Recently Craig Foster wrote an article for the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Paying a high price for an unstructured academy system in football”. Whilst I am a big admirer of Craig and his efforts to improve our game, I believe that through his good intentions to highlight the cost of participation and the mediocre level of development available, he may have unwittingly vilified all private operators regardless of outcomes and services they provide. I hope to add my perspective on the matter knowing too well that as a privately run business my opinion will, of course, have a tinge of bias.
For those that have not read the article here is the link
I believe that we need to always look at the underlying factors as to how we are now in a situation where academies are becoming more prevalent in the landscape and whilst it’s easy to say that academics are to blame for the lack of talent that’s coming through, where exactly is the proof that this be the case. Where is the data with the facts on player development? How many kids are attending private academies? and how many are only attending clubs? If it is a culmination of kids attending both then wouldn’t that then mean that not only are academies failing our kids but so are our clubs.
With clubs now charging anything from $1500-$3500 to play, have clubs then not become private academies themselves?. It’s my experience based on observation and now that I have been part of an NPL 2 club for the past 2 seasons, I have found that clubs themselves lack any sort of professional coaching model. Very few if any teams I’ve encountered are attempting to play any sort of development based football. The emphasis is still very much on competing like adults. To win by forcing other teams to make mistakes, it is quite rare to see any teams attempting any sort of build-up play. This stems from the way SAP kids are playing where everything is one direction one speed.
Over the years since clubs have gradually increased their prices many of the clientele that once attended our classes can now no longer afford to do so. This has unfortunately meant that we can no longer afford to run our business on a full-time basis. What this means for many of the kids that attended our sessions they no longer have an opportunity to experience the type of individual training philosophies that clubs don’t offer. In turn, many of the current academies have now opted to run full-time programs competing in either local grassroots competitions via clubs or through the newly formed Premier Academy league. Let’s look at why or how this came into being:
Firstly most academies primarily cater to the 6-12 age groups. Older kids require more competition as they age and academies are not in a position to be able to offer that high-end competition. Most of the parents I speak to along with general consensus amongst the people that I am exposed to all agree that for most SAP is not working as it should be. Kids are not developing skill, they are developing competitiveness and a big part of the problem is two-fold. The first is a lack of understanding of the process of development from both coaches and parents alike where the emphasis is predominantly on what happens in the weekend games. Children are assessed to adult standards and coaches are coaching to win, not to develop. Because of the nature of the environment, we adults have created a situation where tactics are far more important than skills, this causes coaches to coach in a way where they want kids to avoid mistakes. The other factor, which for me is what causes our dysfunctional culture is a lack of understanding and professionalism from the clubs themselves. Whilst it is obvious that no club in this country can be called professional, we lack a professional mindset, standards and a uniformed approach towards both the administration and technical aspects of the game. Most SAP and club Youth TD’s are just caretakers, allowing coaches to do whatever they want. There is no formal technical structure in methodology or philosophy, to each their own. On top of all that clubs are like merry go rounds every year a large proportion of kids leave one club and then join another with the ultimate prize is to be selected into an NPL 1 side regardless of whether the coaching or the environment is conducive to creating a better product\player.
In some cases, I believe that the youth system is a way to funnel money from parents to pay first graders in order to stay in NPL 1. This is not a fact but it would be interesting to see the financial details of all clubs to determine whether or not this is the case. There are very few clubs where first graders have come through any sort of pathway through the club.
In many cases like those that we have experienced, we have been the only consistency in the learning process, this is because we do not trial players we give players real opportunities to grow over the long haul in a consistent development model based on years of research trial and error.
To somewhat paint all academies as to be at fault for what is a huge problem in this country quite frankly is unwarranted and unfair. Whilst I believe that there are many operators out there that perhaps are taking advantage of people there are also a number of very good well-structured academies that do an excellent job in a situation where Football as a whole is facing some massive issues that undermine its true potential. Many of us have been waiting and calling on the FFA to create an accreditation process for private operators.
So while I admire Craigs honest effort to fix the problems in the game I think the real question is where is the leadership from football’s hierarchy? Where is a detailed plan to ensure that clubs get it right so that more opportunities are created for individuals like myself to be able to work full time in a game we love rather than become frustrated and opt to open private academies?
TESTIMONIAL from our website:
“I was thinking back that he has been with you for the whole period of his high school life, from the U12s at Marconi to the U18s at Sydney United last year. He has never had a single teacher for that length of time! But with Foundation it was always more than just football, there were valuable life lessons imparted along the way, both with personal goals, drive and determination and with general post-football and school life skills. Thank you for all of this.