5-1 victory over N Ireland at the week-end.
Girls and ladies up and down the country are training hard for the new season (hopefully with a ball!) and are excited for the new season. Fixtures for the ladies will be out during the week of 13th February and the youth fixtures should be out the week after. Keep checking the Scottishfa.co.uk/swf website for full details or check the social media forums who, if recent evidence is anything to go by, will put it in the public domain first!

Entry 4 | 10th January 2011

Pre-season Fun.
Funny time to be talking about pre-season when the Xmas decorations are just down?
Well not really because up and down the whole country girls will just be returning for pre-season training. See the girls are the clever ones who play between March and November with a mid-season break in July. No standing freezing in the snow and ice for us, or worse still having games cancelled week after week due to the weather. I have long been an advocate of summer football and my experience in the girls game only reinforces this view.
altAnyway back to pre-season training matters and a particular bug bear of mine. We all know pre-season is about raising your fitness levels but (and this may surprise some) this can be achieved with a ball!!!! I am sure some of you girls out there will be familiar with the scenario of the coach standing in the middle of the park while you poor sods run round and round the pitch. “Right go and get a quick drink” he barks as he sets out cones for the next part of his session – shuttle runs, doggies or whatever he likes to call it. Throw in a few sit-ups, press-ups etc and with 20 minutes left of the session he reluctantly (and rather generously in his view) relents and gives you a prize for all that good running you have been doing – he introduces you to a ball and gives you a quick game of fives. “No gain without pain” he smiles as he gathers the equipment up and promises to be not as “soft” next time in giving you a ssg.
If your preseason is like that then I challenge you to name and shame these coaches. Let me state it loud and clear – the desired fitness levels can be achieved by using a ball and working on skill and technique at the same time. A win/win situation. Quick question before we go any further. What is the maximum time Wolves players are allowed to run during pre-season? Read on for the answer.
The educated coach will introduce a ball at the very first session back. The key to pre-season (and indeed all training sessions for that matter) is tempo and intensity. Keep the tempo up and increased fitness levels are an inevitable by-product of the drill. A simple bit of session planning is all that is required. It still never ceases to amaze me that some coaches still have shooting practice whereby a girl stands in a long queue for a couple of minutes and gets one touch of the ball in that time.It neither improves fitness or enhances skill.
Jose Mourhino stated when asked about Real Madrid’s pre season regime “the pianist does not run around the piano.” Excusing the english I think we all know what he means. Similarly the footballer should use a football and get as many touches as possible. Why not try hand ball as a warm-up? Girls are having fun as they sprint, change direction, jog and move backwards and sidewards – all movements which mimic those in a game. For those coaches that use monitors then put them on for this exercise and you may be surprised at just how hard the girls are working.
While I am at it lets break another firmly held belief of some coaches – if you do not feel stiff and sore the next morning then I am not driving you hard enough. Well if you can hardly walk in the morning this is NOT good – you have been pushed too hard. I still know of somebody who believes that up and down the sand dunes until you are sick is the best way to prepare for the season ahead. Maybe you girls will tell me of another such dinosaur out there.
Please share you pre-season stories with us so we can all learn (or have a laugh!).
Nearly forgot and the answer to the question is 3 minutes according to Tong Daley their sports scientist. No that’s not a typo the answer really is three minutes.

