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Stoke City FC Partner Club Feature Part 5 – Academy Players & Parents

In part five of our Stoke City Partner Club feature, which is the final part of this series of articles, we hear from the academy players and parents at the club on the impact that the Coerver® Coaching Partner Club programme has had since starting in July 2011.

“It helps me now with my first touch, and I’ve now got the confidence to use the skills from Coerver to go and attack and get a shot off on goal” said an Under 10 player. “When I used to win the ball and a midfielder came back to cover, I always used to pass it but now I actually have the confidence to run and take on a player then maybe pass it”.

Scott Wright, UK Director Coerver® Coaching said “One of my main roles here at the club is to work with the players from the U9-U11 foundation age groups (see below image), and it is great to hear their feedback on how they feel that they have improved during our time here especially their confidence levels. Our goal from a technical point of view is that every single player that leaves the foundation phase and moves up into the youth development phase at U12 has a solid foundation of ball mastery and subsequent ability to use both their right & left foot equally to perform all of the core skills fluidly which we categorize as First Touch, Running With The Ball, 1 v 1 and Ball Striking (Passing & Shooting)”.

“Scientific research tells us that the brain actively adapts when kids are taught to play symmetrically so we ensure that everything we do makes the players use and think with both feet equally. Over time with expert feedback and instruction from their coach, a lot of correct practice, hard work and dedication, they will become competent with both feet which I know we have a big problem with in this country. I remember talking to one of the England national youth coaches a couple of years ago and he said that of the best twenty players in the country at his particular age group, only one player in that group was truly two footed which is an astonishing situation to be in at that elite national level. We are focusing hard on this so we don’t have the same issues here at Stoke, if you are comfortable with both feet, it will undoubtedly make you feel more confident in yourself, will make you a more effective game player and will also provide you with many more options as an individual, in small groups and ultimately as a team”.

“It is not just technical repetition that we focus on, it is also about the players understanding how to and being able to perform the core skills successfully at game speed, at the right time and in the right place, under game pressure. The players then need to be able to repeat these skills over and over again in a game environment from the first whistle to the last. This is what we would class as game effective skills performed by a game effective player. We gradually increase these pressures on the players, step-by-step, as they are developing and mastering the skills. We are teaching game effective use of skills, not just skills, there is a big difference and this takes time, player development is a marathon, not a sprint”.

“During this development process, the players are constantly being stretched and pushed out of their comfort zone using this step-by-step teaching approach. Our job is to make sure that they are being challenged every second that they are with us here at Stoke and they are receiving detailed, individual feedback which is a requirement if they are to truly achieve their full potential. It is also our job to make sure that the players have a lot of fun along the way and we create an enjoyable environment that encourages and celebrates hard work, commitment and dedication from all within. An environment where the players can’t wait to come into training every day and want to stay late afterwards, I believe we provide that for the players here”.

“I would also like to add that it’s not to say that we don’t also cover tactical and physical development within the foundation age as we do and both of these areas are vitally important, it’s just about getting the balance right at certain phases of development. Scientific research suggests that the optimum window for skill acquisition is up to around 11 or 12 years of age, so we have to take full advantage of this and the other parts of development as mentioned can be focused on more as the players get older and progress through the youth development phase (U12-U16)”.

“This is why our coach education and mentoring programme across all age groups, that was detailed in the last article, is so important so our staff here have this knowledge and level of detail within their delivery and observations that then needs to be communicated in a way that is easy for the players to understand as individuals and as a group. If we do this I have no doubt that we will produce players”.

“Jose Morais, first team coach of Real Madrid, attended our Coerver Youth Diploma Course in 2011 (see above image). He is a specialist technical coach at the club having previously been part of Jose Mourinho’s staff at Inter Milan. Jose is a big advocate of the Coerver programme and said “At the early ages the foundation of teaching should focus on technique, Coerver was the first time I had been exposed to a curriculum, which focused on this philosophy. Since the early years, Coerver has added game related and full game pressures to all of the skills, that was perfect for me in my work”. Jose followed by saying “Football is changing so the skills needed by the players are also changing, young players today need to be able to make killer passes, to turn at speed and to dribble past defenders. Repeatable drills can stimulate players to improve in all of these areas”.

Scott added “It is great to hear that Jose shares the same thoughts as ourselves in terms of what we should be focusing on and how we develop young players”. The reason I mention this in our Stoke City Partner Club article is that Spain is the epicentre for global youth development right now and will be for the foreseeable future. Real Madrid are not only the biggest club in the world but are also the most successful developer of young players in Spain. I spent some time at the club two years ago and at that point there were 47 former Real Madrid academy players playing first team football for various teams in the top division in Spain and a further 20 playing in the top leagues around Europe”.

“If we can get to a percentage of these results at Stoke over the coming years, we will be very happy and are definitely heading in the right direction with all of the ground work that has been put in. I was in contact with Jose last month as he came over to the Britannia Stadium for the Manchester City game, he was scouting for the Champions League game that Madrid won 3-2. He was very complimentary about his visit to the club and also commended the work that is being done in the academy which was great to hear from someone of his stature in the game”.

“Following on from Jose’s comments, Coerver Co-Founder Alf Galustian worked with current Spain Head Coach, Vicente Del Bosque (see below image), when he was academy director of Real Madrid. Vicente said of the Coerver programme “Alfred’s Coerver® Coaching course at Real Madrid was very well received by us all, since our goal, especially in the formative years, is technical excellence. Unless players are highly technical, it does not matter what system or tactic you play, at the highest level you will probably lose”.

