Footballers in the Highlands will benefit from a wide range of online courses focusing on the importance of mental health and wellbeing.
Thurso Football Academy has launched a new module encouraging youngsters to gain more knowledge about “life-critical” subjects, as well as obtain practical coaching experience.
The programme will be divided into three main topics, and provided through free e-learning courses available to people of all ages.
As part of it, club members can take courses in mental health and children’s well-being, both of which SFA accredited and mandatory for aspiring football coaches.
A sudden cardiac arrest course will also be available to give youngsters information on how to work with defibrillators and follow correct procedures when applying CPR.
In addition, the academy will also offer opportunities to gain practical coaching and volunteering experience in a variety of sports – including dancing, rugby and cricket – as part of their partnership with Thurso Active Schools and Highlife Highland.
‘Great platform for their personal and coaching pathways’
Alyn Gunn, head of coaching for Thurso Football Academy, said the module will be of great benefit to young footballers in both their professional and personal lives.
He said: “I am delighted to be able to put this together for the kids of the Highlands.
“When I first started coaching at the age of 14, there was nothing like this in place. The youngsters will now have a fantastic opportunity to gain knowledge on three life critical subjects and also obtain practical coaching experience.
“Head coach Billy Dodds was delighted to support the academy with the project , and mentioned that even if it only helps one person, its mission would be complete.”
Mr Gunn added that the support from Highlife Highland will be “invaluable” as the leadership programme is designed for all sports.
The initiative has been backed by a number of professional clubs, footballers and managers – such as Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Champions League winner Pedro Mendes, and Scottish footballing legends John Robertson, Billy Dodds and Colin Hendry.
Mr Gunn added: “With the online courses being certified via the Scottish Football Association and UK Coaching, it will give the youngsters a great platform going forward with their personal and coaching pathways.
“I hope to be in touch with high schools in August to get the ball rolling.”
Sporting director at Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC, Mr Robertson, said: “Promoting the importance of good mental health through schools in the Highlands is a fantastic idea and the club are delighted to support this project.
“We’d urge anyone struggling with their mental health to seek the appropriate help, speak to someone they trust and don’t suffer in silence. It’s OK not to be OK.”
The project has also received support from two “massive” companies within the professional football world – Bazooka Goal and Armour Flex – which were keen to throw their weight behind it.
Armour Flex’s owner and managing director Robert Hughes added: “I am very impressed with the good work that Alyn and his team of coaches at Thurso Football Academy have done to date.
“The innovative ideas and programmes they have put out are amazing.
“What they have given back to their community and especially to the kids at grassroots football level is highly commendable and may they continue to do so for the foreseeable future. We are a 100% supportive of all their initiatives .”