Ajax Academy is the youth department of former European conquerors AFC Ajax. The main goal of the academy is to have 3 players progress into the AFC Ajax first team every two seasons.
The academy is based at the Sportpark De Toekomst in Amsterdam. This is located next to the world renowned Amsterdam Arena Stadium, where AFC Ajax play their home fixtures. Toekomst is consists of 8 training pitches, 4 of which are natural pitches and 4 made of artificial turf.
“30% Of all the first team players in the top division in Holland, at some point will have attended the AFC Ajax Academy”
AFC Ajax have 12 Academy youth teams plus the first team. The academy has around 220 players, of which 95% have Dutch nationality (Although 50% of there were not born in Holland).
Ajax Academy Recruitment
Ajax Youth Academy has a vast recruitment programme, with over 55 scouts worldwide. However 50 of these scouts are based within the Netherlands, with the main area for recruitment within 50km of Amsterdam.
Once a player has been scouted, a scout will invite them to a trial day known as “Talentdagen”. This gives the recruitment team and coaches a great opportunity to assess potential players.
The five key areas an Ajax Academy scout looks for in a player are:
- Ball control
- Positional Play
- Movement Habits
- Technique, Intelligence, Rapidity and Personality
Notable Ajax Academy Graduates
Over the years, Ajax Youth Academy has produced some of the world’s best talent. A few notable graduates from the academy are:
- Johan Cruijff
- Marco van Basten
- Dennis Bergkamp
- John Bosman
- Frank de Boer
- Ronald de Boer
- Frank Rijkaard
- Edgar Davids
- Patrick Kluivert
- Andy van der Meyde
- Michael Reiziger
- Edwin van der Sar
- Clarence Seedorf
- Toby Alderweireld
- Ryan Babel
- Daley Blind
- John Heitinga
- Nigel de Jong
- Wesley Sneijder
- Maarten Stekelenburg
- Rafael van der Vaart
- Thomas Vermaelen
- Jan Vertonghen
- Gregory van der Wiel
- Christian Eriksen
Ajax Youth Academy Coaches
As well as producing great players, Ajax Academy has always had great backroom staff. These coaches are entrusted with the task of influencing and nurturing all of the raw talent that attend the academy.
AFC Ajax prefer for all academy coaches (above u10’s) to have playing experience at the highest level of football. These roles are often given to former players, who are well aware of the clubs culture. There are currently 13 academy coaches, who play a large role in developing talent, whilst adopting the AFC Ajax style of play.
The Ajax Academy coaching strategy is based around the 433 formation, with all age groups at the club adhering to this formation. Training sessions are played at high tempo always with a ball and involving possession games.
Tactical training is introduced to players from the age of 12 years old. However weight training is not essential for Ajax Youth Academy players. If a player wishes to increase size and strength with resistance training, then a maximum of 30 minutes a day is permitted.
AFC Ajax Academy Weekly Training Sessions
Player’s under the age of 12 years old take part in a maximum of 3 training sessions per week. While player’s aged 13 years and over attend in 4 sessions per week throughout the season.
Ajax Academy Matches
As the young footballers progress through the Ajax academy age groups, number of players per side in matches also increases. With younger age groups playing with fewer players a smaller pitch.
- 7 Year olds play matches 8 v 8
- 8-9 year olds play 9 v 9 matches
- 10 years old and over play 11 v 11 matches
AFC Ajax’s Youth Team Honours
AFC Ajax Youth Academy is one of the most successful teams in Holland. Below is a list of their recent honours at youth level.
Beloften Eredivisie Winners:
KNVB Reserve Cup Winners:
Ajax Academy Vision and Philosophy
Ajax Academy’s home the ‘De Toekomst’ (the future) is well known for its consistency in producing brilliant talent. However it’s not the facilities that create such great players, but the philosophy that oozes throughout player involved at the club. From under 8’s to the first team each player has the same footballing beliefs and feels part of the Ajax family.
There is also a strong belief that the academy should be the main player source for the AFC Ajax first team. Meaning the club will only resort to buying players if there are no suitable options within the academy. This belief ensures that if you’re good enough you are guaranteed to get a chance in the first team.
The influx of investment and sponsorship for Europe’s super clubs has morphed AFC Ajax from a top European side, into a player production factory. The high wages and transfers funds for top players have led to Ajax having to sell to provide wages for the rest of the squad. This is happening on a seasonal basis, with the best players expected to leave after 2-3 seasons.