Entry 3 | 5th December 2011

Our Bonnie lasses in Bonn
altWhat is it with the Germans? Vorsprung Durch Technik and all that. Do every German football team have to live up to their reputation as being a well oiled machine – big, powerful, well organised and disciplined? If their Girls U15 team are anything to go by then the answer is an emphatic Yes.
I travelled to Bonn in Germany at the beginning of November to follow the young Scots take on Germany in two friendly internationals.
The first game in the picturesque village of Bruhl, in south west Germany attracted a crowd Glasgow City Ladies could only dream off. What an experience for the girls to stand for the national anthem in such an environment. The second game was staged at an equally impressive location, but for entirely different reasons.
For those interested the girls were beaten 3-0 in the first game and well beaten in the second but now down to business. I learned that the German girls had been training and playing together for a long time in comparison to the young Scots whose first game this was. It was therefore to be expected that the Germans would be well organised and playing within a disciplined shape. But this does not explain why the Germans appeared to be much bigger, stronger, and quicker in mind and body than the Scottish girls. While watching the second game my mind wandered back to the European night at Tyncastle earlier in the season when Spurs came calling. Men v Boys. A gap in technique was maybe to be expected but not such a massive gap in athleticism.
Ok I know the argument that for every one Scottish girl there are 10 Germans – simple population mathematics. But this still does not fully explain the difference in stature between our elite and their elite girls.
I suspect one answer maybe that they introduce their girls to sports science much earlier. This was confirmed in discussions which suggest strength and conditioning and core strength are encouraged at an early age. Speed and agility testing at 11/12 and personal fitness plans? Secondly I was informed that their girls are encouraged to play in boys teams and a number of their team were currently still playing in boys leagues. In such an environment strength and speed are important attributes. Our current league set-up simply does not prepare girls for this.
It is clear that we need, at the elite level, to top level requirements earlier. Talent identification must be undertaken at an earlier age and those girls with the drive and ambition to attain top level status must be accommodated at an earlier age. The regional squads may have a bigger role to play here. This would also allow our U15’s girls to have a longer lead-in time in preparation for international fixtures. My daughter has attended a few national squad training camps and these have been very well organised and beneficial but should they start earlier? Final thought –To encourage more girls to stay within boys teams should we allow girls to play one year below their age group?
Any other thoughts on how we prepare our girls for elite level competition??

Entry 2 | 7th November 2011

Time For Change 
Falkirk FC vs Prestwick CFC (Under 13s)Having travelled the length and breadth of the country over the last 7 months I have seen a lot of games and spoken to a lot of people. I have talked to coaches, players, referees, parents, players and even casual spectators (usually a man out walking his dog!). While they all have different views (some simply barmy) one issue keeps coming up over and over again - the lack of competition and the resulting massive mismatches that occur. The time for Change is NOW.
The current structure permits these mismatches to occur and needs to be radically overhauled. At U15 level in the West/South West league Celtic are the best team with Rangers likely to finish second. At U17 level it is a similar story with only Celtic and Rangers competing for the league title. Leagues are nearly always decided based on the results of the games between two teams thus there are only two meaningful games in a season for these teams. Simply not acceptable.
This may be uncomfortable reading for some but lets look at the youth leagues in more detail. In the central South West U15 league Hamilton, Falkirk and Wishaw competed for the league with the games between these teams being competitive. In the South East Region U15 league Dunfermline, Hibs Hearts and Whitburn were all competitive. In the East region only two teams competed for the league Letham and DUSC. In the West/South West U15 league once Celtic had beaten Rangers the league was over as a contest. In the North Region only Aberdeen East End Youth and Deveronvale had any realistic chance of winning the league. In every one of these leagues double figure scores occurred frequently. This even resulted in teams folding during the season and many girls lost to the game for ever. Sad.
At U17 level again the West/South West league was uncompetitive with the winners of the Celtic/Rangers clash effectively deciding the league. Many of the other games resulted in double figure victories for these two teams. Again a team pulled out of the league during the season. In the North league only Real Farmington and Aberdeen East End Youth were in contention while the Central/East/South East league seemed to be the most competitive with a number of teams chasing the title.
So what can be done? Firstly regions have to be amalgamated so that there are only two regions in Scotland at U15 level. The East and North would join together. At present there are two leagues with 6 and 7 teams. While this would not address the issue of uncompetitive games it would ensure that all teams get an opportunity to play more games against teams of a similar ability. Also for a league to have only 12 games in a season defies belief. The rest of Scotland would have 22 teams based on 2011 numbers and two leagues of 11 could be formed. The intention would be to have both more games AND more competitive games. 
Obviously players can join whichever team they wish and the best girls seem to be attracted to the more successful teams – as happens in the boys youth leagues.  This only serves to perpetuate the uncompetitive nature of some leagues. What can the SWF do?
Firstly they can limit the number of players a club can sign and stop the ridiculous situation that one team can have 6 substitutes and many more signed players while other clubs are folding due to lack of players! Secondly the SWF should encourage all existing and new clubs to have better coaching available. It is a massive uneven playing field in relation to the amount and standard of coaching  available at different clubs. Do not criticise the better clubs for having well qualified staff and training three times a week. Rather ensure that free coach education is available to ensure minimum standards are achieved. A level 4 Youth Award should be a minimum to coach U17 Girls and those Girls in U15 upper leagues. Too high a benchmark? Not in my opinion. This would be the best way to maintain the player pathway ensuring more girls remain in the game after 16 and to increase competitiveness within the leagues thus raising the overall standard of the game in Scotland.
I would be more than happy to sit down with anybody from the SWF or the SFA to discuss these issues further. I know I represent a large proportion of people involved in the girls game who feel their voice is not heard. I am passionate about increasing both quantity AND quality of players and restructuring of the leagues would help achieve both. Please comment on this blog as the time for change is NOW.

