Scottish football takes a new path
Scottish football takes the first steps on a new journey in the coming weeks with the launch of the new National Player Pathway.
The pathway has been designed by the Scottish FA and the Scottish Youth FA to improve youth development and means that, for the first time, all children playing club football in Scotland will play a format of the game that focuses on developing the right skills for their stage of development.
This means that, from next month (March), all children aged 6-9 will play Fun Fours (4v4) football, all children aged 9-12 will play Soccer Sevens (7v7) and only children over 12 will play 11-a-side football.
The launch of the pathway coincides with the introduction of a new summer season for youth and women's football in Scotland, with leagues now running from March to November to take advantage of the best weather conditions.
Ritchie Wilson, SFA South West regional manager, said the new pathway brought about a “fabulous opportunity” for Scottish Football.
“For a number of years in Scotland we’ve been working very hard to have a consistent small-sided approach to the game at grassroots level and this now gives us the opportunity to do that,” he said.
7-a-side football has been the small-sided game of choice throughout Scotland for a number of years and has been widely accepted as leading to improved opportunities for children to improve their touch and technique.
The more recent introduction of 4v4 builds on the same principles and allows the children to grow with the game - a fundamental principle of the new player pathway.
According to Wilson, the 4v4 game "provides a great opportunity for kids to get regular touches of the ball."
"It provides lots of opportunity for one-v-one situations which is something that we want to try and promote in our country to try and produce more creative players," he added.
"Length, width and depth are principals of play within the game that can be easily accommodated within the 4v4 using the diamond shape. We feel there is a natural progression using that shape taking it from 4s into 7s and also up to the 11-a-side game."
The SYFA will help leagues across Scotland implement the new game formats over the next six months, while the SFA will support the transition to the new pathway by providing new 4v4 goals along with coaching courses and workshops for coaches and officials preparing to take the first steps onto the pathway with their team.
As part of this support, Wilson and his fellow SFA regional managers are leading a series of regional 'in-service' days for coaches and officials. The sessions, which have proved very popular with attendees, focus on the 4v4 and 7v7 game formats of the game and have covered topics such as the role of the coach, skills practices and positive coaching.
The pathway represents a revolutionary new approach to youth development in Scotland but, according to Wilson, is one that should stand them in good stead in the long run.
“We’re looking at long term player development now. We have a programme in place as well which speaks about long term player development and talks about number of hours and the practice that we need to have in the game.
"We’ve gone away from the days of kids regularly just going out and practicing with a ball for four or five hours a day.
"We need to try and bring that back and this gives us the opportunity to do that. But there’s a structure to it and a natural progression to the type of game because the game does grow with the player.”
To find out more about any aspect of the new player pathway contact your SYFA Regional office or visit the SFA Website.
What do you think of the player pathway?
Are you a Scottish coach/player/official preparing to take your first steps on the new player pathway? If so, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the new structure for youth football in Scotland. Are you fully behind the proposals? What do you like most about it and what aren't you so keen on?
Even if you're not involved in Scottish football, we'd love to hear what you think about the pathway. Does it cover the sort of developmental plans that you would like to see your FA implement? Are you in favour of the 4v4, 7v7 and 11v11 pathway and the introduction of summer seasons to help development?
We'd love to hear your views, so click here to leave a comment and tell us if you think Scotland is on the right path!
With thanks to the Scottish FA for the use of images.