Observations from Study Visit to Sevilla FC Academy in 2011

Back in 2011 I travelled over to Spain with Adam Bouchard so that he could complete a trial with Sevilla FC. 

During that week Adam trained with the U16 academy team and was praised for his technical ability . This was a major accomplishment at the time, given that Spain were at that time current world champions.  To progress to the next level, the Sevilla FC coaching staff  advised Adam to improve his upper body strength and be more aggressive during game situations. Sevilla FC coaches believe that to become a top professional player it is important for players to have a “warrior-type” winning mentality and impose themselves consistently during training and game situations.

Adam’s performances earned him an invite to return to Sevilla FC in August 2012 for another trial. However, Adam later joined the Toronto FC program and decided to pursue the MLS academy pathway. He last played for Toronto FC in the USL during the 2016 season with the highlight of his career being named to the Canadian roster for the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup.  

The Club

Sevilla Fútbol Club , commonly referred to as Sevilla, is a Spanish professional football club based in Seville, the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. It plays in Spanish football’s top flight, La Liga. It is Spain’s oldest sporting club solely devoted to football. The club was formed on 25 January 1890, with the Scottish born Edward Farquharson Johnston as their first president. On 14 October 1905, the club’s articles of association were registered in the Civil Government of Seville under the presidency of the Jerez-born José Luis Gallegos Arnosa.

Sevilla FC is the most successful club in Andalusia, winning a national league title in 1945–46, five Spanish Cups (1935, 1939, 1948, 2007 and 2010), one Spanish Super Cup (2007), a record five UEFA Cups/UEFA Europa Leagues (2006, 2007, 2014, 2015 and 2016) and the 2006 UEFA Super Cup. They were also designated by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics as the World’s best club in 2006 and 2007, thus being the first club to achieve this distinction in two consecutive years.

My Academy Observations in 2011

 

The Sevilla FC Academy Structure
There are 24 teams in total within the Sevilla FC Academy structure. The teams include age-groups from ages 8 to 19 and at the entry level ages (ages 8) the club has 4 teams. For each subsequent age-group, there are 3 teams up until aged 17, when only one team operates.
A community soccer school for players aged 4+ is a feeder system for the Sevilla FC Academy teams. This school operates on the same nights as the Academy teams so the young players can see the older players train and are inspired to progress with their skills to make the academy teams.
Each team has one Head Coach, a Manager and a Fitness coach. The club has also introduced sports psychologistsnutrition experts and medical staff to support the development of all their younger players.
The club up until a few yaers ago had 20 players in their academy structure from out of country. In recent years the number of international playesr within the academy structure has been reduced but the club are now looking to increase their number of “international” players again.
The teams all train on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 6-7:30pm and play one game each week, on the Saturdays. Parents are not permitted to watch the training sessions and sit at a cafe at the acaemy training complex while their children train.
All the teams, from the 1st team to the academy teams play the same way. The formation is 4-4-2 formation, with a strong emphasis on good technique to retain possession. The two wide midfield players are considered  as the most creative players on the team and are responsible for beating defenders  and getting in behind defences to create goalscoring opportunities.
In terms of training content, there is an emphasis on developing great technique with the ball. The early part of training is typically spent with one player/ball or in groups of two to maximize touches on the ball . The later part of training featured one on one attacking play and small-sided possession games. This was consistent across all the age-groups.
A “two-touch” condition was placed on players during small-possession games which challenged the players to make early decisions and understand at all times where open space was on the field. Many of the players demonstrated the ability to play one touch during these games and frequently used disguised “flicks” and reverse passes to kep the ball away from defenders.
All the teams, including the younger ones, spent 20 minutes plus per session on crossing and finishing. When  teams ended the session with a full game, there were many consistent themes:
  • All players, including defenders, were very comfortable with the ball at their feet – and comfortable playing with both feet
  • There was a great understanding of space. Players rarely moved into the same space as teammates-even at youngest levels
  • Fast passing and movement was used to break down defences
  • Constant communication amongst the players
  • Strong 1 v1 play on the flanks to create goalscoring opportunities
  • Players understood their roles for each position and were disciplined in maintaining their team shape and formation
  • The build up play from the defenders was patient, they took few risks and played into the feet of midfield players who had checked back to receive passes
  • Midfield’s played across the field and back if they had to, to retain possession and search for openings in the defence. Once an opening was found, for example a 1v1 or 2v1 situation on the flanks, the speed of play was increased dramatically and passing and movement was of the highest quality.
  • Players were competitive and were aggressive when pressing to win back possession

“At Sevilla CF, we have always understood that in order to develop young athletes’ potential, it is necessary to carry out a parallel process of coach development”

 

Subsequent to my visit to the Sevilla FC academy in 2011 Sergio Lara-Bercial wrote a research paper  ” Athlete and Coach Development in the Sevilla Club de Futbol youth academy: A values-based Proposition”

You can read the full paper here