Academies Irish Grassroots Football

Aethan Yohannes – Story So Far AT AZ Alkmaar by Daniel his Dad…

This is the story of Aethan Yohannes time so far at AZ ALMAAR by his Dad Daniel.
It has been five months since my son @ has joined AZ Alkmaar U15 youth academy in the Netherlands. My experience as a parent watching his development in a first class Academy is a humbling experience.
Some have asked how he was doing….
Here it goes.. STARTS HERE > 
I have witnessed in close proximity about football in general outside of the US at an Amateur level and top pro academy level that could be useful to folks who may wonder how Academies work in Europe in relation to my experience through my son. Footballers here in the NL are considered an investment to the club at a young age. There are huge lines of footballers that are trying to break into the top level academies at a very young age but only the very best are invited to join after many months of scouting. Once a pro club extends a player to join though, the player is indeed an investment to the club and the club has made a full commitment to nurture their product by investing in the player upfront to be rewarded later.

You are that less then 1% that has a potential to make it big so while the club teaches you the ropes, it’s up to you to take charge of your destiny because if you don’t seize it, there are a lot of other kids waiting in line to seize it. So clubs will provide all kinds of education possible to ensure kids are developing because they recognise that if groomed right, you have a potential to make the club a lot of money that will keep the resources necessary to continue developing quality footballers in the future. 

My son coming out of a local amateur club in Amsterdam, , has really taken a leap to adapt to the level of intense training at Alkmaar club. School and Football consumes my son’s life today. I can literally say that he has no life except going to school, training, homework and sleeping. Free time is time to relax watching some games unless it is a holiday. However, your well being is one of the most important thing to AZ so they tailor your training schedule accordingly.
“To try to get to the highest level in football at the youth level is not easy no matter how talented you may be. It takes a lot of hard work, determination and focus not to mention you are giving up a lot of things your friends might enjoy doing”
What do I mean by that?
 As a new player in the program, Aethan trained 4 times/wk and a match in the weekend instead of training daily. Because of the intensity level, in order to avoid injury, the club has concluded a rest midweek for new players is important to stay healthy for the 1st 4-5 months. The level at this point is so high, it gives the new kids an opportunity to adapt to the program gradually so to avoid any injury resulting from fatigue or burnouts. Beside you are not useful injured as such the club protect their investments by resting your body.
You are tested for different things (speed, agility, endurance, jump, etc.) Sporadically at least every month to record your progress. You can see your progress in your profile where everything about the player is stored in the Academy system. One of the key factors in the scouting process at AZ is making sure the players have the necessary means to get to training and back to their home or school without inconveniencing parents.

As a parent if you have to drive 45min to one hour to take your kids to training during business hours, it causes stress to the family. A family with less to worry about transporting their kids can supplement in helping their kids in other ways at home and less stress to player. So, every day my son is picked up midday from school and dropped off at home. Players have to honour their time of pick up and drop off. It is the responsibility of the player to be on time because the club driver doesn’t wait for you after your grace minutes if u are not ready. 

A couple of months back because of the lack of understanding the Dutch language my son misunderstood the training time change that took effect because of a holiday so when the pickup van came to pick him up at 6:20am in the morning, he was sleep. So the van left without him leaving him a message that woke him up. He rushed to wake his mother to take him to his training as I was out of town on a work assignment. He arrived 8min late to his training. His coach had him seat and watch the full training while his teammates train for two hours and was benched the next game against Ajax. Was I happy to learn of this. Hell no. Can I say anything about how harsh of a punishment I thought that was, hell no.

In a pay to play system, there is a feeling you can complain or have some influence in the management of your kids LOL. There is a tough culture here. As a parent, you have to be disciplined and know your place and that is to be a parent and letting the Academy do the teaching. Lesson learned is if you want to get ahead, you better not be late to the party. You have to learn to be Independence and responsible quick or you will learn it the hard way. The system is here to teach you to become not only a footballer but also a man.

After being benched a match against Ajax, believe me he got the message and instead he is at least 15min early for every pickup/ride. One thing for sure is he will never miss his ride to training again. To try to get to the highest level in football at the youth level is not easy no matter how talented you may be. It takes a lot of hard work, determination and focus not to mention you are giving up a lot of things your friends might enjoy doing.

Mental Toughness: 

Skills are key but without mental toughness, you are just a number. Discipline is one of the most important things you have to learn in a pro environment, no matter who you are. Periodic Top-sport class outside of training is a mandatory session players have to attend. You learn about mentality, character, discipline, work ethics and what to focus on to get ahead. You learn about what to eat and not to eat, – how much sleep you need and to listen to your body.
If you seem to feel your hamstring is tight or your back seem stiff, you are to check in with the clubs physiotherapist for treatment immediately. You have to be fit to continue to train. If there seem to be a small problem, it has to be evaluated so it won’t have a lasting effect. Aethan has been making great strides to fit in to the program and he has adapted to understanding the Dutch way of living. The language while difficult, he has made great advances to being able to follow conversations with extra help at the club after training. He has blended well with his teammate. While being scouted as a midfielder playing position #6,#8 and #10, he has been playing striker and winger positions doing everything he has been asked to do and growing in the game.

So far, he has participated in first class tournaments in Italy, Belgium, England and Germany since the start of the pre-season against top league academies of the respective countries and he has become an integral part of his team.

He has had an amazing experience at the USMNT U15 call up in September 2018 in Chula Vesta, CA. Nothing beats being selected to wear your countries jersey and seeing the excitement of that experience on my son’s face was such a blessing put mildly.

2018… has been an amazing year but most importantly my son’s mentality and commitment with all the challenges of adapting to a new country has given me hope that he is ready for the challenges ahead of him in 2019 and beyond. As to what the future holds, obviously what was a two years move to live in the NL for work and to experience life outside of the US for my family is more like to extend longer than we initially planned. Never had I thought my son (My daughter yes) will reach this level so quick jumping in from an amateur side to the pro academies and doing so well.
My gratitude goes to all the clubs that had nurtured my boy: JOGASC/LMVSC/NPCSoccer/DCUnited/

I know the road my son is in is not an easy road to climb. It is a very challenging road. Some kids burnout. Some don’t have the discipline to stay in it for the long haul. It is so important that kids have the right mindset and support system around them to keep focused. It’s a long road ahead for my son as he is turning 15 in a couple of months. God willing the path he started will bear fruit. However, as a father, I am mindful to continue encouraging and keeping him grounded and focused in all he does. School being just as important.
I will have more updates in the future. For those of you who have asked about Aethan, I hope this give you some insight as to how he is adapting.

Soon I will share some amazing things that’s happening with my daughter who is 11 & playing as the only girl in the u13 Boys team in the 2nd division league. She is a big talent and will share about the invitation she has received from the Dutch Football Association soon.
A fascinating insight into how much, time, effort and sacrifice is required to try and make it as a professional football in Europe.
You can check out Yohanne Channel The Yohannes Trio Football Channel as you will see they are both excellent footballers. However, they have a long journey ahead of them but it’s great to get an insight into their development at this stage and importance of family support.


I always like to hear your opinions and views. If you feel you have something to say, please comment below or email me If, you don’t have anything to add then please forward this on to a friend. As always, thanks for reading.

I’m also on twitter @Coachdiary and @LetTheKidPlay