Performance Director Patrick van Leeuwen spoke about his first few months at Maccabi and what he has been working on in the Youth Department. He especially focussed on the importance of the Maccabi Tel Aviv School in the North of Tel Aviv and why it is as crucial as the one located at Kiryat Shalom:
“The Club’s plan is to keep working with both the school in the North of Tel Aviv and in the South at Kiryat Shalom because they are all part of the same family. I don’t see this changing over the next season because as a Club we need a bigger pond to fish from and to find quality talented players. The rumors of the North school closing are unfounded as this is a critical location for all of us at Maccabi. The information and statistics say that there are an equal amount of quality players coming from the North as from the South.”
Improving the Northern School’s facilities:
“It is crucial for us at Maccabi to improve the facilities and to give the best opportunities to the children at the North school. We need both schools in order for us to be able to develop the best players and evaluate the best talent that is available across Tel Aviv as well as the country. This will help us make the correct decisions in bringing the best players to the Under-16 or Under-17 Clubs.”
The all-important connection between the Maccabi School in the North and the one at Kiryat Shalom:
“As I mentioned, we have a difference between the two schools in terms of facilities but in terms of philosophy there is no difference between the schools because both sets of coaches get the same education and as a club the children in the North are as important for us as the children in the South. This is one of the tasks that together with Club management we are trying to improve. We want to have as many hours and the same level of facilities that we have in the South.”
Of course, developing the younger levels at Maccabi Tel Aviv is also a very important task which van Leeuwen believes is critical as to the success of the program:
“For me it’s a full package. We want to create an Under-8 and Under-9 club on a permanent basis as this is as important as creating a higher level for the Under-19 team. The philosophy that is put in means that it begins with the younger ages moving all the way up to the older ages. We try to prepare the youngsters to be technically able to handle the ball and to be able to play together. At these ages you start giving them the general feel of being a footballer and eventually it will end up where they will need to show us who is the best player or who can take a step to the first team.”
The Youth Department’s activities over the past few months have been numerous, but van Leeuwen points out a number of crucial points:
“There have been numerous activities going on in the Youth Department over the past few months, but there are some very important changes that have been made:
The first thing is that we have been focusing on developing the coaches to make sure that they get enough information about the philosophy that I want to have in the Maccabi Academy. This is related to how we want to play matches and how we want the coaches and players to prepare to play matches as well as to become better footballers individually.
Secondly, I wanted to improve the criteria around player development to do the physical training in a different fashion. This way it doesn’t take time away from the football practice because it’s done before the training session and that way the session is a pure football session.
I have added video analysis in a more demanding way from a management point of view in order to have every match and every single training session filmed. This way we can show the players visually what mistakes they made or what they did very well.
In addition, we are working together with the Wingate College for Physical Education And Sports Science on a first of a kind professional course for coaches at Kiryat Shalom where we can share our professional information amongst each other.
This phase has been going on for more than 4 months and we have made progress. I’m satisfied as to the efforts of the coaches and the efforts of the players. Even though we may be playing football, I am making different demands in the way the coaches and the players have to perform which they are trying to cope with.”
The department has been undergoing a revolution and the changes that are taking place have been planned by the Club’s management:
“In the beginning, there were some heads turning and eyes rolling around as to why there were different demands from what they had been used to. But this was the way I wanted to do things and what was also demanded of me by Sport Director Jordi Cruyff as well as the owner to make the appropriate changes to help bring the players and the coaches to the next level. I’m satisfied with the direction we are now going in.”
A very important key to the future relies on the addition of Raymond Atteveld to the staff:
“I can do a lot more now because Raymond Atteveld is working with me. He is spending time with the coaches on the field as well as with the players and he is trying to stimulate the coaches to bring everyone to a higher level. It’s great to have him here. With both of us now working together we can help improve the coaches and bring them to another level.
Raymond was a well known player from Holland and he has a lot of character. I brought him in when he first started coaching and I brought him to FC Kairat where we worked closely together to bring the players and the coaches together. This is exactly what I want to do at Maccabi. When he became free, I invited him to join us at Maccabi and to assist me with this project. It’s very important for him to handle the coaches and various other things as it frees up my time to focus on other issues at hand. We still have certain things to improve both with the players and the coaches as well as in organizational development.”
What are the the next steps:
“We are trying to further increase our knowledge of our players in Israel so the scouting department have some different demands than what they had before. We want to see the players but also those who we want to strengthen from the younger ages, 8-9 years old and up to 17 years old. The Maccabi Academy also had the intention to organize open days for children of local clubs to show their qualities to the coaches and scouts of Maccabi Tel Aviv.
An additional step is to bring the Medical Department of the Academy to another level where there is clear attention for the players on a daily basis. Since the hours on the field has increased that also means we have to make sure that we are doing everything to prevent them from being injured but also if they unfortunately do get hurt then we can treat them the best way ourselves.
Part of the Club also includes the commercial activities of the Football Schools. We want to make some adjustments which will make them even more fun for children to be a part of and experience the Maccabi Football Academy style. Whoever is part of the Football Schools and is performing well, potentially will have the opportunity to be invited to the Academy training sessions.”