THE shockwaves that have hit the top of Scottish football have been felt all the way down through the levels. As we are often told, we are all in this together.

As the Scottish FA and SPFL deliberate over the next course of action during the Coronavirus crisis, those at the opposite end of the spectrum are even more helpless. The love of the game, the need to play it, is just as strong, though.

Clubs across the country are counting the cost of the shutdown that Covid-19 has enforced and it is not just professional operations that are feeling the brunt. Academy systems have been closed, Boys Club sessions have been postponed and school teams disbanded for the year.

Steven Smith has seen his own courses and coaching ambitions take a hit, too. The former Rangers defender had steadily grown his Academy over the last year and the impact of this crisis is being felt close to home.

“When the SFA put out their guidelines, I did one more class after that because I didn’t follow under their rules,” Smith said. “I was waiting for the schools. At that time, as long as the schools were open, I was OK to coach.

“When the SFA put out their second statement, I contacted the school and said I was going to cancel the session because it didn’t feel right.

“I have not had a class for a few weeks now so it has been difficult but you just have to manage it as best you can. Obviously everybody’s health and safety is the main priority right now so you have to do what you can to aid that.

“The impact has gone right down to grassroots football. The first weekend, it started on the Friday when I take my sons’ team. They are supposed to have a game on a Saturday and a Sunday and that weekend we got to 12pm on the Saturday and my son was sitting on the couch saying he was bored.

“Even that hour and a half on a Friday, the Saturday and the Sunday, that sets them up for the rest of the day. They are in that routine, that is the structure of their life at that age at 11-years-old and it is quite difficult to take them away from that.”

A career at the top level in Scotland, as well as spells in England and the United States, gave Smith a wealth of experience to pass on to those that he has taken under his wing in recent months.

The feeling of pulling on their boots and having a ball at their feet was all the thrill that some of his students needed. It is one that they are now denied for reasons that will be difficult to comprehend for many.

Smith said: “At the level of kids that I work with, it varies from ones that only play an hour a week to kids that play every day.

“To have that stripped back, to go from having a 9s game on a Saturday and 11s on a Sunday and training three, four times a week to nothing is difficult.

“The boys have worked hard to get to a certain level. Some of the kids I coach won’t get into Academy teams at clubs, but they have put in the hours to get to a certain level and they have had taken away from them so it is going to be difficult to get them back up to that level again.

“It is difficult for them to understand and some of them just don’t get it and don’t get the seriousness of the issue. It is about trying to educate them as best you can, but you don’t want to scare them either.

“You don’t want to put a fear into them so I am trying to keep my kids away from the TV and social media as best I can while making sure they do the right things.

“It is difficult for them to understand the impact that it is having everywhere. Whether you are at the top level of the game or the grassroots level, it is not an easy situation for anyone right now.”

With no end to the lockdown and the social restrictions in sight as the Coronavirus grips the nation, it is impossible for Smith to tell his kids when sport will become part of their routine once again.

The danger is that some will lose their love of whatever activity was close to their heart. It can only be hoped that the absence will only strengthen the bonds, though.

Smith said: “I am hoping that everyone is going to realise how much they love doing these things and missing it will make them appreciate it more.

“I have done it myself and had a moan if I had to take my son to Falkirk for a 9am kick-off on a Saturday morning. But you realise how much it means to you.

“You moan at the time, but you enjoy it. I am hoping it will be the same for the kids and they don’t lose their appetite for it because that would be a shame.

“The finances isn’t my worry, it is just the kids having to go for a few months without football and exercise. I have had my kids out walking every day but that is not enough for kids of that age.”

*Steven Smith is pictured promoting the Rangers Youth Development Company.

RYDC products have raised more than £8.5 million for the Rangers Academy since 2002 and they donated £450,000 to Rangers Football Club’s youth programme in January.

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