Belfast Telegraph

IFA team up with UEFA to celebrate grassroots football

By Michael Bashford

Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington (front centre) with some of the staff members from the IFA’s grassroots departmentNORTHERN Ireland manager Nigel Worthington and the Irish FA’s grassroots department will be teaming up with UEFA and every other member country within Europe to celebrate the power and importance of grassroots football in the modern game.

Held three days before the sport's highest-profile professional club match — the UEFA Champions League final — UEFA Grassroots Day on May 19 will recognise the opposite end of the football spectrum without which the elite could not flourish.

Along with thousands of other events taking place throughout Europe, the Irish FA will be running a number of high profile grassroots events to showcase the diverse work the association does at grassroots level.

This will involve fun football festivals for school children, competitions for players with disabilities, end of season boys’ cup finals, activities and games for girls and women, and inter-cultural youth football competitions.

In addition to the main event in Madrid, UEFA Grassroots Day will also be marked in each of UEFA's 53 member association countries; keep up-to-date with the activities planned in your country or region by visiting the UEFA Grassroots Day website on www.uefa.com. In the

lead-up to May 19 — and beyond — the site will also provide educational material on key topics such as winning and losing and teamwork.

Teachers, coaches and parents can access online lessons designed to aid youngsters' understanding of values that have huge sporting, educational and social significance.

Meanwhile, the Irish FA in partnership with Athletics Northern Ireland and The Co-operative Insurance has launched the ‘Developing the Person, Developing the Player’ pilot training programme.

The innovative six month programme will be piloted at Belvoir Co-operative Insurance Football Skills Development Centre and aims to improve a young player’s football development through specialist athletics training.

Eleven promising footballers — nine boys and two girls — will undertake specialist training sessions with licensed Athletics Northern Ireland coaches that will focus on improving speed, strength and agility, while teaching them important qualities such as respect, discipline and teamwork.

To monitor the success of the programme, participating children will undertake an initial series of fitness assessments to measure speed, strength, endurance and agility. Additional assessments will be conducted at key stages of the programme to analyse improved player performance.

Following an evaluation of the programme, the Irish FA and Athletics Northern Ireland will develop a resource pack for all 59 Co-operative Insurance Football Skills Development Centres across Northern Ireland. The pack will contain a range of recommended athletic exercises, training schedules and tips on healthy eating that each centre can use to enhance their young player’s football development.

Jackie Mc Kernan, development manager for Athletics Northern Ireland, said: “Over the next six months we will work with the players on specific athletics exercises aimed at improving speed, endurance and acceleration that will ultimately help develop their football ability.”

The Co-operative Insurance Football Development Centres is one of the central programmes within the Irish FA’s Grassroots Development Plan and provide boys and girls, aged from six to 12, with the opportunity to play football and develop their skills regardless of ability. There are separate centres across Northern Ireland focussing on either the skills or games element of a young player’s football development.

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