Monday, June 28, 2010

Roy Hall, Academy Manager Everton Football Club

"Our U11s coach wants to be the best U11s coach in the World"

"The Everton way of developing players is a unique approach for the development of elite young players. We believe it is unique because in our part of the world we have a certain type of young player. Furthermore, our approach is developed especially for elite players, it is not for grassroots players, and it is for boys who have the potential to become top players.”

“Our approach is based around the four P’s. The first P’s is People.This is the most important one, because young players need to like the people they work with, otherwise they won’t learn. And you can see from the staff we have here, in this tournament that our young players trust the players they are working with. They trust them to look after them, they trust them to educate and develop them into top players.”

“The next important P is the Place. We need to create a safe, learning environment for our young players where they can develop. I believe the place isn’t just about buildings, it is about a philosophy. I think the place should be like a greenhouse, where plants can grow and flourish in an environment that helps them grow and flourish. That is the same for the development of young players. If the environment helps the development they will get better and better. Additionally, we have a code of discipline that the boys have to follow. They know that they need to meet certain standards to progress.”

“Yes, we won the tournament, that is a bonus, an absolute bonus, because we didn’t think we would, but people around our hotel are making comments about how well behaved, how disciplined the boys are. And that means as much to me as the cup, the trophy. Because in 5 to 10 years’ time the people will forget about this trophy. But if these boys have learned the correct habits, they might be first team players.”

“The third is the Program. We have some outstanding young players and they need to follow a program that is suitable for their age and for their development. So at 6 years of age for example, it is all about fun. At 18, it is more about the competitive nature of the game.”

“And the fourth is the Pathway. The boys need to know – when they join our football club – that there is a pathway to the first team. They know what standards they need to reach at each age group in order to progress to the next stage. And that is a pathway. In our football club there is one club policy. From the first team manager downwards, we understand what the demands are for players in the first team. So anybody that joins our football club knows, and his parents know that if the player reaches the standard, he will be given the opportunity, because our pathway allows that.”

“This means our head coach has to be picked very carefully too. But that is the Everton Way. That is something we are proud of. That is something that has evolved over many years and it seems to work because we seem to be developing players every year. Our first team manager would obviously like to have even more players, but we aim to get a minimum of one player into first team a year. Since our academy began we have succeeded in 7 out of 9 years, and in some years we even had 2 or 3.”

“We develop players for the first team, but we have also sold many players. This has netted us more that 50 million pounds in 9 years. One of the things we have to do as an academy is to give value to the club. And I think with those 50 million pounds in 9 years we can see we have give value to the club with our youth program.”

“How does a coach gets the trust of a young player? I think it is a combination of everything, the environment that is created, the manner of which the coaches speak to the players. The way they educate and develop the players, everything. Just look at this tournament. Yes, we have won it, but we didn’t set out in the beginning of the week that we had to win the tournament.We wanted to get to know the players better, we wanted them to play good football and we wanted to give them an experience that they might need in the future when they are first team players. I think we got better as the tournament progressed and with the help of the coaches we actually won it. Now, these youngsters would do anything for the coaches. The parents are happy too, they trust us, because when all is said and done, we are borrowing their children for a short period of time. It might be one year, it might be 15 years, but we are borrowing their children.”

“When I said that the people were important, you need to realize that the most important people are the players. We will never lose sight of that. Those boys who are in front of us now, are the most important part of the whole scheme and don’t underestimate the importance of the parents too because we have to educate and build up an understanding with them so that they understand what we are trying to do for their children. So, if we substitute their son, that they understand why he is substituted. It might be done because the boy is small or it might be because he is tired and needs to rest. We understand that as educators and developers.”

“And the third and most important part of the People are the staff. We will have coaches and staff that are working with age groups that they are best suited for working with. So we have Ian working with the young players. He wants to be the best in the world with working with those young players. He has no ambition to take over our first team and we don’t expect our first team manager to be working with the U6’s. You have to understand the age group you are working with, you need to have an understanding of the way those young players develop. It is different as adults and it never goes in straight lines. There are ups and there are downs. The reason for that can be many things; maybe a player in this tournament does not play well because he misses his family. So if they are playing and they have a poor 5 or 10 minutes and they feel upset, you need to know when to be kind to them and you need to know when to be firm with them.”

“It is not hard to find coaches who want to be the best in coaching U11s. Because what happened with our academy, is that we have given status to the coaches of the junior teams. So you are finding coaches which are working with the younger age groups and they want to get better at that. They are ambitious, but they are ambitious to become the best in the world at the level they are at. Not all coaches have played for Everton or at a high level, but they are ideally suited for the age group they work with. Everybody understands that all coaches are only as good as the players they get. There is no area in the academy that is more important that the other.”

“What they should learn? That is subjective, we don’t have technical tests. We do have physical tests, we know what kind of scores the boys should have on speed tests, on endurance tests, we know what we expect in their life style. Also, we do a lot of work on mental training. As far as I know we are the only academy in England who has a full time sports psychologist working with our young players, because in many occasions it is between your ears that make you the player you are, not what is in your feet.”

“We work very hard on improving the players’ life styles. Everton FC comes from an industrial area: Liverpool. Many or our boys come from backgrounds that are not the most affluent and I don’t mean that disrespectfully. So they have to know that when they leave our training centre that they live their life in the way we would hope to live their lives. I believe that is the most difficult, because that is a change of culture, because while they are with us, we can direct their development. When they are not with us, we have to hope that their own environment assists their development and that is important when I said we need to have a strong relationship with the parents so they understand the need to feed the boys properly, that the boys needs to get the correct rest, the right exercise and so on. So it is a whole kind of family of things that go into the mixture.”

Mental training
“It is difficult for me to say what our sports psychologists are doing, but she works on things like goal setting. A simple example: if we have an 11-year-old boy and his goal is to play in the first team, he may never do that. But if his goal is to remain in the U11s squad and to play in the U12s and his next goal is to improve his quality of short passing and if his next goal is to make sure he only eats the right food, he sets short term goals and objectives. These goals the boys can achieve and take them to the next age and before you know it, you have an 18, 19 year old boy who is in the first team and when you are my age that really goes in 5 minutes, that seems to go in no time at all.I remember Wayne Rooney joining our football club when he was 8 years of age. Now he is 21 and it seems like yesterday. But the mental side is so important, but I am not the expert. As the academy manager I don’t have to know everything, I expect the people I employ to know.”

“What I would like to achieve? I would like our players to become more technical and to accomplish that; I would like to increase the time we can spend with our boys. Currently our boys go to state schools and then come to us in the evening. I think that soon we will have access to the boys during the day, because I don’t believe it is rocket science that the longer time you have with the boys, the better they become.”

“The club philosophy evolves and everybody thinks along the same lines, from the board of directors to the first team manager. Our role is to provide players to our first team and that is not easy, because the Premier League is arguably the best league in the world and the standard is becoming higher and higher each year. In the last 9 years we’ve had 19 players make debuts in the first team and in the current first team squad of 16 players we have four. So it saves a lot of money and also the spectators enjoy seeing the local players coming through because every player has his tale. For example, we have the youngest goal scorer in the Premier League now, James Burn. He is not 18 and the supporters say that they remember him when he was 12. Everybody has a story to tell and that is nice, because you don’t have those stories when they come from other parts of the world. But what it does also is that the young players who are here see them as role models, that they have achieved their dream. So it gives them the desire, the enthusiasm, to achieve that dream also.”

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