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A memorable run: Reflecting on the SFA NextGen Girls’ Performance Programme inaugural season

What makes this programme different?

Seven clubs compete in the Category 1 League Competition, with each playing twice.

The Category 2 League Competition consists of five clubs that face each other twice.

Category 2 Cup Competition

Weekly U14 Small Sided Games Festivals (3 clubs) – Cross Tier (Cat 1 & Cat 2)

The Scottish FA Girls Next Gen Cat 1 competition is the highest-level youth football competition in Scotland specifically designed for female players. This competition is a component of the Scottish Football Association’s (SFA) endeavours to cultivate and advance women’s football throughout the nation.

The Cat 1 classification represents the most competitive level of youth competition, signifying that it is a league for professional academies where young players may develop their talents and perhaps advance to senior levels of the sport.

Engaging in the Cat 1 League provides athletes with a distinct route to pursue a possible career in professional football. By participating in many matches and training sessions, and receiving guidance from experienced coaching staff, young athletes can advance in their careers and perhaps secure contracts with older clubs or national teams.

How are clubs split into each category?

Clubs are evaluated based on predetermined standards that take into account their performance in areas like coaching credentials, facilities, talent spotting, long-term athlete development plans, paths, and availability of sports science and medicine.

The clubs have been divided into the following groups after the auditing process:

Category One:

Celtic, Glasgow City, Hamilton Academical, Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Rangers & Spartans

Category Two:

Aberdeen, Boroughmuir Thistle, Kilmarnock, Livingston & Motherwell

How does it work?

The league operates on a round-robin basis, where each team faces every other team at least twice—once at home and once away. This format is intended to promote consistent performance and resilience, as teams must adapt to different conditions and venues. Points are awarded in the standard manner: three points for a win, one for a draw, and none for a loss. The team with the highest points at the end of the season is crowned the champion.

Cat 1; The story so far

Celtic FC Girls’ Academy: Known for their historic dominance in Scottish football, Celtic’s youth academy consistently produces top-tier talent. Their U14 team focuses on technical excellence and tactical awareness, mirroring the senior team’s playing philosophy. Their training regimen emphasises ball control, passing accuracy, high pressing and positional intelligence. They are known for their attacking prowess and solid defensive structure, making them a tough opponent.

Rangers FC Girls’ Academy: Rangers’ youth setup is renowned for its robust physical training and strategic discipline. The U14 team plays with a high intensity, often utilising high pressing to disrupt their opponents. They have a strong emphasis on fitness, agility, and teamwork, and their matches are characterised by fast-paced action and resilience.

Glasgow City FC Girls’ Academy: Glasgow City’s team is celebrated for its technical sophistication and creative play. They focus heavily on developing individual skills and understanding of the game. This team often demonstrates a flair for attacking football, with an emphasis on fluid movement and dynamic passing sequences.

Hibernian FC Girls’ Academy: Hibernian’s youth squad emphasises a balanced approach, combining solid defensive tactics with opportunistic attacking strategies. Their coaching philosophy is rooted in developing a deep understanding of both defensive duties and attacking opportunities. They are known for their disciplined formations and ability to switch play effectively.

Spartans FC Girls’ Academy: Spartans’ youth teams are known for their work ethic and gritty determination. The team prides itself on resilience and teamwork, making them a formidable side even against technically superior opponents. Their playing style is straightforward and effective, focusing on strong defensive organisation and quick counter-attacks.

Hearts FC Girls’ Academy: Hearts academy squads place a strong emphasis on the development of individual talents within a cohesive team framework. Their players are often adept at maintaining possession and making intelligent passes. The team strives to play attractive football, with a focus on patient build-up play and effective use of width.

Hamilton Academical Girls’ Academy: Hamilton Academical’s academy squads are characterised by their strong community ethos and development-focused approach. They emphasise nurturing homegrown talent, with a focus on technical drills, tactical understanding, and mental resilience.

The winner of the Scottish FA’s Next Gen Category 1 U14 League for the 2023/2024 season was Celtic Girls’ Academy who demonstrated exceptional skill, teamwork, and resilience throughout the competition. Their journey to victory was marked by a series of impressive performances, showcasing the high level of talent present in Scotland’s youth football scene. This achievement not only highlights their individual and collective abilities but also sets a promising foundation for their future development in the sport.

The winner of the Scottish FA’s Next Gen Category 1 U16 League for the 2023/2024 season was Hearts FC Girls’ Academy. The triumph of the U16 winners marks a significant milestone in their young careers and serves as a stepping stone for future opportunities, including progressing to higher age brackets and potentially breaking into professional leagues or national teams. This victory not only brings pride to the team and their supporters but also inspires other young girls across Scotland to pursue their passion for football with dedication and ambition.

In the highly competitive U18 Category 1 League, the victory went to two teams that demonstrated unparalleled skill, commitment, and teamwork throughout the season; Rangers FC Girls Academy and Hearts FC Girls Academy who finished the season with the same amount of points and goal difference.

Cat 2; The story so far

Aberdeen FC Girls’ Academy: Focused on creating a pathway to the senior team, Aberdeen FC Youth emphasises a strong technical game, ensuring players are well-rounded and have a robust understanding of football fundamentals. The coaching staff is experienced in nurturing young talent, aiming to produce future stars for both the club and national team.

Kilmarnock FC Girls’ Academy: Kilmarnock’s U14 team focuses on strong defensive organization and counter-attacking prowess. The club operates with a philosophy of resilience and hard work, ensuring players are grounded in the basics while also being encouraged to express themselves creatively on the pitch.

Motherwell Girls FC: Motherwell places a strong emphasis on community and development. The U14 team is seen as a vital part of the club’s future, with a focus on nurturing talent through intensive coaching and real-game experience. Their training programs are designed to improve technical skills, tactical understanding, and overall athleticism.

Boroughmuir Thistle Girls’ Academy: Through rigorous training, tactical education, and wellbeing support, the program at Boroughmuir strives to produce well-rounded athletes equipped to excel both on and off the field. This holistic model not only aids in the immediate performance of the team but also lays a strong foundation for the future of women’s football in Scotland.

Livingston FC Girls’ Academy: The blend of quality coaching, strong community involvement, and a focus on holistic development set the stage for a season that was a turning point for women’s football in Scotland. Livingston FC Girls’ Academy’s participation in the league provides its players with invaluable exposure to high-quality competition, helping them hone their skills and gain critical match experience.

Next Gen Category Cup winners: This victory is more than just a trophy; it’s a stepping stone for these young champions. It builds confidence and sets a foundation for future successes, both on and off the field. The lessons learned, friendships forged, and memories created during this journey are invaluable, shaping these young athletes into the leaders of tomorrow.

14s: Motherwell FC Girls’ Academy

16s: Aberdeen FC Girls’ Academy

18s: Aberdeen FC Girls’ Academy

During the program’s first year, participants made impressive strides in several game-related areas. They showed enhanced leadership, teamwork, tactical comprehension, and technical expertise. In addition, the programme assisted players in gaining the resilience, discipline, and strong work ethic necessary for success in competitive football. Parents, athletes, and coaches who were a part of the programme had nothing but wonderful things to say. The chance to be a part of such a top-notch development endeavour was acknowledged with thanks by the participants. In the future, the Girls’ Performance Programme of the NextGen Scottish FA hopes to draw in more skilled players, broaden its audience, and keep improving the calibre of women’s football in Scotland.

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