Summer is the time of camps and tournaments in youth football. For many coaches it is an opportunity to travel and exchange experiences. This is how we met Roberto Trapani, Head of Grassroots Sector in AC Milan who shared with us his knowledge about the players’ potential development in one of the top European football academies.
Initially it is necessary to talk about what is meant by training. So, training is: maintaining efficiency through constant exercise or habit. You need to have an idea of annual training planning and then translate it into the month and week with daily work.
It is crucial that the players stay in the dressing rooms as little time as possible. As soon as they come out they find a field dedicated to pre-training. In this space they play freely through motor coordination paths, trampolines, ladders, proprioceptive tables… all this for about 15 minutes. Then we move on to the actual training.
According to me, one of the most difficult things is to discover and choose the best players. Not just because of the difficulties in searching for new talents. The trouble is: discover players who have potential in the future. During the year, technical meetings are held with talent scouts. The scout has knowledge of the reference team group. There is a specialization of talent scouts divided in different biennials of the grassroots sector. Assessment criteria:
• Ability to choose: it is the ability to choose what to do during different situations in the presence of adversaries
• Technical skill in speed regimes: in football today, it is crucial developing technical skill in different speed during the match
•Coordination and athletic skill: motor-coordination prerequisite is the basis of technical gesture. Knowing how to move in space is equivalent to knowing how to move with the ball
• Emotional range: we can speak about “Arousal” as “the causing of strong feelings or excitement in someone”
• Individual Tactic: shake off, body posture with the ball, orientation of the body
• Family: kind of family as support of kid and club
As a technical choice, each incoming player is guaranteed a multi-year path in order to protect the technical work carried out over the years and the player himself. There is a strong technical-scouting integration on the choices and the thoughtful work of the roughest profiles that require more individual attention. The latter must be trained without haste but with dedication and consistency since the goal is the potential and the possibility of emerging in the long term.
In order to improve the technical knowledge and abilities of the player it’s important to focus on the daily commitment to give them all the required tools. It’s essential also to focus all the energies on the player by preserving the talent. Basically, the aims are:
1. The grassroots sector and agonist area must be developed constantly: it is important to have a common and shared line. All people must know and have knowledge of the technical project. There must be constructive discussions. Dialogue is the basis of any training process. Internal training is the basis for the development of a football club. Without human resource training there will never be player training and consequently there is no talent development
2. The teams should proceed with two years of hard work: the subdivision of the two-year periods is essential to have a specific job and objectives that can be reached based on age. We are fortunate to have large staff and this allows us to have a focus on detail. Each coach is able to train different categories based on their studies or professional experience. We try to ensure that every year the coaches change the team for two reasons: the first is that the players belong to the club not to a single manager; the second reason is linked to the fact that, at the educational level, it is essential to have a heterogeneity of teaching. From each coach a boy can learn something new, and each coach will give his team something different than the previous manager.
3. Improve technical and scouting areas: it’s important to proceed with a single approach by sharing the technical choices.
One of our main goals is to coach the game. Game training passes through fun, an essential and crucial element for correct learning. The game is the basis of our entire journey. In order to be able to play the role of a high-level player, however, the coach must give the boy all the tools necessary to excel in the game itself. In particular, a fundamental evaluation element is the ability to adapt to different game situations. I’ll give you an example: the world is full of players capable of playing a slalom between the pins in a perfect and stylistically excellent way, but who are then unable to jump the opponent in 1 vs 1.
4. Identify a specialized team for each category: as mentioned, the specificity of the staff is essential to carry out a correct job with the right requests to the boys based on the categories. Another essential element, however, is also the ability to know how to adapt to each boy in a different way. Let me explain, every boy has a different path and history and there will be the player who, if the coach raises his voice will make the most of it, while there will be the one who will be intimidated. The difference between a decent coach and an excellent coach lies in trying to get into INDIVIDUAL EMPATHY with the boy. Only in this way will he be able to get the most out of each of them.
5. Define common game phases: construction, management and finalization are the phases of the game that govern football. The regulating principles are space, time and numerical conditions. What is meant? It means that it is important to choose your own gaming identity to bring out the characteristics of the players. I always say that the form must be in accordance with the players. it is not the players who adapt to a module, but the opposite
6. Define and share a training method: at a methodological level it is important to follow a shared methodology. It is even more crucial to have the same language with keywords known and chosen by all the coaches.
7. Education school focused on the details of care: it is necessary to see the academy as a real school with high level teachers. A player who leaves our youth sector must have all the knowledge and skills necessary to be able to play football, at any level. above all he must know how to adapt to the various technical requests that will be made to him in the future. There will be players who in the first team will be asked to play in different ways: proactive or defensive football, possession or departure kick, to play more vertically or horizontally. Here, I believe that a boy out of our youth sector will have to be able to face all these requests very well.
In conclusion, it becomes useful to have a training standard that can help the kids and simplify the achievement of small goals. In detail:
– motor pre-workout
– technical warm up
– analytical technique applied in speed regime
– game situations: possession games or 1v1 / 2v2 ..
– match (the training par excellence)
We must never forget that the most important means of training is the match. We don’t take time away from the game. We keep in mind that the game is what helps the growth of individual players the most.