John Van’t Schip is a Dutch coach who developed as both a player and a coach under the guidance of the legendary Johan Cruyff. Van’t Schip has worked as first-team coach for both Ajax and the Netherlands. He now finds himself at the heart of Melbourne City FC in Australia’s A League. In this exclusive interview with PDP Editor, Dave Wright, we hear about John’s journey and what advice he has for developing coaches.
Given his deep connections to Dutch football, it is somewhat surprising to learn that John Van’t Schip spent the early years of his life in Canada as an avid ice hockey fan. It is a unique beginning for a man who went on to have an 11-year career at Ajax and four years at Genoa in Italy following that. It was only at the age of seven that he first went to a soccer practice with an English schoolmate – but it was the moment that started John’s lifelong relationship with the sport.
The following year the Van’t Schip family moved to Holland – his family’s home country – and initially moved in with John’s grandparents. He suddenly found himself in a football-mad household; his three uncles (who were still at home at the time) were all avid Ajax and Feyenoord fans. Van’t Schip explains the moment where he really fell in love with football. “Only three weeks into our return to Holland I was lucky enough to go and watch Ajax vs. Inter Milan in the European Cup Final,” he says. “It was 1972. Johan Cruyff scored two goals, Ajax won 2–0 and Cruyff was man of the match. From that moment on I was a Cruyff and Ajax fan.”
The Cruyff legacy lives on strongly in Van’t Schip and he has clearly had an inspiring and fortunate journey in his career, crossing paths with some of the best to ever play and coach football. So with such a wealth of experience and exposure to some of the top figures in the sport, we had to ask what John believes makes an effective or top quality coach?
As you may expect, John is clear in his reply, explaining, “You have to know the qualities of your players. Each player is different and has different attributes, and you need to be able to fit those elements into a team. It’s not always easy – you may have a player who is more talented, but then you might have a player who is better for the team. These decisions are difficult so you have to be able to make the call for what’s best with the team. From there, it’s about how you communicate your message or style to the players and it’s very important to ensure the players are part of that process.”
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