What is the secret to how the mighty Ajax of Amsterdam keep producing their conveyor belt of young talent. There are many theories but one that has come to light is to do with how they train their youth players.
It is unconventional and certainly different but it appears to be getting results. It is a method that has been created by Jan Teunissen who is a Lecturer and Researcher in Talent Development and Identification at the HAN University of Applied Sciences.
The method refers to an Athletes Skills Model that he used on the youth footballers at Ajax. Here is a scenario…
Ajax player falls over but to audible intakes of breath from family watching in the stands, he gets up, does a judo flip, lands, and continues his run towards the penalty area with the ball at his feet.
In short, Ajax youth players spend 50% of their time playing football and the rest they use to learn other sports. Only with time and age do they then go on to hone their talents towards football.
Teunissen has previously worked at Ajax as a physical trainer and was in Amsterdam to share his theory with 200 professionals, teachers, and administrators at a Youth Development Conference.
“What can we do today? We have to look at the developmental process of young children, rather than look for activities. Create a rich, learning environment for children to find their own solution to movement problems. That will help children to develop their potential the best,” Teunissen said at the conference.
He cited the multi-sport life of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and he used his martial arts background in football and how these skills are not taught by coaches anymore. You only have to look at how Ibrahimovic uses his physique and strength with even more effect than normal. It is certainly food for thought.