TGG Podcast #3: Youth Development Conference

Kris Van Der Haegen was keynote speaker at the Youth Development Conference

Kris Van Der Haegen was keynote speaker at the Youth Development Conference

THIS month we go behind the scenes at the TGG Youth Development Conference at Manchester's AJ Bell Stadium.

Josh Schneider-Weiler spoke to Kris Van Der Haegen, Director of Coach Education for the Belgian FA; Huddersfield Academy Manager Leigh Bromby and Hudl senior strategist John McGuigan.

The full podcast is below - and you can read some of their key thoughts in the excerpts beneath that.


Kris Van Der Haegen: We want to create the best environment for the development of individuals.

If the coaches don’t do it automatically, then we have to make the rules and help them to understand that this is development. In the beginning, there was some opposition but then it was like any change, it became normal and people even said, ‘it’s better like that’.


As a coach in the national team now, I don’t do drills, because I don’t believe in them. You have to prepare the players for the real game. Getting players to pass between cones and saying ‘go from yellow to blue and from blue to white’ - you cannot say where to go in the game, they have to detect that for themselves, so why do it in training?

Coaches often want to have everything under control, but the game is random. You don’t have anything under control in the game from the moment the referee blows his whistle.

So you have to empower the players, because as soon as the game starts, you, as a coach, are out of the picture. As the game is for the players, so the training should be for the players too.

The role of the coach should be to prepare the session and know exactly what you are going to do and why. You organise, then they start and you observe. You ask the right questions, helping them to find the solutions. This is the learning process and you are the guide in it.


We changed the 5 v 5 format for the younger age groups after a university study into how to maximise touches of the ball. We also wanted to be consistent in the process of working toward 11 v 11 and the 4-3-3 formation.

You can only learn to play football when you have the ball.

On the bench, you don’t learn anything; 5 v 5, when a lot of the players they are just chasing the ball, you don't learn anything. They become like bees following the honey but never getting it.

So the clubs agreed to do 2 v 2, with a player and a goalkeeper, and that was the most important thing for us, because it introduced dribbling football.


You have to train with game reality. So for the under sixes, we first train them to play alongside each other, to dribble without opposition. Otherwise they will be disengaged and feel unsuccessful.

After that it's for the coach to work out how much opposition they should give. It’s like cooking - you need a little bit of this ingredient and a little bit of this. It’s the same for a coach.

You might start six against two, then six against four, then, finally, six against six. if you feel you are not getting what you want from this exercise, then there is too much complexity and you break it down and go one step back, for example six against three.

It cannot be too difficult and it cannot be too easy. That is what experience gives you and that’s the role of the coach - you have to observe.

Not shouting and yelling, but observing. Am I seeing what I want to see? How can I correct this? You are the guide for the players as they make the journey.


We introduced quarters and minimum 50% playing time for every player up to U17s. This was for two main reasons.

First of all, it gives two extra opportunities to coach your players.

Secondly, it is to give playing time to everybody. Before, there were three substitutions and a lot of coaches didn’t give playing opportunities to some players.

That isn’t in the development philosophy. So we said, ‘if you don’t do it yourselves, we have to help you a little bit,’ and we changed the regulations so everybody had to play 50% of the time.

How can you make an objective player evaluation if some players only play the last 10 minutes? And how do those players feel if they arrive for the game and think, ‘again I’ll be on the bench? And next week and next week.' Eventually they will quit.

You have to give them the game. Some of the coaches, their own kids were playing, and I'd say ‘if your colleague doesn’t give a playing opportunity to your child, what will you do?’

Then they would say, ‘I know Kris, I know.’


Leigh Bromby: There’s a strong belief at Huddersfield that we will develop players when they join us.

Jon (Marzetti), who’s come in from Changing Minds, has revolutionised our process and programme. His remit was to influence the coaches and staff, which has made the biggest impact, because it filters down to the players.

Psychology is something we believe in and it’s the part I believe can have the biggest impact with the players - I’ve seen that this year.

The first team also have a performance psychologist who works with the staff. He works with a lot of individuals, but also with the staff. The club invest a lot of money into it and it’s been valuable.

John has helped to implement the learning process for the coaching programme, because he has a football background. We have what we call a 'plan-do-review' learning model for the players. This means that with a coaching session, you plan it, do it and then review it.

If it’s attacking principles, you get the players to understand them, then you practice them and then review them in the classroom. I've just spoken to Kris and Belgium have a very similar model with the individual development plans.

One hundred per cent you have to get the buy-in from the players. That’s something Jon has really helped us with. He’s worked a lot on explaining the brain development of young players to the staff and how this should influence coaching methods. We are working with the professional development phase and getting this age group to understand is different to how other age groups learn.

It’s about understanding how to work with the players when they’re in the building.


John McGuigan: One of the main reasons I left my job at a club was to see how video and analysis was being used in different sports. I was really interested to find out about American sport in particular, because it was obvious that video was being used a lot over there.

There were two things I learnt from American football in particular. The first thing was about player ownership and empowerment. That is something we’ve made great strides in in this country in the last three or four years, but the players in America have been leading their own video creation, clipping up their own performance and commenting on their performance and sharing it with their coaches for the last 10, even 20 years.

It might have been on VHS, but if you watch any documentary about one of the big players, Tom Brady for example, then you will see that the quarterbacks and unit leads are obsessed with video. We are getting much better with that here and the technology helps because it’s so much better and easier to understand.

The second thing I learnt was how much video is linked to the game in the US.

They link video to a playbook, which also lives in the account. Video brings the playbook to life. Then players will go out and practice it on the grass. Training or practice is filmed, and then that is loaded into the system and the whole process starts again. It’s a 360-degree analysis process, always linked to the game.

It’s something we are getting a lot better at in this country, in football in particular, just the US have got more time on us, they’ve been doing it for longer.

TGG Podcast #1: Gary Rowett's Cohesive Coaching

TGG Podcast #2: Behind the scenes at Burnley's Academy

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