Football Academies were created primarily to find talented young football players from all walks of life and develop their skills to fulfil their potential. Some of the biggest football clubs in the world – including Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City – are well known for their development programmes and for turning their young players into professional stars!
Football academies allow young people to receive specialist training. Their players are taught how to play at a professional level and meet the high standards of each club. One day these players may become first-team players, important substitutes or players, who the team can invest in through transfers and loans. Academies are always looking for talented individuals hoping to find future stars. They don’t just look locally. They will search for international players too if it means they may find the best!
The journey begins
The journey of an Academy trainee usually begins when they are nine years old. They sign a “schoolboy/ schoolgirl contract”, which is then renewed every 1-2 years. These contracts restart until the play is 16. At this point, the academy will decide whether they want to offer a place on their training scheme or not and if they are, they will be offered a “scholarship contract”. This is known as the professional development phase, where player progression is monitored for over 3 years. Successful players will then be offered a professional contract! Unfortunately, not many players progress directly through to the first team, and either play competitive football in the under 23’s squad or go out on loan to a lower league club. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. The more playing time an individual can get, the better. It is always a positive aspect of a player’s development.
The Development of the Young player
When it comes to a player’s development, academies focus on football skills, strategies, tactics, techniques and training methods. They also focus on each trainee’s development and techniques. Players participate in training twice a week. Then at the weekend, they play a football match against another academy team: eight-a-side games for under 11’s and eleven-a-side games for 11 to 16-year-olds. Academy players are given thorough assistance and training from the club’s staff on all aspects of their lives. They are even given practical homework and training on nutrition!
It’s not always a dream come true
Playing for football teams such as Manchester United or Real Madrid is a dream come true for many young people, but sometimes it can go wrong. It is really difficult for academy members to graduate from the first team. When players get to a certain age, the first team will either offer players contracts or release them. This might be because the player is constantly getting injuries or are simply not good enough. When players are released, they are left without a club and potentially a job. Luckily players are put on a list, and other clubs can approach them. However, this is likely to mean that they would be playing football at a lower level with lower wages and a different system!
As many football clubs get larger and access more funds from their owners, the opportunities for the development of smaller clubs become harder. It might be easier for a player to be promoted into the first team of a lower league club, but it will still be harder for them to achieve high tier aspirations.
The changing of coaches can also have an impact on young players. Whilst the previous manager may have liked an individual, the new manager may have completely different tactics and ideas.
Another downside is travel. Young players will have to travel sometimes miles to go to their academy every week, which means a lot of money spent on petrol and diesel. This isn’t too great for the environment either. When being interviewed by OTBSports, journalist Michael Calvin said “Only 180 of the 1.5 million boys who play organised youth football in England at any one time will play a minute of the Premier League.”
Tag also found out that there are roughly 12,500 players in the English academy system right now, but only 0.5% of under-nines at clubs are likely to make it into the first team. These are crazy statistics! They show the very sad truth that although many young people aim to become top-level professional football players, only a very few will achieve it.
A great aspiration!
Becoming a football player is a dream for many young people who aspire to become as good as Cristiano Ronaldo or Samantha Kerr but there is a lot of hard work that you need to put in order to achieve the goal of becoming a professional superstar! Academies are a great experience and they give you a great opportunity but football is a tough and ruthless industry.
Are you or a younger sibling interested in joining a football academy? Checkout this website down below for more information.