Glenn van der Kraan: “Talents need time, room and direction”

Glenn van der Kraan, responsible for the juniors of Feyenoord’s youth academy, studied the Master in Coaching at Johan Cruyff Institute in 2017. He wrote this column about talent development for Telesport *

On my desktop is a photo of Johan Cruyff and Wim Jansen — two legends from Dutch football, icons with a passion and love for the development of youth. During the Master in Coaching I did at Johan Cruyff Institute, my personal coach mentioned a quote from Cruyff: “It’s about time, room and direction.” This is exactly what is of great importance in educating youth.

Football is a very complex sport, where the top talents must be ready to take a step abroad by the age of 23. I am responsible for 110 youth players between the age of five and 12 years old, and I am managing more than 10 trainers. The way to the very top is different for each talent and there are many dropouts, but everybody is responsible for their own development eventually.

Under the slogan ‘talent recognizes, acknowledges and creates talent’, at the Feyenoord Youth Academy we believe in scouting talented youth players as early as possible. With the right guidance, the talents will quickly develop on a technical, tactical, physical and mental level, with the important component of learning how to play together. For those who don’t believe in scouting and developing six- and seven-year-old boys, I invite them to come and watch one of our games on Saturday mornings.

Recently, I spoke to professors Kathleen Venderickx and Tessa Kieboomat from Exentra, the expertise center for highly gifted people. They endorsed the vision of Feyenoord with regard to starting early with young talents. Some talents are highly gifted in the field of sport and a rich environment — good players, good trainers, good training methods and the right capacity — is an enrichment for the brain.

Feyenoord has good youth scouts, so that our youngest teams have talented youth players. Guidance of these young talents is crucial. That’s why I am happy with the mix between trainers with a pedagogical background and former professional players.

And finally, I want to end with a quote from Wim Jansen: “Everything is trainable, but does the trainer see it?” It is precisely in this area that the Master in Coaching and the vision of Cruyff and Jansen have helped me tremendously to work with my observation and implementation abilities.

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