Background: 1v1 Soccer FC’s Partnership with Wolves FC Academy
In March 2012, 1v1 Soccer FC entered a partnership agreement with Wolves FC academy. Wolves FC have successfully attained the highest level of Academy status in the UK (Category 1) and share this distinction with only 19 other professional clubs in England. Their Academy has successfully developed world-class players such as Robbie Keane (transferred for total fees of $150 million) and current Manchester City and England international Joleon Lescott.
A greater percentage of their 1st team players every year are being developed within their own academy system. Currently, 25 % of their young players within their U18 and U21 academy teams have received 1st team opportunities and the goal is to increase this to 40 %. The Wolves North American Academy partnership program has been established to develop development programs in North America that can share Wolves FC coaching methodology and provides opportunities for our young soccer players in Canada to fully realize their potential. This is achieved by following the “Wolves Way” player development model and providing our players with training experiences similar to the young players in England. This training includes technical, tactical, coordination, speed and physiological training preparation. Academy staff coaches from Wolves FC travel to Canada on an annual basis to evaluate and provide feedback to the players on their progress towards a possible career in professional soccer. In July, 2012, 16 of our players were identified by Wolves FC academy staff at an ID camp in Ancaster and invited to attend additional training at the Wolves FC academy in England in spring 2013. 1v1 Soccer FC is the first organization in Canada to secure this type of relationship with Wolves FC and this represents a clear pathway for both our male and female players to play soccer at the professional level.
Trip Observations to Wolves FC – November 2012 In late November we were invited to visit the Wolves FC academy to observe training, learn more about their development model and view the facilities that the selected 1v1 Soccer FC players will be training at during their academy experience trip in spring 2013. Our trip confirmed that Wolves FC are operating one of the most successful academies in the UK. The recent changes to the academy system at the professional clubs has dramatically increased the contact time with the players. This training is all supported by comprehensive education, sports science and performance analysis resources so that players achieve optimal performance and achieve a balanced lifestyle. We were fortunate in being able to observe the training preparation of players from U7 all the way up to the 1st team. Their academy is operated out of one facility which means that the 1st team and academy players use the same facility on a daily basis. This provides the young academy players with direct access to professional players as role models. It also creates a very distinctive and consistent training and development culture at the club based on their philosophy. Wolves FC – Academy Vision and Strategy
Youth development in professional football (soccer) in England is extremely competitive and includes 12,067 players. There are 40 professional club academies and 51 centres of Excellence, which is a scaled down version of a full academy model. Professional clubs typically start to identify and train young players as young as U7 age-group but cannot sign them until they are U9 (aged 8). Between the ages of U7-U9, several players will train at multiple clubs and then make final decisions on which club academy to attend at U9.
The main objective of professional club academies in England is to deliver an environment that promotes excellence, nurtures talent and systematically converts this talent into professional players capable of playing 1st team football. Wolves FC consider themselves as a Premiership club, even though they suffered relegation to the second highest league (Football League Championship) at the end of last season. Traditionally, they have been one of the top club’s in England and are a founding member of the football league. They were formed in 1877 and have won the First Division Championship (Forerunner of Premiership) 3 times, the FA Cup 4 times and the League Cup 3 times. Therefore, their aim at the academy level is to develop young players capable of playing at the Premiership Level, rather than the Football League. The club opened the Sir Jack Hayward Training Ground, which we attended, in 2005. It cost £4.6 million and features five high-quality under-soil heated training pitches, eleven changing rooms, a fully equipped gymnasium, and a hydrotherapy pool -one of only a handful of English clubs to own such equipment. The training ground’s medical and physiotherapy facilities made it the first (and so far only) British sports club to establish a fully accredited professional sports laboratory, based on AC Milan’s Milanello model In July 2011, plans were announced for a redevelopment of the Compton Park area, situated in the green belt, where the training ground is currently located that will enable Wolves to build a new indoor pitch and improve facilities to create a ‘Category 1? Premier League football academy.
The £50 million project involves the football club, the University of Wolverhampton , St. Edmund’s Catholi School, the Archdiocese of Birmingham and Redrow. the construction company founded by Wolves owner Steve Morgan. The club is making significant investment in it’s youth academy and the goal is to develop technically excellent players who are tactically astute, independent decision-makers and fully equipped for a successful career as a professional footballer. They also aim to develop educationally rounded people through a holistic approach. It is commonly acknowledged that to become top professional footballer, young players must be capable of learning quickly and making quick and correct decisions. Clubs such as Wolves FC are placing a great emphasis on the academic education of the player and have a full-time staff member solely responsible for the academy player’s education development. They have also developed close working relationships with two schools directly opposite their training ground.
To achieve success at the academy levels, Wolves FC, like the other category 1 clubs such as Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United seek to implement the following characteristics within their Elite and Multi-Disciplinary Training Environment:
An elite environment where players have the necessary time and space to develop
An environment where all aspects of the program are challenging, developmental (not based on winning until later ages 16+) and inspirational
The program is supported by outstanding coaches at every phase of the performance pathway
The coaching program is supported by education, sports science and medicine and a playing games opportunities (30 max/year)
A multi-disciplinary approach that successfully develops all four aspects of talent development: Technical/Tactical, Physical, Psychological and Social
The development of educationally rounded graduates who are independent thinkers, both on and off the field.
An environment that consistently produces professional players at the appropriate levels of the game for each club’s academy status, for Wolves FC this means players that are equipped to be successful at the English Premiership level