Paul MacFarlane is one of the Academy’s longest serving Coaches, having helped to build and manage Girls teams since the Girl’s section started. He has recently decided to move into Pro Youth coaching with a team which cannot be named and he asked if he could share his Academy experiences of the last 4 years or so as a gesture of his appreciation of the time that he has spent with us.
The Board of the Academy would like to thank Paul for his hard work and personal commitment and wish him great success in his new role. He has played a huge part in starting the Girls teams from scratch and developing a highly successful Girls section which now comprises of four teams.
Here is Paul’s story:
I’m Paul Macfarlane and this is the story of my time with Ayr United Girls Academy.
In August 2008, Craig Richmond and I were given the task of reintroducing a girls and women’s pathway within Ayr United Football Academy. After advertising in many primary schools using flyers and speaking at assemblies we were able to deliver taster sessions in the schools to a high proportion of P5, P6 and P7 girls in many schools. As a result of these sessions we were able to get many of these girls to come along to a “trial day” using more flyers [see below]. At this event we looked to encourage the girls to come along to a permanent training night on a Wednesday evening.
SCHOOL SESSIONS WILL BE FUN & FREE SO PLEASE ATTEND TO GET THE CHANCE OF A LIFETIME TO PLAY FOR YOUR LOCAL SENIOR CLUB.
UNDER 11’s TRIAL SAT 6TH SEPTEMBER 08
OLD RACECOURSE AYR
The trial day was successful and we achieved a high turnout at the training sessions led by the two of us. I was supported by the club to also introduce a girls section into the local boys club Southside F.C. However, they quickly indicated they could not support a girls section and these players joined into the Ayr United girls training also. Craig soon withdrew from the training nights and I ran the training and was in charge of all communications with parents. I found it difficult to find parents that were committed to take training on a regular basis and so took on the responsibility of maintaining the girls section of the Academy by sustaining participation at training. The participation at training was helped by new equipment to train with [pictured] and in future months with the removal of training fees which allowed players from all backgrounds to be able to attend training sessions and not be financialy constrained.
Up until this point I was working with one group of players of many age groups all under the bracket of under 11’s. I had help from various volunteers but none were able to sustain their attendance due to work and other commitments. However, in late 2009 myself and Craig were again working in the schools to increase the interest in the girls football and to find new players who could become part of an under 9’s age group, or bolster the under 11’s team which split into two teams due to the high number of players. At the same time, new coaches were being recruited – such as Billy Alexander and Liam McGarry – to work with these new under 9’s and 11’s players. The Academy had taken its second big step through increasing the number of permanent coaches and through increasing the number of age groups to two.
In late 2009, I was also joined by Michael Lamont as my assistant coach [pictured]; and he followed me in early 2010 into the new under 13’s academy age group.
This team was made up from players who had been coached by myself for a year and a half in the under 11’s and were ready to move on to a new challenge in the next age group. As word got around about the success of the Academy, we inherited players joining us from England after moving house, and from local villages in South and East Ayrshire who were keen to play for us. Not only did we have a high participation but we were also seeing success in regard to performance. This resulted in the under 13’s winning the “Plate cup” final 10-0, at Toryglen National Football Centre in June 2010 [pictured below].
Then in November 2010 the under 13’s won the Academy’s first ever league title, in a league season with only one defeat and one draw. Still however, the league campaign came down to the final match against runners up Kilbirnie in an exciting match, that was celebrated jubilantly and will remain one of my best memories of my time at the Academy [pictured].
That year was capped off by me and the players getting an opportunity to see the Scottish cup; an opportunity we would been unlikely to have been able to get outside of the Academy.
Sadly in January 2011 many of the under 13 players left the club; and a massive rebuilding job began as the new crop of players moved up from the under 11’s. In the early months of that season the under 13’s struggled to fulfil fixtures. But with a very small squad we managed. It was hard going, but over time the squad size improved and by May we had again managed to raise the numbers participating and maintain a regular attendance at train and games to well over 10. Although on the pitch the results, and more importantly performances, were not always as what was hoped the rebuilding job had been achieved and the greatest success of this was the club decided that there were enough players in the squad to advocate the creation of a new under 15’s age group for the following year.
So in 2012 the Girls’ Academy had its first taste of 11 a side football. Much like the previous year the first few games meant scraping together enough players to fulfil fixtures. However, once again new players who had previously not played football before, or who had left other clubs for various reasons joined and bolstered the 15’s set up. Despite sometimes heavy defeats against older and more experienced teams the team spirit has remained strong and we have maintained a large squad for our under 15’s. This has most definitely been helped by the great opportunities they gained over the summer when all age groups got the chance to see the Olympic games football at Hampden [pictured] and attended a team building day out where they took part in go-karting [pictured] and bowling at the garage in Kilmarnock. Both days were thoroughly enjoyed by players and coaches alike.
As the end of the season comes to a close and the club looks forward to the next in 2013, I feel there is no better time to leave the club, knowing that it is in safe hands. Firstly there is a fantastic bunch of coaches who work hard day in and day out to make sure that the girls enjoy their football, learn new skills and want to come back again and again. There are now four age groups, all of which are well populated and will continue to develop into strong teams of the future. I also think that there has never been a time that the girls sections have been taken more seriously than presently, and that can only be a good thing for all the current and future players that will pass through the Academy. So I would encourage anyone reading this to encourage your daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter to join Ayr United Girls’ Academy. I look forward to hearing of a new under 17’s team as that will be a massive step further forward, and of course a new group of under 9’s to begin along the pathway to life long participation in football.
So I will say goodbye for now and thank you to anyone who has helped me along the way. Thank you for the opportunity to create and maintain the Girls’ Academy. There have been highs and lows but it’s been a great experience and I have learned a lot. I look forward to the day when there is an Ayr United Football Academy women’s first team.