Written by Nairn County FC April 6th 2017

NAIRN County FC will hold open trials for next season's under-15s team on Friday May 5th at 6.00 pm. The trials will take place on the AstroTurf at the Nairn Academy Playing Fields and are open to all players born in the years 2003, 2004 and 2005. The club's Head of Youth Development, Stewart McInnes, said: "We are looking for a squad of 20 players for our under-15s next season, so that everyone will play plenty of games over the course of the year." "This season, we have had players from S1 to S3 all playing regularly in the games the team has played so far and they have all done extremely well, all improving as the season has gone on." "We name as many subs as we can for each game and everyone plays, so there are plenty of opportunities for the players to develop." The under-15s play in the Highland League Youth Development Programme, which is non-competitive and sees the team take on opponents ranging from Wick in the north to Fort William in the west and Buckie in the east in their Sunday afternoon fixtures. Stewart added: "All of our four Nairn County teams train on the same nights, at the same times and at the same venue, so the youth players have the opportunity to rub shoulders with the first team squad, receive physio and first aid treatment, if needed, from our club physio and see the squads from the different age levels at work." "We are also working on completing a Nairn County Training Curriculum with help from Peter Budge at the SFA, who is liaising with our first team manager, Ronnie Sharp. This will be rolled out throughout the youth setup from next season and will ensure that all training is geared towards giving all players the right amount of time practicing the skills and techniques needed to give them the best chance to make it to the first team." "Everything is done with a view to improving and progressing each player individually and we now have some 17 and 18 year olds knocking on the door of the first team and have seen some 15 and 16 year olds playing in the under-20s and looking comfortable." He added: "At under-15s level, it is all about skills, techniques and most importantly, enjoyment, fun and emphasising development over results. It is not about winning games – it is about developing technically gifted players. We want all of our youth players to be confident on the ball, be able to look up and play short passes and be comfortable receiving the ball even when under pressure. That is the same whether a player is a striker, midfielder, defender or goalkeeper." "We want to bring as many S1 aged players into the under-15s squad next season as we can, so they can get three full seasons working at this level to give themselves the best possible chance of progressing to the under-17s and beyond that. It is a chance for players to be associated with a Highland League club." The club has seen a number of players move from the youth setup into the first team this year with the next batch of prospects very close to making the breakthrough. "Youth development is so important to the club now," Stewart stated. "Of the 23 players who have been used in the first team this season, 14 of them have been in our youth teams at some point and that is only going to increase." "You only have to look at the goalkeeper Fraser Wilkie, who was playing in our under-15s just three years ago and has gone on to keep a clean sheet on his first team debut last month." Stewart believes the progression opportunities on offer to youth players at Nairn County allow the club to stand out from other clubs in the area. He explained: "You look at the competition at the local SPFL clubs and how difficult it is for young players to get into their first teams. It is incredibly difficult – how many players from the Highlands are playing in their first teams?" "But we have a pathway in place at Nairn County now which offers that progression to the first team and opportunities for players to grow at every level, both in terms of football and to improve their self-confidence, team work, social skills, communications skills, timekeeping and all-round discipline needed in adult life." "We look at every player in the youth setup as a potential first team player and if they make it there and then, in three or four years time, they move to a higher level, then good luck to them." The Nairn County under-15s train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings between 7.00 pm and 8.30 pm from July through to the completion of their season at the end of April. The trials are open to any players born between January 1st 2003 and December 31st 2005 (next year's S1 – S3 pupils) and anyone within this age range is welcome to attend. Simply turn up at the AstroTurf at the Academy Playing Fields with the appropriate footwear and kit. Stewart McInnes will be on hand at the trials along with the first team manager, Ronnie Sharp, to answer any questions that parents may have. For further information or if you wish to attend but cannot make it on this date, please contact Stewart on 07802 806899 or email info@nairncountyfc.co.uk. Graeme Macleod

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