GRAEME MURTY has spoken of his pride at how the Rangers Academy have come together to continue to provide the best-possible experience for their young players through lockdown.
With regular training for all age groups at the Rangers Training Centre currently suspended, online webinars and sessions for all age groups under the Academy umbrella have been pulled together, covering numerous different aspects of the game.
It has been a challenge arranging such a huge level of content at short notice – but Murty believes the way it has been done deserves massive credit.
Speaking this week to RangersTV, he explained: “I think they have smashed it out the park with the challenges they have faced. Each age-group are having weekly webinars and contact with their lead coach – so there will be a phonecall or a face-to-face chat, but also, we are teaching our game model.
“We’ve not stopped our teaching of how we want our kids to play and how we want them to learn.
“We are trying to find new ways to engage them and we have been really, really innovative in our approach to doing that.
“I have to say, the players have really joined-in and integrated well into our online presence, and have participated really well.
“So each week, they will be hosting or joining a webinar on our game, with clips from the junior academy, the intermediate Academy and the professional phase, which is up to under-20s, and then first-team clips.
“So dissecting those clips and making sure the players understand the relevance of those clips and why they are in.
“We have been really fortunate Gary McAllister has been on different age group chats last week, so the guys were really excited to have him on there giving a first-team slant on things and giving a different mindset.
“So we have been really, really inclusive, and making sure that people still feel a part of the club even though we’re in unprecedented times.
“I think it is really important we remain one club and we remain together.”
The work being put in by the staff to continue to deliver as much learning to the players as possible has been fantastic, with Murty continuing: “We have a really energetic staff who have embraced the challenge and gone above and beyond what we expected initially, but the standard has been raised to such an extent that we are not really surprised by the quality that is coming out.
“Each department seems to put out better content by the week and seems to improve the way they are interacting with the players week-on-week, and seems to improve on their engagement with the players week-on-week.
“That would all fall flat on its face if the players weren’t engaged and weren’t interacting. The players have taken the challenges that we have given them and they have been outstanding.”
As well as the physical wellbeing of the players, the Academy are determined to also look after the mental health of their players both through this period and more normal times.
Murty added: “We want to be able to react if a situation comes up which needs intervention, but we want to be proactive.
“We want to make sure that we foresee any problems before they might arise. We put resources in place to support our young players and their parents and everyone involved in the group.
“Let’s be honest – nobody had a plan for this and nobody had an understanding quite of what this would entail. But we have been really, really proactive making sure that our group of people which have come together feel supported in any way we can, and we have put professional resource there in-place ready to go at a moment’s notice.
“It is a challenging time for many of our young players, and as with a lot of young people, they don’t feel as if they can reach out, they feel sometimes isolated and they feel really self-conscious at times.
“We are trying to remove those barriers from that conversation happening and taking place, and we are really, really pushing the message that we are there for them.
“Not only in a technical sense and in the fact we want them to learn and in a physical sense as we will resource their growth and maturation, and make sure they get the physical content they need to continue their growth as athletes.
“But also, holistically, we want to make sure we take care of them as people as well. That is a really big part, not only as the Academy, but as the club as a whole.
“We’ve been quite forthright that we want to be one of the best Academies in Europe – and we are making strides.
“But we need to continue to innovate, we need to continue to push boundaries and we are in a challenging time right now, but our staff have stepped right up to the plate in-terms of learning, in-terms of developing and in-terms of support.”