Four tasks and three pitfalls related to the role of Head Academy

News by Nick Veenbrink

An increasing amount of amateur football clubs have begun appointing a Head of Academy, or something similar like a Technical Youth Coordinator for example. In relation to NMC Bright’s recent research into this phenomenon, this article elaborates on the most important tasks (and pitfalls) of this relatively new position. How should a Head of Academy or Technical Youth Coordinator give substance to this position in relation to his/her tasks and responsibilities?

Earlier this year we posted an article about Head of Academy’s in amateur football. Goal of this article was to highlight this position and the responsibilities that come with it. This article will further elaborate on the Head of Academy position. We will mention the different roles a Head of Academy fulfils within the organisation of a youth academy as well as the sometimes not so obvious pitfalls. Having run the Q&P program for two consecutive seasons now, over 50 amateur football clubs have been visited and analysed. Having this experience, we noticed that amateur football clubs go differently about the exact fulfilment of this position. There are give or take four main roles that can be differentiated when looking at the Head of Academy’s position.

Coordinator
A Head of Academy organises and creates the appropriate conditions/environment for coaches and players. Oftentimes the Head of Academy spends a significantly amount of time on organisational, logistical and administrative activities.

Teacher
A head of Academy is someone who educates others. By guiding and educating coaches, the Head of Academy, is (indirectly) responsible for an improved development of youth players. In order to do so, the role of Head of Academy requires the person to be able to educate/teach.

Policymaker
The Head of Academy develops and creates football technical policy. The Head of Academy has a field-related license/diploma (football technical) and has the appropriate work experience. The Head of Academy is of great importance to the development of and compliance to football technical policy.

Policy guardian
The Head of Academy safekeeps the football technical policy on a daily basis. Coaches are reminded and guided in following the club’s vision, in which the Head of Academy assists and takes a helicopter-view. For example: Do all teams play according to the club’s vision? Are youth players getting enough playing time? Are we monitoring youth player’s development correctly? Etc.

Pitfalls
Depending on the different tasks, responsibilities and current situation at the club, the Head of Academy could fulfil one or multiple roles. When there is a combination of roles, however, we have identified a couple of frequent occurring pitfalls. These pitfalls, in turn, lead to a decreased productivity of the Head of Academy. Down below the most obvious pitfalls are presented.

  1. Putting out fires
    Thanks to our experience with the Q&P program we have seen a lot of situations in which the Head of Academy fulfils the role of coordinator. Logistical, administrative and organisational tasks take up a lot of time, which means the Head of Academy has less time to spend on developing/evaluating the football technical policy of the club. When the Head of Academy spends a lot of time on these before-mentioned tasks, clubs do not have the capacity to organize the youth academy in cooperation with their volunteers. Another option is that clubs hire a Head of Academy with organisational skills on purpose because it fits with the club’s current situation. From our experience, however, the most frequent cause is the first one.
  2. Dependency Head of Academy
    Another common pitfall is how clubs put Head of Academies in charge of their entire club policy. This could lead to the Head of Academy writing down his (personal) vision, without acquiring the necessary support from people within the club. This subsequently means that there are few people within the club who can identify with the club’s vision/policy. Oftentimes this results in the fact that the policy that has been developed disappears, once the Head of Academy terminates his contract.
  3. Too busy
    Our research has shown that Head of Academies have a broad range of responsibilities. Together with the different roles as outlined earlier in this article, this makes for a very busy schedule, while most of the times Head of Academies are on a part-time contract. The consequence: a Head of Academy who is overloaded with tasks and is barely able to focus on his most important and relevant tasks.
    Which role(s) the Head of Academy fulfils depends on the situation at the club. The profile as stated in this article does not always translate directly with the practical situation. There is not a single description of how this position should be fulfilled. One thing that is absolutely clear, however, is that clubs agree that the Head of Academy is a critical component in developing a club’s youth academy. The challenge that remains is how clubs can yield the maximum result out of the appointment of a Head of Academy.

If you need help with defining the Head of Academy’s position within your club, please do not hesitate to contact Nick Veenbrink at nveenbrink@nmcbright.nl.