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30 Apr 2018

Learning from the Netherlands most Successful Football Academy

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The Blayney Blades Moving On programme were winners of the prestigious AONTAS STAR Award in 2018, the prize included an opportunity to take part in an ERASMUS+ KA1 programme. The initiative, based in Castleblayney Co Monaghan, helps learners to develop knowledge and skills through adult education with a focus on sports and recreation.

Programme Coordinator Barry Dolan travelled to Holland’s oldest football club, Academy Vitesse Arnhem in May to observe, study and review one of the most successful high performance youth development coaching programmes in the Netherlands and bring back new knowledge and ideas to Monaghan. In our latest blog Barry shares his experience of the trip.

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Barry Dolan, Blayney Blades Moving On Coordinator.

Academy Vitesse Arnhem has strong links with English Premier League club Chelsea and is one of the most successful academies in Holland. The study visit was organised by Murray Jones of Euro Football Tours & Tournaments (UK) and comprised of two nights and three jam packed days of lectures, workshops, coach observations and discussions. Participants from England, Korea, Scotland, America, Denmark and Ireland were all in attendance. 

Daily presentations were held each morning on topics such as player recruitment, club philosophy and the use of modern technology for player and team analysis. One of the main presentations focused the introduction of additional activities for younger children in order for them to take part in multiple sports which is thought to improve overall wellbeing. The club now incorporates judo, fitness classes, among other activities, to help children develop core strength.

The Dutch coaches were superb in their ability to discuss and tease out complex topics, emphasise the learning outcomes and focus on topics of development. I met with all levels of management from Under 8’s to the senior team which gave me the opportunity to discuss the content and learning outcomes of each session. This was greatly enhanced by having a wealth of knowledge from fellow participants taking part in the course as they currently coach in clubs such as Southampton, Carlisle United FC, Luton Town, Greenock Morton FC, San Diego Surf, Millwall FC - to name just a few.

On the Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit the Ajax training complex and watch two very competitive matches. Overall, this has been an excellent experience. The coaches from Vitesse Arnhem and those who took part in the study visit have been a real asset to the experience. How all players complete their education, especially the adult learners, has provided great insight into education at a professional sports club. I am delighted to see that much of what a professional club is doing in Holland, is already implemented here in Ireland at the Moving on Programme, and the local club who have many of our students coaching with Blayney Academy FC.

The hospitality has been beyond reproach and the total feel of the club and trip has been very relaxed with such a comprehensive agenda. I look forward to linking up with the coaches and forging strong links between the Monaghan education/sports community and the many academy directors I have met during my experience.