83 youngsters celebrate their graduation from the SFA Performance School at Hampden Park
A group of young footballers have become the first graduates of the Scottish FA Performance School, where football education is part of the curriculum.
The future stars of Scottish football were the first intake of pupils to the new performance school when it launched in August 2012 - part of the SFA's elite player development programme - and have now completed four years of football education at seven regional schools across Scotland.
The 83 boys and girls marked their graduation on the biggest stage in Scottish football in a ceremony before the recent Scottish Cup Final between Hibernian and Rangers at Hampden Park, where they each received a medal and a certificate of achievement.
Scottish FA Performance Director Brian McClair said: “It was a momentous day for each of these young players. It is the culmination of four years of hard work as pioneers in the Performance School programme. They have all been a credit to their schools, their families, their clubs and, of course, themselves.
“The important thing is that each players sees this as the start of a journey, not the end of it. The work, commitment and principles that have been fundamental both at their clubs and their performance schools will be integral to the realisation of their ambitions. I hope everyone enjoyed their day and I am sure we will meet again in the national youth teams.”
20 of the graduates have been involved in Scotland youth international matches, whilst 25 clubs have players among the first batch of graduates. The majority of pupils will now either sign professional contracts with their clubs or continue their education into S5.
Scottish FA Chief Executive Stewart Regan said: “The schools are a key pillar of our Performance Strategy and I am delighted to see the first group of young players make their graduation at Hampden Park.
"The opportunity they have had is unparalleled in Scottish football and I am sure every young player who graduates today now has a perfect platform on which to fulfil their potential. It is our hope to see these players back at Hampden in future running out of the tunnel representing their country.”
Each year, seven performance schools take on 20 of the most talented under-12 players in their region. These boys and girls receive a minimum of five extra coaching sessions per week focusing on skills development, which equates to an extra 800 sessions over four years of study.
SFA Performance Development Manager Neil MacKintosh said he was "really pleased with the progress" of the first intake of students over their four years in school.
"Our objective has always been ‘better players, better people, better grades’," said MacKintosh. "We obviously won’t know about the grades aspect until the exam results in August, but we’re very confident that they will reflect the excellent work done by all parties over the last four years.
“I’m so privileged to be part of the journey helping these young people become the adults that they can be. "
Image courtesy of ScottishFA.co.uk.