What is the Future of Academy Coaching? PDP Lead Researcher, James Vaughan discusses his experience from a trip to the Applied Psychology in Football Conference in Bilbao earlier this year. James shares some of the key questions and notes from the event.

Earlier this summer I was lucky enough to attend the AIPAF III International congress of Applied Psychology in Football, held in Bilbao, Spain. This blog is based on the notes that I took at the congress, which were transcribed from discussions translated live from Spanish. The reason I mention this is to make it crystal clear that these are my interpretations (via an interpreter) and are therefore subject to my bias; or what our editor Dave Wright (sometimes fondly, sometimes frustratedly) refers to as, ‘my unique lens’.

The focus of this blog is a session I attended called ‘The Academy, Creating a Learning Culture in a Football Club’. This session was a panel discussion led by Edu Rubio, who is Head of Academy Coach Development at Milton Keynes Dons FC. Edu asked the questions and on the panel there sat:

  • Joan Vilá (Head of Methodology, FC Barcelona)
  • Jose Manual Sevillano (Academy director, Athletic Club de of Bilbao )
  • Ruben Jongkind (Implemented Plan Cruyff at Ajax with Johan Cruyff and former Head of Talent Development at Ajax Amsterdam)
  • Sergio Navarro (Head of Methodology, Villarreal FC)

What follows is a brief highlights reel that hopefully provides discussion points, areas for reflection, direction for future research and a novel, more holistic view of coaching in academies. I’ve summarised the questions and the answers below, but as you read on consider Eduardo’s opening question Where do you think the future of the game is going?”.

This overarching question is broken down into these questions and the answers that emerged from the panel:

What do we need to understand as coaches?

  • We need to understand both macro-factors and micro-factors; we must appreciate the economic influence on our development environments as well as many other factors.
  • We need to focus on the development of the player as an open system. In the future people will pay attention to each other as open systems.
  • We need to generate and create spaces for these open systems to interact, this space and interaction can inspire creativity and we need creativity in football and life.
  • We must recognising that a person is a dynamic and changing system. This applies to the way we think about players, coaches, everyone.

To surmise we need a greater appreciation of the dynamic relationship between the athlete and the environment (the many systems, constraints and macro / micro factors). Recognising each other as open systems is simply recognising that we are shaped – at many levels; biology, psychology, perception action – by the interaction between people and places.

What is the focus of training?

  • The main focus of training is the individual; we develop the individual to help the team and then society. We want good people first and then good players.
  • The tension between the individual and the collective is crucial. This can create the human system disequilibrium needed for creative moments. In accepting this tension we embrace the discomfort and uncertainty that leads to human development and creativity.
  • In terms of training, the most important thing is to look back and be satisfied with the work done.
  • When we are improving the player we are doing this for the individual and the team. We are also developing values, trust, responsibility and commitment to the team. Maybe this can be understood simply by a commitment not to lose the ball, or that when we do we try to win the ball back – it’s a commitment to the team. Values are something we work on in every single training session.

What is the goal of coach development?

  • The real job is to help coaches ‘see what they haven’t seen’. This means helping coaches to enhance their own self-awareness.

What are the characteristics of a development environment?

  • Patience and a wider, long-term perspective are needed.
  • The first consideration at Bilbao is social responsibility, so there is a responsibility for all players, especially those who not all will become professionals.
  • We have a fantastic game, a tool to optimize our capacities as humans and we can work and practice everything, enjoy, compete and work on all the values that human beings need for society.

What is success?

  • Success is the pleasure of the travels, the journey, to have a common approach and to be part of something.
  • We should aim to work with the seriousness of the child who plays; this mindset opens the door to creative moments for us as coaches, and our players.

I would like to thank the AIPAF for organising this excellent conference. Thank you to all the presenters and the excellent translators.

For a more in depth analysis of this session check out the next issue of the PDP Magazine.

Photo Credits: Depositphotos.com

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