Entry 1 | 2nd October 2011

What’s Your Style?
Attended an SFA coaching course recently? Learned new drills that you have taken back to your club? Many coaches will do the drills that they like. Many will create a session based on a theme and work through the themes such as passing, shooting etc. But how many coaches out there have chosen a style of play and based all the drills, skills, ssg, and even warm-ups on that style?
When I coached Kilwinning Girls some years ago I chose a specific style of play and all activities within every training session were carefully chosen (or sometimes made up!) to reaffirm the chosen style. Now Glasgow City Ladies have taken this one step further by adopting a style of play and introducing this at all age groups within the club. I met with Eddie Wolecki a couple of weeks ago to learn more.
Eddie is Head Coach of Glasgow City and has been involved with the ladies game for over four years now.  Previously involved in both the male senior and junior game he speaks passionately about football and has an energy and commitment rarely seen in the ladies game. What style has Eddie chosen for his team? Well it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that this style of play is backed up by a coaching manual outlining the techniques to be taught, the skills to be developed and the drills to be implemented. All the exercises have been carefully chosen to reinforce the chosen playing style. Each coach at every age level within the club implements age appropriate drills contained within this manual. 
Eddie believes that such an approach will reap success in the future as each younger age group will be able to feed into an older age group were the style of play is familiar and the training methods recognisable and understood by players as they progress through the club. This may not be revolutionary – professional clubs have manuals for their youth academy’s – but how many grassroots clubs take such an approach? I suspect most clubs do a disclosure check, and encourage coach development, but beyond that there is no attempt to be prescriptive. The coach is almost certainly left to his own devices with little or no scrutiny. 
The success of Glasgow City Ladies can be put down to a number of hard working individuals but Eddie’s role is clearly significant. He has been a frequent visitor to Barcelona’s youth academy and his coaching philosophy has claret and blue running throughout it. Equally important in the formulation of Eddie's philosophy was a foreign trip which opened his eyes to the commitment and training regime undertaken by girls in Sweden. 
It seems that Eddie has always been waiting for his “social experiment” and Glasgow City became his “guinea pig”. Could a more professional approach, increased training, improved technique, greater use of sports science, video analysis and tactical awareness sessions bring the desired results? The answer is an emphatic yes. Glasgow City are now the best ladies team in Scotland and have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League.
Not every club can adopt a style and work to a common manual, as Glasgow City now do within the girls' and women's game. But every coach must have an idea of how he wants his team to play. There is no right and wrong here – all I am saying is don’t plan sessions with fancy drills, conditioned games etc if they don’t serve the purpose of reaffirming your chosen style. So what’s your style? 

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