Thanks to all the parents that attended our Zoom meeting last night. Unfortunately, we didn't cover everything in the 40 minutes, but it was good to discuss a number of areas. This blog will cover the Academy and similar blogs will follow for the Youth Teams/First Team and the Barcelona Tour.
I think it is important that parents know the differences between the Academy and the Youth Teams. The Academy is the weekly training sessions and is run as a business with coaches being paid whilst the Youth Teams are run as a non-profit group with every person involved being a volunteer, myself included.
The Academy is doing extremely well with around 200 children involved in weekly sessions across Fife. In the last 7-8 years over 100 players that have attended our sessions have gone on to play in a pro-environment with 77 of those players still involved in the pro structure. For an Academy that focuses on development and fun, these are fantastic numbers for a region like Fife. 2 players, in Alasdair Davidson (Celtic) and Summer Laird (Rangers) have gone on to represent Scotland at u17 level and we are delighted that a further 3 girls have been selected for a Scotland u16 training camp in October. The progress of the girls we have had involved has been fantastic to see and we wish all the girls the best of luck on the camp. We will be rooting for you!!
It is easy to focus on those that have progressed to pro, but I think it is also important to highlight that our older age group sessions at Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy are full and the effort and commitment we are getting at these groups is brilliant. Despite challenges at school, going through puberty, players starting jobs and a lot of other distractions we are keeping players involved and actually starting to see growth in those areas. For me this is just as important, if not more so, than players going on to be pro players. Keeping players involved in the game and away from distractions that may impact on their futures.
I believe that our structure has been a big part of our success over the last 7 years.
Players can start at the Academy from 5 years of age and from the outset our aim is to make the boy or girl a better player. Within the Academy the focus is on individual player development and players are placed in sessions depending on age and ability. For us is it vital that the environment is challenging but not too difficult where they are not getting touches of the ball. Sometimes this will require a mix of sessions.
All our sessions are planned and prepared on Sport Session Planner.
5-8 years - The first steps in the Academy
8-12 years - The Foundation phase
12-17 years - Youth Development phase
In this area we are versatile with what we do depending on the players levels and aspirations of what they want to achieve from the game. For some the game is about just having fun and with others it is about having fun but also being challenged and developed as players.
We have players at 17 years of age, and we will discuss with the players and parents the direction we want to go in the future. We may have to look at providing different options for recreational and for those with aspirations to play futsal at a higher level.
PLAYER PROGRESS REPORTS
After amazing feedback from parents, we will be starting our progress reports once the Futsal Escocia Winter Leagues are up and running in November.
The reports will be completed on a computer and forwarded to the players and parents via email. We will then speak with the parents and players at a session to discuss what is covered in the reports.
Reports will cover the following areas:
WHAT DOES FUTSAL PROVIDE THAT FOOTBALL DOESN'T?
Futsal has been influential in the development of some of the very best players in world football but what makes futsal different?
The surface is the obvious one. All our sessions are played indoors and on a hardcourt surface which makes the ball move faster. If the ball moves faster, then the game is faster and reduces players time of thinking. This should make games on astroturf or grass be easier for players.
The ball is also different with less bounce and for this reason it is on the ground more.
The rules of the game and smaller pitch sizes can be used at football training, but you cannot replicate the advantages of futsal on grass or on astroturf.
All the scientific evidence has shown that different forms of the game help develop better players and the top football academies in the world are now using this.
At Ajax Academy 'Players are constantly challenged to adapt by playing on different grounds, like the street, indoors, artificial- and natural grass, and continuously changing the quantity of space and players'.
With futsal being indoors covid-19 had an impact on ourselves and the sport in general and we are striving to get back to where we were pre covid.
As an Academy we are delighted with the direction we are going but will always look to improve and evolve. There will be a greater emphasis on small sided games and individual player development. With the introduction of the Player Progress Reports, we will improve the relationship between the coach and the player and parents.
We have failed with looking to develop our girls and female structure and this is something we will look to improve in 2023 and beyond. Highlighting the progress of the girls involved in futsal going on to play at pro clubs and being selected for their national team will hopefully aid this.
Futsal Ninos we handed over to Football Buzz but being honest this has provided us with absolutely no benefit, and we will look to train and employ a couple of coaches to start Futsal Ninos up again. this would be ideal for some of our older players...hint, hint.
Thanks to everyone involved in the Academy for their continued support and a special mention to Fraser Heeps, Kenny Ford, Alec Raeside, Robert Peddie, Ben Westie, Graham Watson, Fraser Penman, Scott Gourlay and Darren Clark for their assistance in coaching throughout the year. I couldn't do it without you guys.
If you would like to be involved in the future of the Academy. please let me know.