ARE YOU NEXT? – Attend our Wolves Player ID camp in Burlington, Ontario on July 3/4/5 to get selected for the 2016 Wolves Elite Academy Player Experience
2015 Wolves Elite Trip – Day One:
The Wolves 2015 Elite was the third annual trip organized by Global Image Sports. Day one consisted of the players and their families travelling from various locations across North America and arriving in Manchester for pick-up.
After airport pick-up and a brief rest the players travelled out to Compton Park for a tour of Wolves new $15 million facility.
Wolves are ranked as a Category 1 academy in England which places them at the same standard as Manchester City, Everton, Arsenal, Manchester United and other top EPL clubs. The Wolves Academy vision is to develop young and hungry players who understand the club DNA and are capable of meeting the demands of playing at the very highest level.
They wish to achieve this by developing young champions who are hardworking, respectful and disciplined in their approach to life through an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach. Young players at Wolves practice prepare and perform in facilities that inspire individuals to achieve their potential.
The academy is a very important foundation for the club and the 1st team (which is currently challenging for a return to the EPL) currently have 8 academy graduates within its first team squad. Wolves have set themselves the following success goals:
- Min. 1 academy graduate included in 1st team squad/season
- Maintain a high number of academy players gaining professional contracts per season
- Ensure players highlighted as having the potential to succeed at Wolves remain signed at Wolves
- Create clear, appropriate and strategic development pathways to maximize the opportunities for young players to succeed
- Continually improve processes of player support to maximize player potential
After a tour of the facility and a presentation on the club’s academy structure, the players returned to the hotel for an early night after their travels overnight.
2015 Wolves Elite Trip – Day Two:
The players were excited to train at the new facility at Compton Park and enjoyed their Monday morning training session. The players were divided into age-specific groups for the training. The session began with movement preparation activities by the Sports Science team and then progressed to high tempo ball mastery activities to music. Wolves have started adding music to the ball mastery activities and the players work non-stop at a high tempo for up to 20 minutes. The music seems to raise the tempo of the work and the players enjoyed the experience. From there, the players participated in small-sided activities with conditions in order to challenge the players to think how best to solve problems on the field.
The training content at academy programs in England is defined by the goals set out by the Premier Leagues The Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) is a long-term strategy designed to take Premier League Youth Development to the next level.
The EPPP is the result of consultation between the Premier League and its clubs, representatives of the Football League, the Football Association and other key football stakeholders. The program has six fundamental principles:
- Increase the number and quality of Home Grown Players gaining professional contracts in the clubs and playing first-team football at the highest level
- Create more time for players to play and be coached
- Improve coaching provision
- Implement a system of effective measurement and quality assurance
- Positively influence strategic investment into the Academy System, demonstrating value for money
- Seek to implement significant gains in every aspect of player development
All professional club academies have been independently audited and given a Category status of 1 to 4, with 1 being the most elite. Up to 10 different factors have been considered in the grading – productivity rates of graduates, training facilities, coaching, education and welfare provisions.
Wolves are now in year three of their Category 1 designation (the highest level) and their program is ranked alongside the Premiership’s top clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton.
In the evening the players attended the Wolves versus Leeds United game at Molineux which ended 4-3 for the home side. The stadium was packed for the Bank Holiday fixture and with seven goals and a winner scored by Dave Edwards in the dying minutes, it is doubtful if the players could have seen a more exciting and dramatic game. The result keeps Wolves on track for a possible play-off spot to gai promotion back to the English Premiership League (EPL).
2015 Wolves Elite Trip – Day Three:
Following the dramatic game at Molineux the previous evening, the players travelled to St. George’s Park on Tuesday morning for training. St George’s Park is the English Football Association’s national football centre on a 330-acre site at Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire. The centre was officially opened by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on 9 October 2012.
The purpose of the centre is to be the base for all coaching and development work undertaken by the FA, and the training and preparation ground for all of the England national football teams. The facility has hosted all the English national teams prior to their games, Barcelona and other top clubs in Europe. The centre is home to the Nike Academy and the English National Women’s team and referees from the EPL were in attendance when the players visited.
The facility includes an indoor full-sized 3G field, an indoor futsal sports hall, 12 outdoor fields and a sports medicine centre. The facility also includes a Hilton hotel. The players trained on the David Beckham field and after training received a comprehensive tour of the facility.
After training the players returned to the hotel for some rest prior to travelling to Birmingham to watch the Aston Villa v Queens Park Rangers game. This game was very important to both teams as they are both battling to stay in the EPL and avoid relegation. The players and their families enjoyed another exciting game with lots of goals as the game finished 3-3, with another late goal towards the end.
Watching live games is an important element for these types of trips as young players can learn about the passion of the game in England and also gain a much better idea of team tactics and general overall play when they attend live matches.
2015 Wolves Elite Trip – Day Four:
It is day four of the 2015 Wolves Elite academy experience trip. The players travelled out to the Sir Jack Hayward training ground this morning for their early morning session. The older male and female players trained with Wolves academy staff on the outdoor fields. The remaining players trained with the wolves’ academy U11 and U12 players in the new dome. The U11and 12’s Wolves players were on a school release day where they train at the academy for the full day, once a week. This full day out of school includes technical and tactical training, physical movement activities and mental preparation. The players also receive onsite tutoring in English and math.
As mentioned, Wolves are a category one ranked academy and with their day release program and 3-4 sessions per week, the contact time with young players at can be between 14 to 20 hours each week. This is a large increase in the number of contact hours typically available to North American coaches.
