Training Ground Guru | Highlights from the 2022 Youth Development Conference


Liverpool Academy principal Alex Inglethorpe was among the speakers at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester

COACHES from the four home countries as well as Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal and the United States gathered at the TGG Youth Development Conference for a day of learning and sharing ideas.

This was our second youth development conference and our first live event in three years. It was sponsored by Hudl, Kairos, Kitman Labs and STATSports and delegates watched eight sessions over a busy day at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester.

The first presenter was Teacher Matthias Lochmann from Friedrich-Alexander University in Germany, who described the changes in under-11 training he had initiated.

These changes, which we’ve written about on TGG before, were inspired by the teachings of the late Horst Wein, whose Funino concept has been called street football for the 21st century.

Lochmann explained: “An intelligent player goes through four phases. First you have to observe the environment. Then you understand what is going on. Then you make a decision. Then you execute. Most drills in training focus only on execution, but to get the game smarts, you need to be successful in all four.

“Funino addresses all of these areas and I thought, ‘What will happen if we do this for three or four years with the younger players? We will have players with very good technique who will be able to take the good decisions.'”

The change did not prove easy, as there was resistance to the new concepts within the German Football Federation (DFB) and the wider grassroots.

Lochmann said: “The administrators said, ‘We have a good system, why change? I was outside, so I wasn’t afraid to tell them why.

He was guided by his own beliefs, based on his own research into the new model and the experiences his son had in youth football.

Each Youth Development Conference delegate received a copy of the 2021/22 Academy Productivity Rankings.

This 16-page booklet contained the full rankings, which includes 80 Tier 1-3 clubs, as well as analysis and editorials.

If you were unable to attend the event, you can still purchase a copy of the ranking booklet below. The price is £6.50, to cover production and postage.

A turning point came when Lochmann showed up at an international coaching convention and German coach Hansi Flick was in the audience. He came at the end and said “we have to do this”.

Now the foundation phase changes have been introduced and the new formats will be mandatory from 2024/25.

After the presentation, Professor Barry Drust from the University of Birmingham tweeted: “Matthias Lochmann today showed the incredible impact of his research. Such clever ideas to get buy-in from stakeholders! Very impressed.”

The next step was Josh Schneider-Weiler who unveiled TGG’s Academy productivity rankings for 2021/22. This is the fourth edition of the annual rankings, which list the 80 Tier 1-3 academies by the number of England-qualified players they have produced.

Each conference delegate also received a copy of the rankings brochure – a 16-page report containing the full rankings along with the analysis and editorial.

At 10.45 am, director of the Liverpool academy, Alex Inglethorpe took the stage to present the club’s innovative AIR programme.

AIR stands for Adaptability, Independence and Resilience. Inglethorpe, who has been at Liverpool for a decade, explained: “A few years ago I realized we had 17 members of staff who all conveyed different messages to our young players. We need them to be aligned and the learning to be relevant.

“The AIR program has been in place for two years and players have asked to use certain branding ideas on the AXA training site. Staff get involved. »

He explained each element of the acronym:

  • “Adaptability: you will have different managers and coaches, different playing systems. There is a natural evolution of the game.”
  • “Independence: knowing who to ask for help and when. You have to be able to make good decisions under pressure and be a good judge of character.”
  • “Resilience: you need physical and mental robustness. You’ll face contract hassles, injuries, being out of the squad, and then both transitioning and potentially out of the sport.

After Inglethorpe was Iain Brunnschweiler, Southampton’s head of technical development, who took us into the club’s learning lab. Brunnschweiler explained that the lab was an attempt to bridge the gap between research and application in professional football.

“We want to learn how to learn,” he said. “Over the past 15 years we have learned so much about the player aspects, both mentally and physically, but what can we learn next?

“We bridge the gap between academia and practice. We develop coaches. What role models can help in the field? We want to create a positive impact on the practice, solve problems in the performance community and excite our target communities. »

The final session of the morning was a collaboration between our main sponsors, Hudl, and the Football Association.

