Grassroots football in Scotland: St Mirren - part 2

Written by Andrew Southwick.

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Following on from part of of Sean Graham's extensive interview with St Mirren Youth FC, the interview with Frank Sweeney, Iain McMillan and Will Devlin continues.

By Sean Graham

Have things changed since the days of screaming Dad's at the side of the pitch?

Frank Sweeney: “I think development overtakes winning! Winning at a young age is not important, it is coming, playing, doing the right things and enjoying yourself, if you are not enjoying yourself then don't come, go and find something that suits you!

“Don't get me wrong, it's nice when you win and kids definately like to win but it is not the be all and end all! I would prefer to see my team going out there playing in the right manner and getting beat narrowly than going out there and hammering a team and they were all over the place, just a big boot up the park.

“It is a passion game; kids have got to be comfortable on the ball, you see the Europeans and they are all comfortable on the ball, they don't just belt the ball up the park!

"You have got to be able to pass it, if you cannot pass a ball then when you get to the age of under 13's 14s then you will get found out.

“ I would like to think that the philosophy right throughout the club is get the ball down and play football, what I have seen of most of my teams is that’s is the way they like to play, we don’t play route one football!  Even if we are in trouble or losing the game, it is best if you can build from the back. In our Under 12’s our goalkeeper cannot launch the ball far, so we work on the ability to pass it out!

“The criteria we use to recruit coaches to this club is by advertisement, lately we have been advertising but when the Under 21’s players finished, I had nine coaching football teams created for me by developing these young men into coaches, one or two of them have went to university and have moved away from the area, so I have lost a couple but I have still got about 6 or 7 coaching for the club out of a squad of maybe about 18 and that is not bad and some of these boys have been with me for a number of years.

“We are not just saying cheerio to players when they are finished at 21’s or whatever if they want to come back and help the next set of players then they are more than welcome.

"It is something that we looked at very carefully; there is a downside at having younger guys coaching football teams, especially if they are at university and they do have to make it in the big bad world after a certain amount of time, sometimes the jobs are not in Paisley!

"If they can find a coaching spot anywhere else then it is no problem, I would recommend them because they are all fully disclosed, they have all done their coaching badges, it was only last season that we lost a team and two coaches because they did not want to be disclosed and they could not be bothered doing their coaching badges and they moved away to another club who allowed them to do that.

“ I think that kind of thing is bad, it is bad for football and it does leave a club open to scrutiny ,hence the quality mark, we are a quality mark club and it is our business to make sure that everybody within the club is fit for purpose.

“I think everybody could do with a little more help with equipment, in fact there are a lot more avenues out there if you just go and look for them.”

Awards for All?

“ Some local councils have money put aside for good causes, be it sport or whatever, we have had Awards for All for quite a lot of our teams and Sports Match is another good one, like the local authorities they make money available, it is just a matter for qualifying for it, you just have to put a good case forward for it.

“ A few years ago we heard that Jenny’s Well was up for grabs after another team had folded and it took me the best part of two years to secure it but we have had it now for a decade and it has been great, the council maintain the park mostly but there comes a time of the year when they stop cutting and recently in the last couple of years we have bought a tractor and some other implements and we do a lot of the work ourselves, a liner, a tractor, a roller, that sort of thing but it all costs money, it doesn’t grow on trees, you don’t get it for nothing, it has got to be bought and paid for and that is maybe something the SFA (Paul McNeill the regional manager, Danny Bisland and Brian McLaughlin) they are trying to get us some portacabins to replace one that we are currently hiring and that costs us £60 a month so if we got a couple of portacabins-they have to be metal containers so that no one can burn them down unfortunately-but we have not really had any luck and they are trying their best that if anything becomes available, we will be first in line to get it, it would be good if you could get something at a decent price but everybody is looking to make money!"

Bringing the right kind of coaches to the club is vital for the club and how not only they but the kids develop and through advertisement Frank was able to bring in two enthusiastic young coaches to St.Mirren Youth FC to run the Under 15’s side and both have already had rave reviews from Frank for their efforts but what was their first impressions of the club?

