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IFK Goteborg's Youth Academy - An example to follow

December 30, 2010
By: Diego Valdes Rendon

Taking advantage of my latest trip to Sweden, I contacted with IFK Goteborg in order to visit the club’s youth academy known as the Änglagården or ¨Angel’s Garden¨.  From the beginning, I was pleasantly surprised with the club’s hospitable and open approach to my request.  Mr. Roger Gustafsson, the club’s Youth Section Leader, very kindly offered me the possibility of visiting the facilities and arranged a meeting with his collaborator, Mr. Roger Fridlund.

Roger Gustafsson – Successful coach and pioneer in the development of the club’s youth program

Mr. Gustafsson is a former professional player but he is better known in Swedish football for having led IFK Goteborg to five Allsvenskan championships during the early 90s.  He also coached the club in Champions League matches and even took the club to the quarterfinal stage on one occasion.  Nowadays, however, Mr. Gustafsson is completely dedicated to the club’s Youth program.  In fact, after having retired from his professional coaching responsibilities, he spent nearly three years developing a training manual known as ¨The Secrets of Soccer¨, the main pillar for the Änglagården’s youth program.

The Academy and the Secrets of Soccer

The Angel’s Garden Academy has over 300 students from the ages of six to sixteen that combine their regular studies with football training.  From an early age, students are taught four key values that allow them to develop both on and off the pitch – they are: friendship, having fun, hard work and knowledge (in Swedish known as the 4 K’s). 

Students attend classes during the daytime from Monday to Friday and train from 6 to 8 times per week during evenings and weekends, allowing them to learn discipline and hard work while at the same time staying very motivated.  They are constantly reminded that those players who practice most often will effectively become the best, regardless of their social, cultural or economic background.

At the academy, the coaches and trainers not only focus on the technical/tactical part of the game but also put an important emphasis on the mental side.  At every training session, the young footballers are reminded to stay concentrated, relaxed, and are even taught to visualize themselves successfully performing the tactical skills they will put into practice.  It is this particular psychological focus that makes IFK´s methodology so innovative among football schools. 

By using a comprehensive manual like Secrets of Soccer, coaches and trainers of the IFK academy have a complete resource package that allows them to teach important technical and tactical skills such as attacking, defending and goalkeeping.  Furthermore, the package includes an online coaching tool known as S2S that offers trainers reports, statistics, video libraries, game management, communication systems, and design tools to prepare their own drills.  In addition, every player has an online account that allows him to come prepared prior to the training sessions and practice training from home.

The methodology used at the academy is so complete that it is used as a model for different football schools across Europe, USA, Brazil, Asia, etc.

A bright future for IFK Goteborg

It is quite evident that the IFK soccer academy has an excellent program for young footballers.  The current structure was put in place in 2007 and already the club is benefiting from it as several of the academy’s students are now part of IFK Goteborg’s under-18, and first division squads.  Having seen the excellent set up at this school, it is easy to conclude that will only a matter of time before we start recognizing young players from the Angel’s Garden Football Academy as they start playing in the top clubs in Sweden and across Europe.  IFK is guaranteed a return on the investment they are making on their youth.    


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