AFC Ajax Academy Developing Stronger Ties Internationally
“Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” Muhammad Ali
For nearly 113 years (on March 18), Amsterdamsche Football Club (AFC) Ajax, or simply Ajax, has been one of the dominant clubs in both European and world soccer. With two FIFA World Cups, four UEFA Champions League titles, 18 Dutch FA Cups and 31 National Championships, the team has built a legacy that is known far and wide. Top players such as Johan Cruyff, Wesley Sneijder, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard have graced the pitch for Ajax, and many have returned after their careers to work as trainers and coaches.
Known for their attractive style of dominant, attacking soccer, Ajax use technical and tactical skills to keep full pressure on opponents across the field. To do this, the club has developed a special vision and style of play that incorporates technique, speed, insight and player personality. At the youth level, Ajax Youth Football Academy has taken these elements and combined them with a high-quality coaching and training staff to create one of the leading youth academies in the world.
“At Ajax, we believe in discipline and organization and it is within that frame work we want to see personality and creativity,” explains Eddie van Schaick of Ajax Academy. Van Schaick has recently taken on the role of expanding Ajax’s reach internationally, including seminars and player development in the United States. With a background in playing and coaching and experience studying on both sides of the Atlantic, van Schaick is uniquely qualified for his role. Charming and blunt, Van Schaick’s passion for soccer runs deep as does his knowledge of what it takes travel the road of youth player to professional footballer.
Van Schaick began his career on the pitch, but in his mid 20s realized the value that a college education would add. He began his college career at Christelijke Hogeschool in the Netherlands and Vrije Universiteit in Belgium, then completed his senior year at Michigan State University. The experience inspired him to want to help youth players to reach their own potential both athletically and academically.
While in the United States, van Schaick ran soccer camps in Ohio and Michigan, where he found American youth players to be “fun and goofy.” He later went to work as Director of Coaching for Richmond Kickers in Virginia, a club he continues to maintain working relations with. In 2004 van Schaick moved to the Middle East to work as a trainer-coach with the Qatar Football Association for two years, followed by a short stint as Director of Youth Programs with FK Almaty in Kazakhstan. Then in 2007 he returned to Europe to take on the challenge of trainer-coach of the U12 Academy team with Ajax.
In July, 2010, he took on the newly formed position of Consultant, where he continues today. When he stopped coaching youth soccer players he missed the process of development, but van Schaick had his sights on the bigger picture of developing the Ajax academy on a broader international level.
“So many people visit Ajax to see the magic,” van Schaick said, explaining his decision to move into the Consultant position. “They observe the trainings but don’t know the philosophy behind what they observe. Observing without understanding denies them any real opportunity for appreciation or growth.”
In order to help more players and coaches from around the world understand the Ajax magic, van Schaick works closely with countryman Loek van Zijl, founder of Premier International Tours. Through Premier International Tours, clubs and teams can visit the Ajax Academy grounds and experience that magic that has created so many international greats. In addition, van Schaick and others from Ajax have traveled to the USA, Ireland and other countries to put on clinics and development training – most recently with Richmond Kickers in December 2012.
Through van Zijl’s efforts, American coaches had the opportunity to hear from van Schaick and Ajax Youth Academy Youth Specialist Arnold Muhren at the recent National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Annual Convention in Indianapolis. The pair spoke to attendees about the Ajax style of play and how it translates from U9 through the first team. They also presented a field session on passing and receiving in the Ajax style.
“It is important to see how people from the other side of the world look at the world’s most popular sport,” van Zijl explained to NSCAA prior to the Convention. “Soccer players learn to appreciate the game of soccer from a totally different perspective after an international trip. And, bringing some of our partners to the United States is a key part of the process.”
Bringing that experience to the United States, and helping to develop a greater following for Ajax, are the essence of van Schaick’s mission. While he respects the exuberance that American youth players bring to the field, he believes that the Ajax method of training is second to none. For van Schaick, that transcends the field and applies just as much to off-field activities. He explains that players from Ajax at all levels understand that they represent their club and their coaches whenever they are out in public.
“Players represent the brand,” he explained.
For Ajax, that brand continues to grow every day. The club has recently unveiled a new Ajax Online Academy that allows players and coaches to more easily access the “magic” of the Academy. On the site coaches can download examples of training exercises at multiple levels, as well as access coaching courses including an Ajax Coaches Symposium presented in association with Premier International Tours.
What is the world famous “Ajax” style of play?
- Attacking Football
- Dominant Football
- Attractive Football
Since 1900, Ajax has been a model of efficiency and success in training, with 70% of the First Team made up of home-grown players. The club targets one to two players to advance from the Academy to the First Team each year, and the results speak for themselves. With van Schaick’s efforts, that level of dedication and success is now more available than ever to clubs around the world.
For more information, visit the Ajax Online Academy.
For information about international youth soccer tours, visit Premier International Tours.