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Soccer school’s a hit with the kids


[email protected]

WITH MORE than 14 years of professional football experience behind him, Mark McCarrick is well qualified to pass on his skills to aspiring footballers in the Algarve.

In November 2004, the Mark McCarrick Soccer School began operating from the grounds of the Boavista Resort in Lagos. Nearly two years on, the school is flourishing and now Mark is looking to expand with more schools throughout the region.

“The benefits that the kids are experiencing socially are amazing,” says Mark, elaborating on the psychological benefits of his soccer school.

According to Mark, children have arrived at his training sessions with little or no confidence, shying away from competing, but after a few sessions they are so confident that they are interacting with everyone and really enjoying themselves.

The benefits of sport for youngsters are obvious and football in particular can be especially character building, due to the heavy focus on team work and group decision making. Furthermore, throughout these sessions, the children get into the habit of incorporating regular exercise into their lives.

As well as physical exercise, there are mental challenges incorporated into Mark’s training. Just a regular ball passing exercise can instil co-operation and communication skills into the children and the games that finish off sessions make the children constantly mindful of other people’s presence, while also giving them the chance to put the skills they’ve learnt into practice, an aspect which Mark describes as one of the most rewarding parts of his job.

The Soccer School is now looking for another two or three venues at least, preferably in the Alvor, Portimão and Albufeira areas. It is hoped that once other schools are set up it will encourage competitive matches with the possibility of creating some kind of league system.

Mark began his football career at West Bromwich Albion at the age of 16. After spells at Birmingham, Lincoln City, Tranmere and Crewe, he went abroad playing in Hong Kong, Finland, New Zealand and Canada before retiring and becoming an FA qualified coach.

Training sessions run on Saturday mornings at the Boavista Resort, where Mark and his colleague Ron Price teach around 20-25 girls and boys, aged from four to 16 years of age. Mark bases his training methods on his extensive background in professional football, focusing on keeping the children’s attention through interesting exercises, yet still maintaining discipline within the group. “Over the two years, I have never had any trouble maintaining discipline. It’s remarkable that this school can keep the attention and respect of over 20 youngsters for two-and-a-half hours every weekend,” he said.

Mark also runs three-day courses at Boavista and Parque da Floresta during holiday periods, which conclude with a presentation dinner at the respective resort.

Parents have described the school as a breath of fresh air, which has added a real spark to their time in Portugal, not only for their children but for themselves. The change they see in their children after only a few sessions has amazed them and has resulted in Mark receiving a lot of positive feedback, motivating him to try and expand as far as possible, even into other parts of Europe.

“The children are constantly learning new skills, often subconsciously and, more importantly, they are becoming increasingly disciplined and aware of their surroundings,” said Mark. “There are countless benefits to the school and it’s a joy to see the confidence that results from soccer.”

For more information about the Mark McCarrick Soccer School, contact [email protected] or call 964 422 588.