Ex-professional footballer Mark Molloy is encouraging youngsters to improve their health and wellbeing – ahead of his Soccer Stars Academy launch in Tayside and Fife.
PE teacher Mark – once dubbed “the best player I ever played against” by Line Of Duty star Martin Compston – believes kids should be encouraged to take part in sport to help improve their life skills as well as their football skills.
He says: “There’s a huge benefit, especially after lockdown. It’s about having fun – no pressure. Get them out and get them playing!
“The advantages include mental and emotional wellbeing and kids of all ages and abilities need to be encouraged to participate.”
Covid-19 restrictions have meant indoor classes haven’t gone ahead, but outdoor activities are now resuming as restrictions are set to ease further from Monday April 26.
New franchisees for local area
Getting youngsters involved in sport has been cited by other coaches as important following lockdown.
It has always been a passion for Mark, who launched his Soccer Stars Academy (SSA) in 2017 along with his wife Siobhan.
They started the business when their son Louie was three to give him confidence and social skills ahead of starting nursery.
Mark decided to create his own football classes for kids centred on the academy’s F.R.I.E.N.D.S acronym – Fun, Rewarding, Inclusive, Energetic, Nurturing, Develops Confidence and Skill Progression.
Although the Academy was initially based in Airdrie, Mark has recently appointed a new franchisee for Tayside and Fife, meaning local families can participate soon too.
They currently run 28 classes per week, coaching more than 500 kids, across Airdrie, Coatbridge, Wishaw, Hamilton, East Kilbride, Motherwell and Cumbernauld.
A devastating injury completely changed Mark Molloy’s footballing career.
— BBC Scotland (@BBCScotland) November 16, 2020
It is expected classes will begin in Tayside and Fife in June.
And Mark – a childhood friend of Dundee manager James McPake – says there’s more need than ever before because of the pressures on young people through lockdown.
“High quality and fun football coaching for kids is in such high demand, and lockdown has just increased this demand as parents look to get their children out the house and involved in healthy, active and challenging activities with their friends.”
Forced to retire
Mark has played football most of his life and, growing up, played with various Scottish and English Premier League clubs at academy level including Celtic, Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Everton.
He also represented Scotland at youth level and was name-dropped last year by TV star Compston.
Best player ever played against was a boy I think his name was Mark Molloy. Not sure what happened but he was at Chelsea or celtic at the time me and @garyharkins1985 said we need smash him right after HT, he shimmied we proceeded to smash each other think I got carried aff https://t.co/MFnfXMaQVi
— martin compston (@martin_compston) June 15, 2020
After being forced to retire early from football due to injury, Mark then trained as a PE teacher and worked in secondary schools for more than 10 years.
He has used his experience and qualifications in football and teaching to create an environment for children to learn football skills as well as gaining important wellbeing benefits too.
He added: “Some kids have found lockdown a massive struggle and sport can really help boost their confidence, social and cognitive skills too.”
Bookings for the new classes starting in June and more information is available on the Soccer Stars Academy website.