I came across a very interesting article about the world famous Ajax (Amsterdam) academy. Ajax pioneered soccer academies but it hasn’t been very successful in turning out world class players in the last 20 years. So they revamped it.
The academy currently houses 219 youngsters, age 8-19. It is a combined soccer academy and school where the educational curriculum is coordinated with soccer practice schedules. 40 coaches (average of 5 players/coach) are training the kids on 10 fields, one covered with an inflatable dome.
What is new?
The most striking innovation is that teams don’t have an assigned coach. Coaches rotate through teams and in U17-U19 groups of players are mentored by a soccer, an athletics, and an educational expert. Under the stewardship of legend Johan Cruyff the academy has developed a “secret recipe” for success, based on eight ingredients. Some of these were revealed in the article:
- Creating and executing many 1v1 situations
- Third man playing (not just running) where triangle passing and coverage in case of loss of possession are key
- Attacking with three forwards (4-3-3 base formation)
- Creating space on the wings
These seem like nothing new but in combination and not knowing principles 5-8, it can be powerful if trained across all age groups. In addition, the school emphasizes:
- Balance of technical, tactical, fitness, and mental training.
- Special fitness facilities (power hill with and without steps)
- Software (apps) to track every player’s performance
- Small sided games (two games of 6v6 vs one game of 11 v 11)
- Touches on the ball (players must dribble ball from parking lot or school to practice field)
Our Practice Books
If you read our book description and philosophy behind the practice plans and drills you will find a lot of similarity to the Ajax philosophy. That is because we did our research and included the most modern and best practices from leading soccer nations to develop our practices.