A UNIQUE programme to support academy players at two Scottish football club is seeking fresh funding following a successful pilot.

Care Visions, with the support of the University of Stirling, has been running the Young Player Wellbeing Programme, which pairs independent wellbeing coaches with under-18s players at Dundee United and Kilmarnock.

The pilot initiative, which was expanded for the full season after a positive initial 12-week trial, provides wellbeing and mental health support to the teenage players via social media platforms, podcasts and in-person workshops.

It aims to arm the academy players with the resilience they need to cope with the ups and downs of professional sport.

The programme is seeking fresh funding to allow it to expand and reach other academy football teams and sports organisations.

Moira Greentree, who was director of innovation for Care Visions when the programme began, said: “Academy football is challenging, there’s a lot of pressure on these young people and we know of some really sad incidents where young players have been released from clubs and not been able to cope and unfortunately have gone on to suffer mental health issues, or even lose their life to suicide.

“What’s unique about this programme is that the support provided is independent of the club.

“Our wellbeing coaches are all alumni of the University of Stirling’s sport psychology course and the wellbeing programme does not stop if or when a young person moves on from the club, it remains accessible to them.

“We recognised that was really important because those times of transition are when the real challenges can be there for young people.”

As well as sharing regular content on Instagram and TikTok covering themes including confidence, resilience, motivation, goal-setting and physical wellbeing, the wellbeing coaches are available to offer one-to-one support via the online platforms when required.

The behind the programme say it has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from club coaches, parents and participants.

Bradley Fullarton, 25, is one of the four wellbeing coaches involved in the initiative.

He said: “The programme is player-led so the themes, topics and workshops are driven by the players and coaches.

“I’ve really enjoyed being able to build relationships with the players.

“These young players carry a lot of pressure on their shoulders – from friends and peers who look up to them, from family who may make various sacrifices to support them and from themselves to always perform well.

“Every season they are finding out whether they’ve made it through to the next age group, and as they get older, statistically it’s less likely that’s going to happen.

“Every aspect of their performance is analysed and fed back to them, plus outside football, they’re also managing school, family life and relationships – it can be like a pressure cooker.

“Good coping strategies are essential.”