Exploring Footballs Future at the Innovation Summit

by Fusion Sport
 | 2nd April, 2019

The 2019 Football Innovation Summit was held earlier last month in London, focusing on talent identification and creating effective elite player pathways. EMEA General Manager Jose Galindo would like to share his highlights and key insights from a broad range of great speakers at the event.

Top Four Key Messages:

• 4-3-3 is The Belgian Way: Consistency is key
• Ego – the worst enemy in football!
• What’s your job? Put players in the First Team.
• Football Director KPIs: My favorite was focusing on a positive transfer balance season

Day One – Talent ID, Recruitment, Elite Pathway, Player Development & Data Insights

Darren Burgess PhD | Director of High Performance, Arsenal FC

Topic: Exploring A Holistic Approach to Talent Identification

Darren’s talk explored talent selection and understanding how subjective and objective data, and certain measurable indicators are used in the talent identification process; how do talented young footballers increase their probability of being selected for a development pathway?

Darren’s message “Firstly, to be successful in the premier league you really do need to have certain physical abilities” did leave me wondering what that means. What speed should youth athletes hold (m/s) on a weekly basis? How much do they have to lift at what velocity? Do you have a profile by position? Surely goalkeepers’ concentric power is not equal to a midfielder? How much power production or concentric force x position x age maybe? I was dying for metrics. A key takeaway was that Darren believes the ideal age to start training seriously is 14.

Tony Strudwick | Head of Performance, Football Association Wales

Topic: Creating Highly Supportive Environments for Player Development

Tony discussed how to take a holistic approach to developing an academy structure for player development, and creating an environment that works to provide youth athletes with the tools and resilience to fulfill their potential. Exploring the current challenges for youth athletes our key takeaway from this talk was that experience matters and intimacy is important. The human interaction is and always will be a key factor on how we interact as humans.

Panel Discussion: How Does Everyone Else Do It?

• Nick Winkleman, Head of Performance, Irish Rugby Football Union
• Scott Drawer, Director of Sport, Millfield School
• Mo Bobat, Player Identification Lead, England Cricket Board

This was a great panel looking at a range of sports to gain insight into how they’ve created a framework for Talent Identification and Development. Some key takeaways were firstly to really understand your players and rely on data and physical performance rather than intuition to measure talent. In addition, Scott Drawer pointed out the need to manage parent expectations when working with youth talent, and Mo Bobat pushed the idea of understanding the gap between youth and professional and not exposing players to too much too early.

For further insight into how the England Cricket Board manage their talent identification and development pathways in Smartabase you can watch Mo Bobat’s fantastic presentation from the 2018 Human Performance Summit here.

Kris Van Der Haegen | Director Coach Education, Royal Belgian Football Association

Topic: Individualisation Of Player Development

Kris message was 4-3-3!! The national teams in Belgium play the same style of game as youth development. Consistency is key here but I can only imagine the gigantic task to educate all coaches on the Belgian Football Philosophy, the ‘Belgian Way’.

The other key takeaway was the importance of managing ego – the worst enemy in football! I would really love to meet Kris and discuss his experiences in more depth, he has over 20 years at Belgium Football with successful demonstrated results.

Gareth Jennings | Academy Director, Stoke City FC

Topic: The importance of The Loan System for First Team Development

What’s your job? Put players in the FIRST TEAM – that’s my take away message from Gareth’s presentation. For me that really resonates with the Fusion Sport way, communicating the purpose of our business – clarification is key.

Gareth assured the audience that any staff member at Stoke City FC will be able to tell you the purpose of their job. If you ask that question in your organisation, what answers would you get?

Matt Allen | Head of Academy Physical Development, Tottenham Hotspur

Topic: Developing Future Premier League Players

How can you improve performance in Academy Players? Matt Allen took the conference through some key methodologies and technologies Tottenham Hotspur have adopted in 15 seasons of testing to assist them in understanding what assists in performance. It’s essential to understand what effect various methodologies will have when designing individualized athlete training programs.

I really like the way he and his team organise the athlete profile charts. I personally like the categorisation by position.

Day Two – Developing Elite Level Skills, Player Welfare and Mental Resilience

Marcel Brands | Director of Football, Everton FC

Topic: Delivering a Club’s long-term, permanent football strategy

A great interview with Marcel Brands from Everton FC on what it means to be the ‘People’s Club’ and how to build for the future. Marcel’s key points:

• Do not get emotional – I translated this to developing your Emotional Intelligence skills
• Create pathways for your own people (staff included)
• Make scouting a priority
• Close the gap in between the first team and the academy; ensure a positive transfer of talent
• Hold yourself to KPIs as football director. Which ones?
Win prizes
Positive transfer balance season. Healthy P&L
Academy player to be promoted to the first team.

Tatiana Ferreira | Sport Psychologist – Human Performance Department, SL Benfica

Topic: Challenging players appropriately to fulfil their potential and be the best they can be

Sport psychologist Tatiana explained for the group the importance of understanding the mental aspect of player development. Teams need to be providing youth athletes with the tools to develop confidence, resilience and mental toughness to overcome adversity in order to succeed in the elite game.

Tatiana also taught me a lesson: “There is no such thing as First Team and a reserve team. We call them A or B Team.” I 100% agree, semantics is important. At Fusion Sport we had our pricing tiers listed as Gold, Silver and Bronze. Tell me, as an elite performance organization how would like to be second or third? We updated this to better reflect what our clients’ needs are; an ultimate and a premium subscription with customizable add-ons.

In regards to building up a mental resiliency for youth athletes, there is a fine balance. In the real world, business and sport are cruel. We are here to win, we only accept winning. On a personal level, that’s why I am mad when my kids get rewarded for “participating” – I got told at school and University to win. My honest professional opinion is that in my life experience I got a thick skin because I got knocked down a few times and got told to get up and do it again. Your opponent only wins when you don’t get back up.

Lisanne Van De Kaaden | Sports Science – Ajax FC Youth

Topic: Speed Development

Lisanne’s key points:

• At Ajax FC academy the focus in the youth is on lower limb endurance. In particular, Aerobic and explosive development.
• Sprint results age 15-17 or professional has no injury predictability effects. Very bold statement to make. I really appreciate their honesty and sincerity.
• What is a good 30 metres sprint result? Lisanne answered: Low 4 seconds.

Ajax FC had a brilliant season this year, and we are very proud to support them in training their athletes with our Smartspeed Timing Gates. Find out more about Smartspeed here.

Further Exploring Talent Identification

If talent ID is your area of responsibility, we can also recommend checking out these sessions from our 2018 Human Performance Summit series, some great insights in these presentations to help develop your own player pathways.

Brad Pryjmachuk former Performance Solutions Manager at NSW Rugby League talking about how they used Smartabase to develop their talent ID processes from the early stages at age 16 all the way through to the senior level. Watch now.

Mo Bobat, Player Identification Lead, England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) presenting on how they ensure that the right quantity and quality of players are selected onto the men’s International Pathway and into the England teams. Watch now.

Jose Galindo
General Manager, EMEA | Fusion Sport
Contact Jose by email
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