As a result of successful cooperation between Baltic Football School, FC Elva, Valmiera FC and Siaulai FA in the Regional Youth Initiative for Football Development in Baltic`s (RYFDB) project, which is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, a Road Map to Health & Safety has been designed.
This output is primarily focused around the topics of injury prevention, nutrition and safety – areas that were found as being insufficiently understood among the youth football players in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Each of the covered aspects is divided into three parts, for youth players, for their parents, for their coaches, given that each have a different role to play in the young athlete`s development.
Currently two different versions of the Road Map exist. A PDF version of the designed material can be accessed for free and is available here.
However, a more digital, dynamic and engaging experience, is incorporated into minute.coach where in the near future you will be able to learn in a competitive and interactive manner to improve your football and life skills.
In 2018, the European Commission’s Education, Audiovisual and Cultural Executive Agency have decided to select our application to the Erasmus+ Sports fund and to support the small collaborative partnership lead by “Baltic Football School” (Latvia).
Project shall be implemented together with our partners FC ELVA (Estonia) (“MTÜ Jalgpalliklubi FC Elva), SIAULIAI FA (VŠI FUTBOLO AKADEMIJA “ŠIAULIAI”) and Valmiera Glass VIA/Valmiera FC (Biedrība “Valmieras futbola klubs”).
“Regional Youth initiative for Football Development in Baltic’s” (RYFDB) project idea is to use existing network channels of BFS and their partner organizations in Baltic’s, Europe and worldwide to develop Roadmap as source of improvement for existing training methodologies in regions represented by project partner organizations with particular attention to health and safety of young athletes. RYFDB Project will promote and support awareness and practical experience with regards to health and safety aspects importance in the everyday training process, tournaments as well as during “out of training” activities. The project will address particular issues relevant to all target groups involved – young athletes, parents and for some extent coaches. Regional project coverage includes all three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) with particular attention to the small city and regional clubs in these countries. The initiative is targeted to encourage revision of existing training methodologies supplementing them with issues related to health, trauma prophylaxis, basics of nutrition, sleep regime during intense load conditions.
The project will start in 2019 and will include several meetings and seminars in all three Baltic countries as well as final outcomes available for all.
Today - 10.01.2019 - in Valmiera, Latvia inaugural meeting took place where all involved parties were represented to discuss project details.
The focus of the first meeting was set on preparation and collection of information for key issues necessary to achieve specific goals set out in the project.
Involved parties discussed timetable and scope of the project and the impact it will have on the youth football development within Baltic States as well as sharing examples of best practice experience both locally and internationally.
Meeting was attended by BFS representatives Dz. Kazaks and U. Kaknens, Siaulai FA representatives D. Kancelskis and R. Mockiene, FC Elva representatives M. Naaris and L. Nurme and Valmiera Glass VIA representative U. Pucitis.
“Regional Youth initiative for Football Development in Baltic’s” (RYFDB) is a project that is led by Baltic Football School and implemented together with its partners FC Elva (Estonia), Siauliai FA (Lithuania) and Valmiera Glass VIA/Valmiera FC (Latvia).
Following a successful kick-off of the project and inaugural meeting, all involved parties have had 3 months to begin implementing project activity plan
Through January aforementioned project partners conducted a research online about key project topics – health, trauma prophylaxis, basics of nutrition, sleep regime during intense load conditions, safety provisions and basics of international good practice with regards to training considering age of participant – that were later discussed, and ideas exchanged amongst all the involved parties.
Following the research and as a result of productive discussions project partners decided to develop questionnaires for both parents and kids to gain an insight and evaluate the current situation within their own football clubs.
Through February each of the project partners took developed questionnaires back to their own clubs and handed them out to various age group kids and their parents.
In March all these questionnaires were collected back from the involved individuals who took part.
Since then the work has begun to analyse the information gained and to better understand and evaluate current situation within each of the project partner organisations.
