Denny Landzaat: “As a coach I want players to dare to talk to me about anything”

The former top football player and international, Denny Landzaat, studied the Master in Coaching at the Johan Cruyff Institute Amsterdam since September last year. He entered the coaching profession after his football career, and has been back in his home country the Netherlands, after gaining coaching experience abroad

“I cannot deny that I am performance-oriented and that I want to excel in everything I do”, says former international Denny Landzaat, when asked what his coaching style is.

“I am a coach who seeks a connection with my players. I think it is important to support them in their development” – Denny Landzaat

And he acontinues: “I am a coach who seeks a connection with my players. I want to discuss with them the ‘how and what’, and I am open to their opinions. I want to create a safe environment for them, in which they dare to talk to me about anything. I think it is very important to be able to support them in their development as well as possible. In addition, I am a trainer who observes and keeps an eye on everything, but I like to place the responsibility with the players themselves, and I expect them to anticipate what happens on the field. But I think that is something every trainer expects.”


Denny Landzaat has no lack of inspiration in the field of coaching. At Ajax, AZ and Feyenoord, he was under the guidance of top coaches, such as Louis van Gaal, Co Adriaanse and Bert van Marwijk. “I do indeed observe the coaches that I worked with as a player, or with whom I have worked as an assistant trainer. With them, I played good football, had good periods and achieved successes. And they have stimulated and supported me, to get the most out of my career. They are the ones I used to love to watch and listen to.”

“The tactical choices and vision of coaches like Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman and Eric ten Hag inspire me” – Denny Landzaat

Denny Landzaat now carries that wealthy backpack of experiences as a player with him, in his career as a coach. “But I also really enjoyed Johan Cruyff, and now I like to watch Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman and Eric ten Hag, because they let their teams play offensively and with clear intentions. In my view, they make the best tactical choices to ensure that their teams play according to their vision, for the best results. They inspire me.”

Denny Landzaat I want players to dare to talk to me about anything - Johan Cruyff Institute

Denny Landzaat as assistant-coach for AZ Alkmaar U23. Credits: Ed van de Pol.

Illustrious career

In 2014, Denny Landzaat ended his illustrious professional football career to start as a trainer, initially at AZ as a specialist trainer under Marco van Basten, and as an assistant trainer of the U23 team, after which he moved to Feyenoord in 2018. There he worked with Giovanni van Bronckhorst. A year later he boarded a plane towards a new adventure in Saudi Arabia, where he became Henk ten Cate‘s right-hand man. “It was a whole new experience for me, because for the first time I started working abroad as a trainer with colleagues I did not know very well yet. It was a very nice and educational time, both living there and working with Henk. It was interesting to work in a country where football is experienced differently and where different standards and values apply.”

And he found time for a new challenge: the Master in Coaching, and he also finds more time for sports, like playing paddle tennis with friends.

Denny Landzaat I want players to dare to talk to me about anything - Johan Cruyff Institute

Denny Landzaat. Credits: Ed van de Pol.


It was a year in which the ex-international of the Dutch team got to know himself better — something he holds dear, because he is convinced that it is an important criterion for being a good coach. And that is one of the reasons that Denny Landzaat started the Master in Coaching, where Johan Cruyff’s motto was “you can only coach others if you can coach yourself“, and it is therefore a common thread in the program. “It is very special to be taught in a Cruyffian way, because I used to be a big fan of Johan. I always appreciated him, not only as a player and trainer, but also as a person.”

“I am learning new techniques in the Master in Coaching, which will make me a better coach” – Denny Landzaat

“I really feel that I am gaining a good understanding of myself and learning new techniques that make me a better coach”, says Denny Landzaat. “Before the course, I did a lot intuitively, but now I am really starting to discover what I was doing and what I can do to become a more complete coach. The how and why. The classes and the input from my fellow students from different sports are really enriching. It is confronting, amazing and emotional, and that’s when I learn most.”

“The program makes you aware,” continues the ambitious coach. “And I believe that football players are in need of that. It is so important that you understand what you are doing, or what needs to be done: the awareness of your actions, of playing in a certain formation, or the chosen tactic, not only of yourself, but also of your fellow players. In football, it is always about making the right choice. Recognizing the choices, and how and why the choice you make, is the right choice, makes you more aware of your actions. It made me feel, I am well prepared for my next challenge.”

Credits header: Jarrik Bijsterbosch 


Leadership in Coaching

The Leadership in Coaching Program in Amsterdam is developed for everybody (in or outside sports) who seeks self-knowledge and self-development with the aim to improve oneself as a (sport) coach and/or manager. This 10-month program is delivered in Dutch and based on the vision of Johan Cruyff in which sport coaching is more than using tactical and technical knowledge. It is about knowing yourself and developing your own unique coaching style, and to apply that to the players / staff, the team and the environment. We believe that you can only coach others, if you know how to coach yourself.

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