Earlier this week, more than 60 delegates from ECA Member Clubs descended on the Spanish city of Bilbao for the second Youth Football Knowledge Exchange session of the season, with the focus this time turning to youth academy structure, strategy and philosophy.
Athletic Club opened their doors at both their San Memés Stadium and Lezama academy centre to host the two-day event, which acted as the precursor to the launch of ECA’s 12 Quality Areas Youth Football Report, available to download on March 14.
The event was attended by Youth Academy directors from across Europe, all keen to discuss the various strategies and philosophies involved in the process of producing young talent.
“It was an honour for us to host the event,” said Athletic Club’s General Manager Jon Berasategi. “It was also an opportunity for the rest of the clubs present to learn about our model, to share information, and for us to show that it is possible to compete at a high level with our values.”
Delegates enjoyed five presentations – including from event hosts Athletic Club, a club renowned for developing young footballers from the Basque country. Deputy Sports Director Andoni Ayarza shared the vision and philosophy of the club and its youth academy, and the ways in which they transmit its core values to the players, staff, fans and local community.
The delegates were also treated to a visit from Athletic Club midfielder Oier Zarraga who discussed his own journey through the club’s academy to the first team, and who fielded questions about his experiences - including scoring his first senior goal only two days earlier. Athletic’s Chief of Methodology Andoni Bombin also gave the ECA Member Clubs a guided tour of their training facility.
There were also presentations from Olympique Lyonnais and TSG Hoffenheim, who both presented their visions and best practices for their respective youth academies.
Other contributions included a presentation from LTT Sports, who worked with ECA to create the forthcoming 12 Quality Areas report, and Double Pass, a Belgian company that assesses, advises and educates federations, leagues, clubs and individuals on optimising their talent development.
“The event was an excellent opportunity for ECA Club Members to learn, share knowledge and network,” says ECA Football Development Analyst, Pouya Yaghoubinia. “All of the delegates got involved during the event, asked questions of our presenting clubs and used the opportunity to connect and strengthen ties with fellow ECA members.
“We were also able to offer the Members a first-look at the 12 Quality Areas report ahead of its official release,” he added. “Delegates were not only keen to see what work had been done, but also what were the most common working practices used to develop talent, in particular those used by youth academies deemed to be ‘the most successful'.”
The next Youth Football Knowledge Exchange event is scheduled to take place in June and will focus on new and emerging technologies. ECA will host the fourth session in October, which will focus on the development of youth coaches.