On October 7th of last year the Club took great pleasure in announcing that it was to set up a new Youth Academy thanks to the generous financial assistance of Chris and Colin Weir.
Great progress has been made in the relatively short time that has passed since that important announcement. Our match programme for the visit of Inverness Caledonian Thistle on Boxing Day carried an article from Academy Director Gerry Britton that outlined the work that has already been done. For the benefit of those that may have missed that article we reproduce it below.
ThistleWeirAcademy director Gerry Britton gives us his thoughts on how the first three months of the academy has gone and how it fits into the long term plan for the club.
When the ThistleWeirYouthAcademy was formed none of us anticipated just how quickly it would take off. Now, as we come to the end of its third month, the impact that has been felt as a result of the Weir’s generous investment is already enormous.
The money has allowed us to establish, for the first time, the PartickThistleEliteAcademy. The academy operates six teams within the Club Academy Scotland Games Programme and covers teams from under 11s right the way up to under 17s.
We already have 120 players working within the system, all of whom benefit from three training sessions a weekend and we’re already looking to grow further. What’s more we have two goalkeeper training sessions which take place under the watchful eye of our goalkeeping coaches Paul Gallagher and Nindy Songh.
The activity doesn’t stop with the football though. All academy players take part in a sports science programme, co-ordinated by former Jags player Sandy Hodge, and we already have hydration and nutrition workshops scheduled from January 2014 for all players and parents. It’s now more important than ever for all young players to know about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle and how important it is to their development. We hope that by placing a focus on this we will be able to produce a greater number of well-rounded and successful players in the long term.
Injuries are part and parcel of every footballer’s career and, especially for someone just starting out, any knock can be potentially extremely serious. However, any injuries at the academy are well looked after. We run weekly physiotherapy clinics and our experts, John Nixon and Katie Singer, are always on hand to provide fitness advice when needed.
The under 15s and under 17s squads also receive a weekly strength and conditioning session at the Palace of Arts Gymnasium which is overseen by School of Sport strength and conditioning coach, Katrina Gibbon.
Now more than ever it’s important to recognise that psychological health is as important as physical preparation and the metal strains put on a player of any age can be great. This is why all players together with their parents will also take part in Positive Coaching Scotland workshops that will deal with the psychological impact of player development.
We recognise that for a club like Thistle, youth is the future which is why, from January,we will begin building a development squad comprising of players from the under 15 and under 16 age groups. This squad will take part in a series of matches under the guidance of academy director Gerry Britton and head of youth development Scott Allison. The development squad is designed to help the lower end of the age group to develop and provide a strong stepping stone for those looking to move into the under 20s squad.
Although the ThistleWeirYouthAcademy only begins at under 11 level that isn’t to say that we aren’t focussed on bringing younger players through too. We work closely with the Thistle Weir Community teams to provide the first step on the playing pathway at the football club.
More than 100 children took part each evening in the recent series of introductory coaching sessions aimed at children aged from 5 to 9 years of age which is massively encouraging for the future of the club. Come January these players will be put into teams and entered into local leagues from March 2014. Players from within these sides are invited to take part in further development sessions with the EliteAcademy coaching staff throughout the course of the season.
So, as you can probably tell it’s been a busy, but exciting, first few months for everyone at the ThistleWeirAcademy and we want to make sure we make the most of the early momentum. The academy teams are now on a break for Christmas before returning in January but for the latest news on the academy keep an eye on our website: thistleweir.co.uk or email us firstname.lastname@example.org