Forth Valley Academy are heading to Swansea over Easter weekend – and confidence is sky-high ahead of the trip.
The under-14s and u-15s will face the Swans at the Welsh side’s state-of-the-art training facility and Kenny Shiels says they head south in terrific mood.
The game is the teacher, and how they learn their craft, the coaches are the facilitators getting the best out of the players and the parents are the supporters who engage them and are the outside mechanism who get them hereKenny Shiels
The Academy director has been in post for nine months and has seen a dramatic improvement in that time – and his coaches have echoed his thoughts.
“We have guys like Mark Finlayson, Aidan Maxwell and Thomas Halleran involved with Scotland and it’s great to see them recognised.
“But theyre not the only success stories here, the coaches deserve great recognition too – Jamie Swinney and Graeme Robertson. Their dedication and organisation hav e made a massive impression on the success of what we are achieving.
“It’s a seven day and seven night-a- week job - with four or six games each Sunday plus all the training midweek and all the organisation, but the manner they approach it – it’s terrific. I’ve seen the progress in the time I’ve been here.
“The way Jamie Swinney, for a 27year-old, works with maturity and dedication and organisation - it’s terrific.
“They enjoy it, and we enjoy it - that’s why we’re here – because we are developing young players.”
Shiels has used his background to implement a psychological structure to the syllabus of the progression for players, as well as their physical attainment.
“Football is up and down. That is intensified in the case of a developing player. We must prepare them for the obstacles that come - and they do - and teach them that they have the ability to overcome the hurdles - and that’s what they’re doing at the moment.”
The organisation is key too. OParents at the recent meeting ahead of the Welsh trip were told of the exact meals the boys would have, and exactly when they’d be served.
“That’s important because the parents areas much a part of this Academy as anyone involved.
“The game is the teacher, and how they learn their craft, the coaches are the facilitators getting the best out of the players and the parents are the supporters who engage them and are the outside mechanism who get them here, home and feed and clothe them.”
In his time as football coahc and manager Shiels has reaped rewards from first team football with Kilmarnock in the Communities League Cup, but he knows immediacy is not what is being sought at the Academy.
“It is a long-term view, and that is something we try to teach the players - and their parents.
“You don’t see the progress week to week, but it’s further down the line, when you look back you see where they’ve come from and how well we’re doing. After nine months I’ve done that. The Academy is pushing on - it’s great for the clubs and they’re embracing it as the future, and with the guys we have on board it can only get better.