This morning’s session focused on position specifics. Players were divided into their main positions so goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers received training instruction specific to their player role responsibilities.
Playing alongside the Wolves academy players is a valuable experience for young North American players. It provides them an opportunity to gauge their development progress and over the course of the week they can see how far their performance levels improve when they receive the same training as the Wolves academy players.
In the afternoon the elite academy experience players travelled to Birmingham to play in a futsal tournament made up of Wolves academy players and themselves. This again provides the North American players with valuable feedback on their current performance levels and also the competitive experience of quickly working out how to succeed in this high performance academy environment.
In the evening the players completed another full day of soccer learning by attending the wolves U21 game at Molineux against local rivals Aston Villa. As many as eight players who were developed through the academy are now regularly involved with the first team. A few academy graduates were on the bench for the Wolves v Leeds United game which we saw a few days ago and they played in the U21 team tonight in order to get valuable playing time. The game finished 1 nil for Aston Villa but the players enjoyed seeing the next generation of young players being developed by Wolves and enjoyec the opportunity to see another top level game live.
2015 Wolves Elite Trip – Day Five:
Day five of the 2015 Wolves Elite Trip. The players were up early this morning for an 830am training session at the Sir Jack Hayward training centre. The sun was shining so the players enjoyed the opportunity to train outdoors. Many of the North American players have been training indoors during the winter months so getting an opportunity to train outdoors will be good preparation as they get ready for their summer seasons.
After training the players set off for Manchester for a tour of Old Trafford stadium- home of Manchester United. The players were able to see around the Old Trafford stadium, learn about the clubs famous history and go into the club megastore.
It was then back on the bus back to Wolverhampton for a second training session. For the evening session, the girls trained with the Wolves academy girls while the boys trained and mixed in with the Wolves academy boys teams.
This was the eight training session this week for the players on the trip. All players have adapted well to the demands of the training sessions and are starting to adapt to the high tempo of play in the UK. The pace of play is much quicker than in North America and so the players have had to typically play one of two touches to keep the ball moving quickly and avoid high pressure from the opposition. The game is also much more physical.
The players on the trip are mixing well with the players at the Wolves academy and with other. Playing futsal together yesterday allowed everyone to get to know each other and this is a valuable aspect of the trip. Travelling to the UK and spending time with other young people in a passionate soccer country is an experience that many of these young players will never forget.
On the soccer side, the players learn how young players in the Wolves academy typically spend their weeks. They receive top quality training on “the Wolves Way” by dedicated Wolves academy staff and the sports science team. On the people side, they get to enjoy spending time in a different country, meeting new people, learning about the history of the game in England and spending time at top stadiums such as Molineux, Villa Park and Old Trafford. On this trip the players also got to train at Wolves new state of the art facility and England’s national training centre at St. George’s Park.
2015 Wolves Elite Trip – Day Six:
Day six of the 2015 Wolves Elite trip. After eight training sessions this week, the players enjoyed a well-deserved day of sightseeing in London. The group travelled down to London and visited Buckingham palace. They then took advantage of the great weather by walking down into Westminster past the Houses of parliament to the London Eye.
The players were able to enjoy a great view of City from the London eye and then the Thames River boat cruise. The early part of the trip has been busy for the group so it is important to build a rest day into the week. They have trained twice as many times as a typical academy player at Wolves, within a one week period. Therefore, in order to rest tired bodies and minds this type of day is very important. It also gives the players an opportunity to see the sights and learn more about the historical City of London.
The full development of the person is now accepted practice at academy programs at professional clubs in Europe. Players who are bright and educated off the field tend to indicate a good capacity for learning. Therefore, academic performance and how young players interact and treat others is now a key consideration for player identification for academy programs.
You can tell a lot about seeing how a young player behaves and conducts themselves when they travel, even for one day. For the young players on this trip to London, the experience is another step on their soccer pathway.
2015 Wolves Elite Trip – Day Seven:
Last day of the 2015 Wolves Elite trip. The players completed their final training session at the Sir Jack Hayward training centre. The North American girls trained together while the boys trained with the Wolves academy players at their age appropriate levels.
In the afternoon the players received a tour of the Molineux stadium and museum. This was the players third visit to the stadium this week but this time they were able to enjoy a behind the scenes look at the changing rooms, directors box , dugout , player lounge and press room. The players were also able to learn about the clubs rich history with a visit to the club museum.
Many had not realized how big a club Wolves are. They have won all the major honors in England such as the league championship (equivalent of the EPL), FA cup and league cup. In the 1950s they were considered to be one of the top clubs in Europe and have produced England captains and international players from many other countries.
The museum visit was a fitting end to the week. Wolves are one of the top clubs in England. They have won major trophies in their past and have now invested heavily in an academy program to produce their next generation of talented players. Many teams in England are happy to have one or two homegrown players in their first team. A resurgent Wolves now have as many as eight academy graduates regularly involved in the first team and more are on their way. The club followed last year’s promotion from league 1 with a challenge for a top six place in the championship this season. The next few weeks will determine if they can match Southampton’s achievement of back to back promotions to the EPL.
The club has the highest academy designation in England alongside top clubs such as Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United. They are structured off the field as an EPL club and it would seem only a matter of time before they return there.
The North American players this week were able to sample the life of an academy player at one of England’s top clubs. They received top quality coaching at state of the art facilities and were able to watch live games and fully immerse themselves in a passionate “football” culture.
They are better players and young people as a result of the experience and are returning to Canada and the US better equipped than ever to pursue the next steps of their soccer journey.