Scott added “Looking at the comments of both Jose and Vicente Del Bosque, there is a familiar theme. Firstly, In the formative years the focus must be on developing technical excellence, secondly at the highest levels of the game, it is this area that usually decides the results of matches”. This further validates our approach to developing young players as these guys are working at the very top of the game and are now consistently achieving results and honours that we can only dream about in this country. Alf Galustian has actually been invited back to Spain to deliver a course at the National Training University for coaches in Madrid this coming December which is great recognition for our Coerver work and further enhances the credibility of our Partner Club programme here at Stoke”.

Next we hear from the Stoke City academy parents starting with Mark Ulyatt (see below image) who’s son Ben is an Under 10 player at the club, Mark said “He’s starting to use the skills quite a lot now, his confidence is increasing which we have seen in the games he has been playing recently against the likes of Man Utd, Nottingham Forest and Man City which is great to see”.

Neil Buckley (see below image), who’s son Liam is also in the Under 10 age group added “They played Nottingham Forest at the weekend and he used a couple of the moves on Sunday in the game, a couple of step-overs, the Drag Push which he quite likes. He’s used the moves in the games I’ve watched him play recently and it’s nice to see that he’s got the confidence to do that in the games”.

Scott Wright said “It is fantastic to hear such positive comments from both the parents and players and I really like the fact that the word confidence has been mentioned so often as this is such an important area of development if we are to have any chance of developing special players here at the club. A big emphasis has also been placed on the importance of hard work which is something we are trying to instil in the players. The homestudy website (see below image) that we have put in place here at the club has really helped with encouraging the players to practice when they are not with us at the club”.

“The homestudy site has around 150 video clips of skills that we set for homestudy depending on the topics that we are working on that particular week. The players can then practice these skills at home in advance of the sessions and they can also log their practice time and leave comments on how they have been using the skills. We have found that this is a particularly powerful tool for the players to analyse their own performance and understand the link between what we do in training and the effect that this can have on their success in game play”.

“The players also receive individual feedback through the site on a weekly or sometimes even daily basis based on what they are logging which is key to their on-going development. We also have an interactive quiz on the site, so every Coerver session that is delivered has a quiz that tests the players understanding of the key learning points from each session. This way we can see what the players have learned individually in each session and can feedback accordingly”.

“In addition to the support that we provide through the Partner Club programme, additional support for the players and parents is also provided through workshops (see below image – parent & player workshop at the Brittania Stadium) and resources from experts in various fields. This includes psychology support from Dr Marc Jones and Staffordshire University, Nutrition support from Mayur Ranchordas who works with many leading individuals and teams in various professional sports. Other areas covered include strength and conditioning, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, video analysis, education and child welfare which are all extensively supported”.

Scott added “We also recently had Matthew Syed (see below image), who is the current sport journalist of the year and author of highly acclaimed book “Bounce – The Myth Of Talent And The Power Of Practice” come in to speak with our players and parents in the Summer. This proved to be a very insightful evening for all that attended and demonstrated that the club are leaving no stone unturned in their quest to provide the best support available for the players and parents at the club. The support on offer here at Stoke City covers every area imaginable and everything is in place here now to build something special. This really is a fantastic club to join for any player who has serious aspirations to be a footballer”.

“Ourselves and the club have also worked together in a number of other ways including the Grassroots Football Show at the NEC with the U10 & U15/U16 academy groups (see below images) here at the club taking part in our sessions at the show. This was a great experience for the boys, playing in front of a crowd and the older boys participated in an additional session working with former Hull manager Phil Brown which was a good experience for them. The boys performed fantastically well and provided a great example of the work we are doing here at Stoke”.

“We have hosted a number of coach education clinics here at the club for staff from our Performance Academy programme that we run across the UK & Ireland. It is a fantastic opportunity for those guys to come into a Premier League™ club and get some new ideas to take back to their various regions
which is only going to improve what we are doing at grassroots level”.

“We have also brought groups of young players to the club from our Performance Academy programme to work with the academy coaches here and to play against the academy teams. They have had the chance to sample the fantastic facilities here and have had the opportunity to tour the Britannia stadium which they really enjoyed (see below image)”.

Scott summarised the Stoke City Parter Club programme by saying “It has been a fantastic first 16 months here at the club, so much has been put in place in such a short period of time and has culminated in the club achieving Premier League™ category 1 academy status which was a real statement of intent on where the club are heading. This is testament to the vision and investment from the owners who want to make Stoke City Academy one of the best in the country. To get to this point has also only been made possible by the dedication, commitment and hard work of the wonderful staff at the club who have made my time here really enjoyable”.

Scott added “It is great to be playing a part in this whole journey through our Partner Club programme, the relationship we have here is a partnership in every sense of the word and I look forward to us working closely over the coming months and years. I can’t wait until we start to see some of our boys pulling on the red and white shirt and running out in front of a full house at the Britannia. That is what dreams are made of and I truly believe that we have everything in place here now to turn those dreams into a reality”.

To view the Coerver® Coaching / Stoke City FC Partner Club video www.coerver.co.uk/partnerclub
Read part one of our Stoke City Partner Club feature http://ow.ly/evKDh
Read part two of our Stoke City Partner Club feature with Peter Crouch http://ow.ly/extqI
Read part three of our Stoke City Partner Club feature with Tony Pulis http://ow.ly/ezxbF
Read part four of our Stoke City Partner Club feature with the Academy Coaches http://ow.ly/eD8ru






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