A group of JUNIOR coaches went to visit Amsterdam in order to study the methodology of the academy of the football club Ajax. The Dutch club have a lot to study from, after all for many years the academy of this club is considered one of the most productive and effective in the world. It is worth to mention the impressive list of eminent academy graduates: Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Berkamp, Clarence Seedorf, De Bura brothers, Edwin van der Saar, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, John Heitinga, Daley Blind and many others.
The visit began with an introduction to the philosophy of the academy called De Toekomst which means Future in Dutch. The name is symbolic because all the efforts of the academy's employees are directed to the future, or rather to their young pupils who in the future should grow into professional football players. It turns out well, because today 77 graduates of Ajax now have professional contracts with European clubs. This is the best result comparing with any other academy in Europe.
The global mission of the Academy is to enable the young football player to realize the dream of becoming a professional. Every day academy staff works hard to achieve this goal. By the way there are a lot of employees, in fact, besides the coaches themselves who deal with children there are those who maintain the football fields, equipment, dealing with operational and administrative issues. In the structure of the academy there is even a school in which pupils of the academy of older ages can receive knowledge directly in the same place where they train.
If we talk about football education then it is built in the Academy on a three-stage model depending on the age of the players, and for each age group the role of the coach is different.
So for the youngest players (7-11 years old), the coach plays the role of a parent or older brother: he plays with them, support, create a proper environment and friendly atmosphere. In short coach does everything to support the interest and love of children for the game. For the older player category (12-16 years old), the coach is already a close friend who shoulder to shoulder with them and helps them to improve, grow and develop. For the professional stage (17 years and older) coach becomes a mentor who directs the players already ripening to great accomplishments on the professional level, helps to make the final breakthrough in professional football.
The work of all the Academy coaches are provided with two important principles are observed. The first is strict adherence to the basic principles of work the so-called Red Lines for which coach cannot overstep in his work. But at the same time each coach retains a large amount of independence in making decisions and opportunities for creativity since the coach is a profession which include art and creation.
In order to monitor and coordinate the work of coaches Academy has some certain employees. Each of these coordinators is assigned to the appropriate age group. And the coordinator is already supervised by the head of the academy. This hierarchy allows the Academy to conduct its work most effectively.
After the JUNIOR coaches were introduced to the basic principles of the Academy's work, the acquaintance with the infrastructure has began. The delegation of junior was acquainted with it by Heini Otto, a former football player of the Dutch national team, who has been working at the Ajax Academy for more than 20 years and knows almost everything about it.
The infrastructure of Ajax is impressive. There are 12 fields of different sizes, among them one in the arena, the students of the academy have Powerhill - a special zone in which players conduct additional training. There are also special staircases with treadmills from different angles, where children practice running technique, and playgrounds for foot-tennis, and areas marked with different colors, on which the positional game is practiced.
A lot of attention is paid to additional training in the academy. Coaches regularly send out homework assignments to students in accordance with those elements of the game that the young football player needs to improve. Control of execution is not strict. It is believed that the pupil himself must already be responsible because homework is made for his benefit and the making his dream to become a football player to be true. Even if coaches are not asking if young player done his home tasks, during training it becomes clear who and how to prepare at home.
Most of the internship was devoted to watching the training. Observing the lessons from the side, the JUNIOR coaches made notes for themselves, analyzed and prepared questions because after the session they were waited for by subsequent evaluations. During these sessions the academy representatives tried to reveal the more practical aspects of what JUNIOR coaches saw. It is worth noting that there were many questions which sparked vivid and active discussions. Later the Ajax staff admitted that they were pleasantly surprised at how active and professional the visitors from JUNIOR were, they noted the depth of the questions asked and the high level of knowledge of our coaches.
JUNIOR delegation also was at the training session of Ajax female team which becomes national champion last year. Friendly girls invited our coaches to visit their match next evening, but after first half the match was cancelled because of the snowfalls. But first part of the visit still was very productive and effective for JUNIOR coaches.
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