Soccer Coaching Education With the Netherlands’ Feyenoord Rotterdam
The importance of defining a clear direction for player development helps a club plan for the future and remain focused on reaching their end goal as an organization. Not getting lost in the mix of the day to day tactical strategies is key for success.
GoalNation’s Chris Rael spoke with Feyenoord Rotterdam (NL) on the importance of coaching education, its influence on player development at the youth level and their special take on what works best.
Soccer News: Feyenoord Rotterdam remains one of the most successful clubs in the Netherlands with a youth system that has developed top talent that competes at the international level.
Dutch National Team notables Robin van Persie and Giovanni van Bronckhorst both played for the youth academy at Feyenoord, while Dirk Kuyt played three seasons with the club before signing with Liverpool.
Kuyt returned to Rotterdam last season as van Bronckhorst took over as Manager of the club. Feyenoord hoisted the KNVB (Dutch) Cup for its 12th time in 2016 after defeating FC Utrecht in the final.
On the European stage, Feyenoord has won the previously known European Cup (now UEFA Champions League) and has been crowned UEFA Cup Champions (now UEFA Europa League) on two occasions – most recently in 2002.
Feyenoord currently sits in first place of the Eredivisie (Dutch First Division) with hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League next season.
However, hopes of success do not begin with reaching for trophies at the professional ranks but rather at the youth levels of all clubs.
GoalNation discussed topics of coaching and player development with Feyenoord Rotterdam following the club’s coaching course during the 2017 NSCAA Convention held in Los Angeles, CA in January, 2017. One of the best attended NSCAA Conventions ever, the Feyenoord Rotterdam coaching session welcomed a packed room.
Gido Vader, Manager of International Relations, and Melvin Boel, International Development Coach, noted the influence they tried to provide those attending their session was the why part of their training philosophy.
“Few people know how to do it, and even a smaller percentage know why you do it,” said Boel.
“What we try to provide in our partnerships with youth soccer clubs or federations is why we do things.”
Allowing people to understand the reasons why specific actions need to be taken empowers them to think for themselves and own that process which is at the core of the teachings.
During its coaching session, Feyenoord shared this knowledge in order for coaches and club administrators to develop an extension of the Dutch club’s own philosophy for developing soccer players.
“We try to develop players that are able to make their own decisions on the pitch,” said Vader.
Although having a good structure for player development is key, Boel and Vader discussed the importance of coaching education for sustaining development at all levels.
“We try to develop independent thinkers.”
“A club should provide a good environment, organization and structure,” said Boel. “Not only for players but also in terms of coaching education.”
Vader visited the notion of the American system focused on winning rather than development, which at times hinders the latter in the process.
“It’s not about development here, it’s about results,” said Vader referring to youth soccer in America.
“Instead of starting from the foundation and working upwards, Americans start with winning the final. That’s the difference from us. At Feyenoord, we start developing young players to become first team players. Instead of just buying the best players for the first team.”
America’s desire for glitz and victory is known the world over but in soccer, and developing youth players who can successfully compete on the world stage — the drive to win hurts more than it helps.
In recent years, coaching development in the United States has taken a sharp turn by restructuring its tactics at all levels in order to combat this perception.
“What you see now is that Americans understand they need to educate their coaches, trainers and organizations in order to improve and have a real position in football in the future,” said Vader.
The Feyenoord representatives believe the annual NSCAA Convention is combatting this dilemma with coaches showing up ready to learn how they can improve. With all the information that a coach might receive during the convention, they hope coaches are able to analyze and implement it to the benefit of the youth club’s strengths.
“Listen, visualize and go look at the way other clubs are doing it,” said Boel. “Then get all of the information and create your own style because it could be sustainable for years.”
Vader explained the importance of remaining consistent, not just at the top level, is what provides strong development for the future.
“Find that style and stick to it throughout the development process. Be consistent,” said Vader. “The trick is underneath the first team — there you have to be consistent. That’s where the development is taking place.”
Following the NSCAA Convention, Vader hoped attendees would return to their clubs refreshed, retooled and inspired as they work with their players.
“I hope all these coaches come together and pick each other’s brains and inspire one another,” said Vader. “Because we can also learn something here from a high school coach. He can say something that we haven’t really thought about.”
Vader believes that a learning vibe from coaches and their willingness to exchange information can help coaching education spread across the country.
“I think it’s very important that you have the exchange of knowledge and energy,” said Vader.
Boel continued by recalling a few years back when coaches were only taking pictures of exercises. He returned back to the emphasis of focusing on why they do things, which is what they tried to share.
“The struggle can be that they try to recycle things that we do,” said Boel. “They need to take the information that is useful to them. In the end, if you want to develop you need to listen and read things. Then bring it to practice, which is what I hope they will do.”
Boel and Vader further discussed the importance of providing players with a mentor that is not just strictly related to soccer, but also off the pitch as well.
“Of course, we are developing talent, but in the end we are also developing human beings,” said Boel.
With academies and coaches having a huge impact on players during their busy soccer schedule, the importance of setting an example and embracing the role as a mentor off the pitch is vital.
“In current day football, the best players are intelligent players,” said Vader.
“We need to work on that side of the person too. It’s our responsibility. We have the kids over six/seven days of the week. We are partly responsible for their education.”
In the past three years, Feyenoord has brought their training tactics to the United States in a partnership with St. Louis Scott Gallagher Academy — the development academy of the USL’s Saint Louis FC.
“We try to share what we know and how we do things,” said Vader. “Help them develop their own style and we can be sort of a mentor in that process because of the experience we have.”
Boel ultimately noted during this partnership the growth of player development is present as well as the level of coaching knowledge.
“We really see that they are improving,” said Boel. “When we talk with coaches now, you will see they have more knowledge and insights about the game. They think about where they want to go with the club — with football and with talent.”