AFC Ajax Academy Facilities
Ajax youth Academy has a state of the art training complex, with testing equipment to ensure there players are assess using the current best practices of sport science. The training ground consists of:
- 14 hectares comprising grass and artificial pitches
- Reserve and youth team stadium
- Full Sized covered artificial pitch
- Indoor training dome with pitch and measurement/testing area
- 8 playing fields
- 14 dressing rooms
- 14 dressing rooms
Ajax Academy Technical Approach
Unlike other major football academies, AFC Ajax has opted to move away from a structure based around one coach per age group. Instead they have different specialist that work with players from all age groups, to ensure he is developed as a whole. This is achieved using five main areas which are called “wheels”:
- Age Groups 7-12 – Wheel ‘Onderbouw’
- Age Groups 13-16 – Wheel ‘Middenbouw’
- Age Groups 17-20 – Wheel ‘Bovenbouw’
- The academy admin is looked after by Wheel ‘Operations’
- The three technical managers that look at the different age groups, plus a first team Ajax Culture liaison all sit under the Wheel ‘Technical Management’
Comparing this to other academies where one or two coaches focus on a team of players, Ajax academy have a team of specialist who work to development a player individually.
Ajax Youth Academy has players as young as 5 all the way through to the reserve team. These players go through stages focusing on social, technical, tactical and athletic development. In the past Ajax Academy had solely focused on a player’s footballing education, leaving the academic side to their players school. However, this has recently changed with the introduction of the new ‘School Of The Future’ situated at the De Toekomst complex.
Ajax Academy’s School Of The Future
Ajax academy’s now education facility allows players to study next to the playing fields. This allows Ajax to provide personal education for each player to ensure they are fit off the field as well as on it. The school will house a faculty of mentors and tutors schooling the children on subjects such as:
- Healthy Nutrition
- Healthy Nutrition
- Media Training
- Attitude and behaviour
- Taxes and Finance
The school also has its own:
- Multimedia Studio
- Language/Science labs
This will provide them with all the essentials skill in the business that is modern football. Whilst also allowing the players to flourish at football without sacrificing their studies.
Ajax Academy Training Sessions
Ajax youth academies coaching and training philosophy is centred around the players not overtraining. This is why youth players of 12 years old do not train more than 3 times per week and play only 1 match on the weekend.
It is also important to AFC Ajax that there academies players are not kept away from their family and friends for long periods, as the club feel this will affect the player’s social development. Therefore academies players are encouraged to play football with friends in local parks. This free play also helps them develop creativity in a relax environment without the pressure of coaching staff monitoring them.
Ajax Academy Schooling and Education
Unlike some larger football academies, AFC Ajax does not offer a boarding school option for their Academy players. Therefore players must live within 35km of Amsterdam, with a maximum journey time of 90 minutes.
The academy look after transport costs for all academy players, with their fleet of 20 branded buses. However parents must pay an annual fee of €12 to cover the insurance for the player.
Ajax Academy Syllabus
Under 8’s Training Guide
The stage is geared around building confidence in the fundamentals of the game.
Main Formation: 4-3-3
Players on each team: 4 v 4
Pitch Size: 30m x 20m with 1m goals
Main training focus:
- Ensuring that confidence on the ball is a priority
8-12 Years old training Guide
This stage is geared around team spirit building.
Formation: 4-3-3 (Training 3 times per week for 12 year olds)
Players on each team:
- Under 9’s – 6 v 6
- Under 10’s – 8 v 8
- Under 11’s – 9 v 9
- Under 12’s – 11 v 11
- Under 9’s – 40m x 30m (4m x 2m goals)
- Under 10’s – 50m x 40m (6m x 2m goals)
- Under 11’s – 60m x 50m (6 x 2m goals)
- Under 12’s – Full sizes pitch and goals
Main training focus:
- Technical training
- Position play
13-16 Years old training Guide
Formation: 4-3-3 (15 year olds train 5 times a week)
This stage is focused around:
- Training with the ball in an accurate and aggressive manner
- Short games
- Running exercises
- Training in short passing
- Positional game play
This is also the stage when the coaches state to evaluate players.
17-20 Years old training Guide
Main training focus:
- Skills vs habits
- Ball control
Players are also measured on their 5 meter acceleration. This is done by carrying out 30m sprints with sensors. This is important as 5 meter s is the most frequent sprint distance in real match situations.
Ajax Youth Academy Progression
Every academy player must pass through specific stages as they progress towards the first team. Therefore the players who have been in the academy longer have a better chance of successful progression. In depth performance records are kept on every single player to enable coaches to assess this progress.
The key for Ajax Academy coaches is to see how players adopt the academy philosophy and culture. The stages of progression through the academy system are very difficult and can be very stressful for young players. However Ajax believe this tension and stress will differentiate the great players from the players with only potential.
This stressful environment is increased at the start of each season, as players are split into status tiers. They are either ‘safe’ or ‘at-risk’. The at-risk players are informed they may be sent home in spring unless they improve. Ajax Academy believes this toughens the players mentally.
Ajax Youth Academy Contacts
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