Iain:  I was quite impressed after my first meeting with Frank and Stephen. The two guys showed a real passion for what they wanted to achieve for the club and how they were going to try and achieve it. It is a family setup and everybody is encouraging and supportive from all the coaching staff, to the parents of the players who take a real interest. Every body in the setup commit a lot of their spare time and hard work with the sole aim in giving kids and youths the opportunity to play football and be able to develop them as best they can.  

From my own point of view, I was looking for a setup that was going to allow me coach and give me good experience of being able to coach a team. It has worked out the way as I had hoped and really enjoying it.
 
Will: After meeting both Stephen and Frank I was impressed with the whole set up. A few things impressed me about Stephen and Frank was their passion, commitment and determination to help the development of kid’s progress and help the community as a whole.
 
Frank and Stephen allowed myself and Iain to run the under 15s which enabled us to express our ideas to how we wanted our squad of players to play.

 

How did you both become involved with St.Mirren Youth FC?

  Iain:  During Easter last year the club were advertising for coaches for the start of this current season. They were looking for new coaches to take charge of different age levels. I applied to the advert and was asked to come down to training one night, where Frank and Stephen gave me a talk about the club.
 
Will: Was reading through the evening times and happened to come across an advertisement for St Mirren Youth FC looking for volunteer coaches. I applied to the advert and received a call to meet both Frank and Stephen at Linwood sports centre for a meeting.

What made you decide to take up football coaching?
 
Iain:  I happened to bump into my mate I grew up with in ASDA at Christmas 2006.  We lost touch when I moved house in 2000. We caught up and he is currently a coach. He said I would really enjoy it and I should go and do my badges. At first, I thought he was joking but he was serious. He said you’ll really enjoy it and he knew how interested I was in football from our younger days when we were growing up. I said I would think about it.  I thought about it for a few days and I went and done the 3 levels in the children and youth pathway that year and here I am today.
 
From an early age I was keen on football. During school and after school football was the only sport the majority of us played. When I was at school I did have aspirations like many kids to become a football player but unfortunately, due to my heart condition I couldn’t play competitive football.

Will: After a stint in Australia visiting my uncle and seeing the enjoyment that he had of coaching kids and seeing kids progress to another level. I decided I wanted to help kids and help them progress to another level that so enrolled in the Early touches badge in Australia and got involved in a few coaching sessions and really enjoyed coaching the kids. I have now gained up to level 3 of the youth and hope to
Gain my level 4 next year.

I have always been keen football player, have been since school days during which played for Glasgow schools and had trials for the Scotland schools national side, in 2000 was asked to trail down at Sunderland for 6 weeks and like every kid had dreams of making a career out of football although played for Raith Rovers was lucky to have been around a professional set up and seen what it needs to get to that level

Both of you have only recently started out coaching, how are you enjoying it?
 
Iain: I’m really enjoying it. There is a lot to learn, massive amounts to learn and hopefully this opportunity given to me by the club will allow me to try and become a decent coach.
 
At the moment, especially,  at this level and just starting out,  the best way is to learn off experienced people, by that I mean attend coaching events and workshops supplied mainly by the SFA, seek advice from guys who are either in the game or have been. We have coaches at the club and guys like Frank, Stephen, Alistair Anderson, Wullie Pettigrew, Mac Macaulay and Jimmy Logue where you can seek advice from as well. At this moment, your learning as you go along, getting advice from the people I have just mentioned can only make you become better. I would hope that we are trying to teach the group of players we have, the right things and good habits of the game. Still have a massive amounts to learn and hopefully I will.
 
Will: Really glad I got involved in coaching, although there are loads to learn and also a lot to take in to dealing with different things i.e. players, parents, finance, training, training facilities. All of which will give me good grounding to becoming the coach that I aspire to be.
 
With this being the first coaching role that have been involved in then any bits of information from it being from Frank, Stephen other coaches involved with St Mirren Youth FC or the SFA coaches then its all taken on board as any information from experienced coaches is very much appreciated. 

Coming tomorrow, part three.

Related article: Grassroots football in Scotland: St Mirren - part 1
 

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