Steve Lawrence is a consultant to Cruyff Football and Ajax. With a Masters in International Sports Management, Steve is at the forefront of research into the topic of Relative Age Effect. Here Steve gives Player Development Project readers an exclusive look behind the scenes at Ajax’s brand new academic education centre, a building he worked on as a consultant architect.

The project for the new academic education centre at Ajax football club came about following discussions about the nature of pedagogy in the elite youth football environment. Ruben Jongkind (who was until recently the head of youth development for Ajax) and I had the initial discussions and the idea was developed with Ed Lefeber, Michael Kinsbergen, Edwin van der Sar and Johan Cruyff.

Ajax was already the leading player development club in the world, with the player development philosophy in the modern era going back to Vic Buckingham, Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff. Their legacy has more recently supported Louis van Gaal, Ronald Koeman and Frank de Boer, the latter of whom was the first team trainer during the academic education centre project.

The essential concept which evolved during our discussions was that the development trajectory of every player is unique and that the club could do more to create an environment in which that individual trajectory could be nurtured to maximize potential.

We recognized that the relationship between academic development and sporting development were so interdependent that it was in the interests of the club to take an even more proactive role in player academic education by developing facilities on-site.

We also realized that the relationship between the football training, the trainers, the players, the academic staff and the on-site facilities needed to change somewhat if this was to succeed and that in future the football curriculum and the academic curriculum would need to coalesce.

The model for this pedagogical thinking is taken from Montessori philosophy where children progress through their education at their own pace guided by expert teachers in a carefully prepared environment.

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Steve Lawrence
Steve Lawrence
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Steve Lawrence is a consultant to Cruyff Football and Ajax in the Netherlands. With a Masters in International Sports Management, Steve founded the Football Analytics Lab and is at the forefront of research into the topic of Relative Age Effects.
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