On May 11th project partner FC Elva hosted a 1-day seminar covering the following aspects of the Regional Youth initiative for Football Development in Baltic’s (RYFDB) project:
In the first part of the seminar project partner, Baltic Football School presented a summary on best practice examples such regarding training methodology considering health aspects such as University of Colorado Hospital study regarding “Hydration Tips for Exercise” or FIFA manual “A Warm-Up Programme For Preventing Injuries In Children`s Football” etc.
In the second part of the seminar, project partners discussed the results of the survey made amongst young players and their parents in all three Baltic countries. In total 362 respondents have participated in a poll covering such project related aspects like the importance of warm up and warm down, understanding of basic nutrition, the significance of sleep and so on. Information on poll results shall be published on web pages of all project partners in the near future.
Following the RYFDB meeting in May that project partners organised a month ahead of the project schedule, a unanimous decision was made to extend the questionnaire response window. Reason for such action was the insufficient number of responses received that prevented to objectively analyse the situation in the Baltic States. Given the fact that it was the end of the school year project partners adjusted to the circumstances and decided to keep the response window open for another month and a half.
As of now all the responses have been collected, assessed and knowledge gaps identified thus concluding the preparatory phase of the project. The outcome of analysis confirms that kids who participate in football from all Baltic States have a good level of understanding in the following topic – health & sleep. However, on the opposite end of spectrum, there are knowledge gaps in the following topics – injury prevention, safety and nutrition.
The identified knowledge gaps will act as the key focus in the implementation phase of the project where a road map with suggestions on how and what additional training and other aspects to improve existing training methodology to prevent health and safety hazards during the training process and competitions will be developed.
At the beginning of 2020, in 5th of January, the Road Map that was designed as part of RYFDB project was presented to Baltic Football School players for the purpose of testing. Whilst at their day-camp, in-between training sessions the BFS players were introduced to the material in an interactive way which encouraged individuals to work in teams to find answers to relevant topics within the Road Map.
What followed was a short presentation from each group about either nutrition, injury prevention or safety with further discussions about how easy it was to use the provided material, whether the information in there was understandable and the overall experience of the occasion.
By combining and evaluating the feedback from the players themselves, the project partners have concluded that one area in which the adjustments and improvements are to be made is visualisation. Majority of the kids were on the same page stating that it would be easier to learn about or find information if there were more graphics rather than text.
Prior to releasing the Road Map for the public, the aforementioned ideas will be considered and implemented into the material to make it more appealing to the main beneficiaries of this project, the players themselves.
At the end of the March 2020, three one-day camps had taken place in Upesciems, Garkalne, Latvia where Baltic Football School players, their parents and coaches had the unique opportunity to get early access hands-on experience to the developed Road Map.
Through various interactive tasks and competitions the designed material was tested, evaluated and feedback were gathered in order to ensure that its final version suits the needs of its users in the future.
This resulted in Road Map being integrated into a web-based platform which not only made the information more accessible but also provided a specific opportunity for players, parents and coaches to have a adjusted version of the platform showcasing only the information that is relevant to them.
Currently the project partners are working on the minor tweaks to the system with the aim to make it more dynamic and engaging for its users. Features such as leaderboards, points for completing tasks and various badges for unique accomplishments are being considered and in the near future will be presented to a wider public.
In the light of COVID-19 pandemic, in order to protect the wellbeing of project partners, participants, local communities and everyone involved, the future activities of RYFDB project has been adjusted to facilitate the most appropriate course of action. Consequently, the main change will see the initially planned international tournament, aiming to develop stronger networking among partners and to promote the importance of health and safety issues, transition to virtual e-tournament where three of the project partners` teams will take part in interactive online competition centred around the topics of technical football skills, health, safety and nutrition. Other amendments to project are timeframe related, moving the scheduled activities to a later date, and extending the project for 2 extra months.
After receiving a positive confirmation from Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency acting under powers delegated by the European Commission about the proposed adjustments to the project, a meeting to discuss the remaining activities took place in Elva, Estonia. Hereinafter, partners agreed upon the format of the online competition which will be organised by leading partner Baltic Football School and is scheduled to take place on the week commencing 20th July 2020 and will mainly focus on the particulars within the developed road map. Further on, a meeting to present the road map in its final digital format will take place in Valmiera, Latvia on 29th July 2020.