England Learning Analysis Workflow

England Learning Analysis Workflow

Austin Fullerregional director of client solutions for Hudl, explained how the company “helps organizations make better decisions with video and data”, while pointing out that 69% of academies worldwide still do not use the video analysis.

Laura Seth, Performance Analysis & Insights Manager at the Football Association, explained how England Learning “supports the provision of learning and qualifications to coaches”. He “supports coaches through the game, from grassroots to Steven Gerrard and Emma Hayes” and “develops coaches to develop players”.

“The use of analytics is a clear intention of the FA,” Seth said. “We use analytics to help coaches better understand the game.”

FA Youth Coach Developer Joe Sargisson follow up by outlining the analysis cycle or workflow, which you see above: plan, live delivery and analysis, review and reflection, peer discussion, coach developer discussion, development plan and impact. training (back to planning a session).

Gregg Broughton's presentation focused on integrating youth development into your club's strategy

Gregg Broughton’s presentation focused on integrating youth development into your club’s strategy

The afternoon began with a presentation of Gregg Broughtonthe director of football at Blackburn Rovers, entitled “Integrating youth development into your club’s strategy”.

This was particularly relevant as Blackburn have just celebrated 600 consecutive league games with a homegrown player in their matchday squad.

Broughton said there are four cheat codes to successfully get young players into your first team:

  • 1. Being bottom of the league. For example in Rushden (Simeon Jackson, Lee Tomlin).
  • 2. Have a high injury rate. For example at Luton (Joe Kinnear spent 72 hours trying to sign a loanee and eventually had to make his debut for Curtis Davies).
  • 3. Employ an interim manager (James Maddison, Jamal Lewis having a chance at Norwich)
  • 4. Have a transfer slump.

However, a more sustainable approach is objective, strategic, tactical, Broughton said.

  • Objective: to make Blackburn a sustainable Premier League club.
  • Strategy: Eight strategic pillars.
  • Tactics: Youth development at the heart of it.

Broughton said there was a need to “clarify what your academy success looks like”, which involved establishing an R number for Blackburn’s academy.

To this end, the club hired a manager with experience in developing young players (Jon Dahl Tomasson), who had also been on the radar of former Broughton club FK Bodø/Glimt.

Your recruiting department also needs to “look internally before you look,” Broughton explained. “Is the shiny new player actually better than what you have? You have to know that the players are in your first team really well.”

Broughton also spoke of “protecting the psychological safety of Academy staff and players” because “high performance happens when people feel safe.” This was a theme throughout the day at the conference.

Jeff Weigh hosted the Youth Development Conference

Jeff Weigh hosted the Youth Development Conference

At Bodø/Glimt, where Broughton was youth director, Academy staff were put on lifelong contracts and 13-year-old players were guaranteed a place until the end of school. This created “a club-wide learning environment”.

The next step was Charlotte Healywho gave us insight into running one of Manchester United’s top women’s academies

“As an Academy, we’re only four years old,” she explained, “and when we started I was just a full-time staff member.”

However, it is a club where “the importance of youth is rooted” and Academy director Healy quickly set about creating a plan, or “Redprint”.

From left to right: Simon Austin, Perry Walters, Ged Roddy and Sally Needham

From left to right: Simon Austin, Perry Walters, Ged Roddy and Sally Needham

Healy said the goal for the senior team was to have “a winning squad with a core of club-developed players”, with the Academy aiming to be “the most successful talent development program in the country”.

The Redprint defines what it means to be a Manchester United player – tactically, socially, physically, psychologically and technically. This is then broken down into items.

“Be consistent,” Healy said. “If a player under 14 goes to 16, are the language and the messages the same? What if you were in the first team?”

And, as Broughton has previously pointed out, having continuity of message throughout the club is crucial. “If we sign a player, will he be a blocker? We need to know who comes next.

The day ended with a panel discussion on human development in action, featuring Sally NeedhamHead of People Development and Performance Culture at Sheffield United, Perry Waltersthe co-founder of IDYOMS, and Ged Roddy MBEwho was the architect of the modern Academy system as the Premier League’s youth director.

The audience for this session included Manchester United assistant manager Steve McClaren.


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