Heart of Midlothian Football Club and Balerno High School have entered into an exciting new partnership which will see young footballers and students reap the rewards.
The link up will provide elite level Academy youngsters at Hearts with an environment at Balerno where they can combine their studies and footballing education up until the age of 16.
In turn, pupils at Balerno will have the opportunity to participate in work experience across different business areas at Hearts, while the club will also assist in delivering a coach education programme for the school’s senior pupils.
Taking inspiration from the Scottish FA’s Performance Schools, players selected for this partnership will receive an extra 90 minutes of coaching per day at Balerno to supplement their regular training sessions at the Hearts Football Academy in the evenings.
The structure of each day’s training session will differ in order to enhance all aspects of the players’ game. Along with hitting the recommended 10,000 hours worth of training time required to produce elite athletes, video analysis will be on offer, as will working on players’ mindsets.
The partnership is an ongoing agreement between Hearts and Balerno, with a new S1 intake starting every August. When the partnership is fully up and running there will be over 40 pupils from S1- S4 involved, travelling from across Scotland.
Manager Craig Levein believes the link up will be a great benefit to the club long term.
“It’s massive for us," he said. "We have a lot of kids who are already enrolled in the SFA’s Performance Schools but to have our own one is a big step forward.
“It means we have some control over what we teach the kids and we can then keep an even tighter grip on the programme.
“The programme will see each individual get an additional 90 min of training under their belt each day, which is obviously really good.
“My biggest bugbear just now is that kids simply don’t play enough football. We’re trying to remedy that and this new partnership with Balerno will a huge help.
“I’m very, very hopeful that we’ll see the benefits of this in the not too distant future. People sometimes think these projects only come to fruition way down the line, but we’ve got kids like Harry Cochrane who are appearing in the first team at the age of 16.
“There are others in that age group who I would love to fast forward by a few years in order to get them in our first team, so we’re trying really hard to develop our own young players. That’s what will sustain the club going forward.
Speaking about the partnership, Neil McCallum, Head Teacher of Balerno High School, said: “We are delighted to have formed this partnership with Hearts.
“We will provide the opportunity for the boys to have a high quality educational experience, while also allowing them have more contact time with their coaches to develop their football skills.
“The partnership will also allow us to develop strong community links with the club and the pupils from the school will benefit from additional opportunities such as coaching, leadership and skills for the work place.
“The boys that have started at the school have settled in well and are coping well with the demands placed on them in regard to their education and also developing in football.
“We look forward to this being a long and positive relationship for many years to come.”