January 16th marks six months since SLSG Illinois and Feyenoord Rotterdam entered into a 2 year Master Educational Partnership. In a short time, the partnership has already delivered an enormous benefit to St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois and all of its’ members. The structure of the relationship was developed to address several key components essential to producing a better environment for St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois players, mainly an overall analysis and assessment of the current environment, recommendations, coaching education and additional opportunities for players to challenge their current level of development.
The agreement which was signed on July 16, 2015 coincided with a launch event which took place over 5 days. During that time, a delegation of Feyenoord Staff including Gido Vader (Head of International Development), Melvin Boel (International Development Coach), Marchanno Shultz (Feyenoord Academy U10 Coach) and Sevy Sucurovic (North American Representative) met with the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Management Team and Saint Louis FC Leadership to discuss best practices in areas ranging from business management to technical (soccer) operations for both the youth and professional levels.
In addition, during their stay over 100 St. Louis Scott Gallagher players, ranging in ages from 10-18, and over 40 SLSG coaches had the opportunity to participate in player clinics and coaching education classes, all of which were provided at no cost to the participants.
According to SLSG Coach, Ryan Burke, “The Feyenoord and SLSG Illinois Coaching Clinic was the most beneficial learning environment I have been part of. I learned more during the lecture and field sessions than I have during any coaching course. The biggest lesson was that simple sessions can be the best sessions as long as your attention to detail is on point. The attention to detail shown by Melvin and how that detail relates to the overall style of play made me rethink the way I coach.”
The impact, however, was not limited to only those who attended the various session in July. Much of the time spent by the Feyenoord staff visiting St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois was used to gain a comprehensive understanding of the soccer landscape in the United States and more specifically the SLSG Illinois structure. This opportunity to learn and provide feedback immediately bore fruit in the area of improving the player development structure St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois as several of the recommendations made were put into effect this past August in time for the start of the 2015-2016 season.
According to SLSG Illinois Girls Director of Coaching, Shawn Hewitt, “The feedback provided after discussing our soccer operations and structure with Melvin and Marchanno led to immediate changes in our training format and methodology, particularly for our youngest players, U6-U10. Having been through the fall season now, it is clear after observing the progress of players and speaking with our staff, the modifications made to the training structure at those ages has produced a clear and positive benefit for our players.”
The opportunity to collaborate continued beyond Feyenoord’s stay at SLSG Illinois as a part of the relationship, St. Louis Scott Gallagher staff conducts a monthly web conference call with Feyenoord Staff to discuss topics selected by St. Louis Scott Gallagher staff to assist in the further development of its’ staff and players. The first major project undertaken was an analysis and modification to the SLSG Player Development Curriculum for players U6-U12. Over the course of 3 months, the group worked extensively to update the curriculum in the area of vision, methodology, content, frequency, implementation and execution.
Regarding the process, SLSG Boys Director of Coaching, Blake Decker, commented “The Feyenoord Academy is world-reknowned for its’ player development structure which is based on a consistent and incremental approach to developing players from the youngest ages all the way to their 1st team. The number of players who progress from U7 to their 1st team rates against the best youth Academies in the world. The opportunity to spend hours working intensively with Feyenoord staff through discussions, feedback, editing and re-editing to examine our own curriculum content at SLSG Illinois has provided a huge benefit to our staff and players. It has further reinforced our belief that the true value of this relationship is the access to the accrued knowledge of an organization that consistently produces players at the professional and international level, not by recruiting from across the world, but by developing players from the neighborhoods of Rotterdam.”
In October of 2015, the player opportunity phase of the partnership commenced as SLSG Illinois Director of Coaching, Blake Decker and Saint Louis FC Head Coach, Dale Schilly, traveled to Rotterdam for a 9 day coaching education course. Traveling with Decker and Schilly were two SLSG Illinois players, Clayton Grob (‘02) and Wan Kuzain Wan Kamal (‘98), both of whom spent the week training with the Feyenoord Academy teams for their respective age groups.
Over the course of the 9 day trip, Decker and Schilly had the opportunity to meet extensively with the leadership of the Feyenoord organization including Martin Van Geel (Feyenoord Technical Director), Damien Hertog (Feyenoord Academy Director), Gerard Rutjes (Feyenoord Football School Director), Jan Gosgens (U18 Head Coach) and Raymond van Meenen (Feyenoord Academy Manager).
According to Saint Louis FC Head Coach, Dale Schilly, “The time spent by these individuals to provide us with an understanding of their role within Feyenoord Rotterdam and how it fits into the overall structure of the organization was impressive and second only to their interest in learning about our organization and how we operate. There was a genuine intent to learn about how we operate in order to provide practical and relevant insights with regards to potential opportunities for us to improve our organization.”
Clayton Grob, who hails from Waterloo, IL and Carbondale, IL native, Kuzain Wan Kamal, both spent the week training with the future first team players of Feyenoord. On this occasion, Wan Kamal, who has traveled to Rotterdam twice previously to train, was provided with the honor of wearing the Feyenoord jersey while competing in a match with the U18 Feyenoord Academy against a visiting team from Shanghai. “My latest experience with Feyenoord was great, the best one to be exact. I have performed better each time and the opportunity to play in a game against a team from Shanghai China was a new challenge. While the language barrier with my teammates in the match was challenging, the opportunity to play the entire 2nd half was one that benefitted me greatly. I think the biggest thing I have learned each time I visit is about their mentality. Players are there everyday, fighting to try and get to the first team, to get a pro contract. They are always wanting to improve, even the littlest things. Coming back from that training environment makes you want to work as hard as possible.”
This was the first opportunity for Clayton Grob to visit the Feyenoord Academy and on that experience he reflected. “It was an amazing opportunity, especially for a 13 year old. Not only to see that level of play but also to be able to participate with the Feyenoord Academy in training sessions. That experience has made me want to work hard in order to have a chance to play in that type of environment full time.”
Clayton’s parents have seen the positive impact it has had on him as a player since returning. “As a parent, it was exciting for us to see Clayton get this opportunity and even more exciting to see his enthusiasm after the trip. He still talks about the training, how it challenged him to work harder to improve as a player and the fact that he hopes to return again soon.”
As a member of the U14 Academy, Grob will have that very opportunity this spring when, for the 3rd consecutive year, St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois will travel to Rotterdam with two teams for a nine-day training camp which will include 8 sessions with Feyenoord staff, matches versus Feyenoord and other professional youth Academies as well as the opportunity to attend professional matches.
Later in the spring, another small group of SLSG staff coaches and players will travel to Rotterdam for a second Master Class and training opportunity with the Feyenoord Academy. The first year of the partnership will conclude with a Feyenoord Delegation returning to St. Louis once again this summer to provide additional opportunities for SLSG players and staff from each organization to interact state-side.
On the first six months of the partnership, Decker commented, “Prior to putting this in place, SLSG Illinois, had been actively seeking an international partner since 2011 with the goal of providing our players additional opportunities and expanding the possibilities of coaching education for our staff. We started the process with Feyenoord in 2013, and, now 6 months into the relationship, we are extremely happy to have waited until we found the right partner. We could not be happier with the progress made since this summer. The substance of this partnership is unlike any other that I am aware of in the US and, if the first 6 months are any indication, there are exciting times ahead for our organization and its’ members.”