Soccer PDP, a unique football development platform aimed at grassroots clubs, has launched to support young Scottish teams as they commence a phased return to training.
The programme, built from scientific research at the University of Stirling, brings ‘sports science’ principles to the youth leagues of Scottish football. Providing a cost-effective, elite level academy infrastructure, the platform gives developing athletes the opportunity to benefit from techniques and support previously accessible only to sporting professionals.
While premiership level players have been protected by brand support and lucrative contracts, it is the grassroots leagues that have experienced the most significant impact of the pandemic. For these clubs, which support over 96,000 young people in Scotland, Covid-19 has presented a considerable barrier to players at a vital stage in their development.
Adopting a multidisciplinary approach, the web-based software platform will be used to monitor and progress the development of footballers in four key areas: skills and technique; strength and conditioning; nutrition, and psychology. Partnering with experts in each of these fields, the creators have developed standardised tests within each area, which are constantly refined and reviewed in line with the latest scientific theory and practice.
The captured results allow for comparison between players in a team – factoring in varying abilities, age and maturity – while also providing a benchmark against the sporting elite. This comparative tool will provide consistency to the selection, training and development of grassroots players, laying the ground for long-term progression.
Dr James Dugdale, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Stirling and developer of Soccer PDP, said: “Despite grassroots clubs representing such a prominent segment of Scottish football, coaches and clubs have very limited access to science when selecting and developing players. For instance, the techniques that a club in Edinburgh use to develop a young defender many differ greatly from the techniques used by a team in Aberdeen.
“By incorporating technical, physiological, nutritional and psychological pillars into our platform, we are taking an inclusive but standardised approach to football practice. It’s about empowering coaches with the resources they need to progress their teams, and supporting players in their footballing journey.”
Jacob Gordon, founder of Soccer PDP, added: “Covid-19 has had a monumental impact on grassroots clubs, unlike anything we have experienced before and probably will ever experience again. Local football teams are the pillars of Scottish community, providing an important source of social support for young players of all levels and playing a key role in physical and psychological development. After nearly 6 months out of the game, it’s vital that we focus on rebuilding the confidence, fitness and teamworking skills of our young players.”
The academy has launched pilot projects with teams in Braehead and Bonnyrigg, which have been well-received by players and coaches. The creators are continuing to refine and improve the program, in their bid to build the biggest database of football profiles in the world.
On 3rd September 2020, the Scottish Football Association (SFA) entered phase three of its Route Map for the Return to Football – ‘return to play’. Under these new regulations, clubs can recommence training and take part in local friendly games, adhering to the Covid-19 guidelines stipulated on the SFA website.