AZ Alkmaar introduce teqball and foot squash to aid implicit learning

AZ ALKMAAR have installed a foot squash court and teqball tables at their Academy and are getting youngsters to organise ‘deliberate play’ tournaments every month.

Last October, we reported how the Dutch club had installed a ‘Performance Playground’, made up of a 'beach', asphalt pitch with two goals and basketball hoop, and a concrete wall.

Academy Director Paul Brandenburg explained: “We want to train boys who understand the game. We do this by compelling them in a variety of ways to make their own choices and to adapt.”

Now the club has gone one step further by introducing teqball, which is a cross between table tennis and football, and foot squash, which is a cross between football and squash.

The deliberate play tournaments are intended to encourage the young players to take responsibility and be creative while also having a lot of fun.

Marijn Beuker, the club’s Head of Performance and Development, told TGG: “Every month, the boys organise tournaments in foot squash, teqball, foot volley and street soccer.

“They are in control and arrange everything. The great thing is they want to win, so after training they practise extra. It’s implicit learning.”

English clubs have been taking a similar approach. We reported how Manchester United's youngsters had taken on Chelsea's in an 'elite playground' format last year.

And Manchester United have been using different games to encourage implicit learning at their Academy. Paul McGuinness, who worked at the Academy from 1993 to 2016 and is now National Coach Developer for the Football Association, oversaw games of cage football and something called 'Jogo Bonito'.

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“We did that game on a basketball court in Carrington,” McGuinness remembered. “Wednesday afternoon, the boys are tired. ‘OK, let’s play for fun.’ And somebody would start it off, he’d do a trick, then someone else, and it becomes a competition.

“Suddenly it’s Pogba v Ravel, Januzaj and the Keane brothers, and a game that started at walking pace is fast and competitive. They were magical sessions.

“Footballers are experts in calculating time, space, speed, spin, in pressured environments. They do this by play, a series of experiments over years. Einstein said, ‘Play is the highest form of research’.”

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