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One of the things that sets the training philosophy of Ajax apart from most professional youth systems around the world is the attention Ajax gives to the physical development of it's players - particularly the younger ones. Coordination, agility, speed and acceleration, and strength training account for approximately 30% of an older Ajax players weekly training schedule. For the younger players it is closer to 10%-15% and the emphasis is more on the coordination, agility, and mobility training. Heavy strength and speed/acceleration training does not begin until around age 13.
 
Two training sessions were arranged with Laszlo Jambor, the fitness trainer at Ajax. Laszlo is one of the few Ajax staff members that works directly with youth teams and the First team. Laszlo's training methods and techniques have re-written the books on fitness development for soccer players, especially youth players, and are widely used around the world at professional and amateur clubs alike.

The team arrived at de Toekomst (the Future), Ajax's famous youth development complex at 9:00am. Laszlo introduced himself to the group, spoke briefly about his background and then gave a description of the teams activities for the day.
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Laszlo had 2 session planned for the team when they arrived, both in areas he specialized in: fitness, running technique and coordination. The first session would be a fitness test that Laszlo
had recently developed for the fist team, or professionals, at Ajax. The YPT players would have the distinct pleasure of being the first players in the world to use this test. Laszlo would use the results  to fine tune the test before testing the professional players a few weeks later when they would arrive for pre-season.
 
Ajax, and Lazlo in particular, have literally turned player development into a science. The fitness test is tracked electronically, in several ways. Electronic touch pads at the beginning and end of the test record when a players begins and ends, down to the millisecond. Also, each player taking the test wears a heart monitor which transmits electronically to a laptop. Lastly, to ensure the most accurate tracking and results the test is best administered on sprint turf, an artificial surface. The area behind each goal at the Arena, approximately 5 yards long
that runs the width of the field, is artificial and is used as a warm-up surface for players soon to enter the match. It was in this area where the YPT players would be tested.  

The test is a modified 'Swedish' beep test. In the standard beep test, players move between two points 20 meters apart, gradually increasing speed by hitting each point at the precise moment a 'beep' is heard from an audio system. The new Ajax fitness test uses the same principle but adds change of direction at several points over a 40 meter course. The test also utilizes passing pendulums which makes the test more soccer specific by requiring players to change direction after striking a ball.

Lazlo first used 2 players as he walked the team through the test with the audio running, showing them when to hit each point and when to change direction. He then required 3 players, a player at a good fitness level, a players at an acceptable fitness level and a player with a poor fitness level. The closest we could come to poor fitness was out goalkeeper. So we used him.

Although, obviously, the players did not register the numbers professional players would, they did reasonably well, in fact, better than expected. And, to show how much I can tell about a players fitness, it was actually the player I had expected to be at an acceptable fitness level was the last player still running. The other two had to stop.

After the fitness test the team went down into the mote area behind the goal where a small-sided turf field was in place as another warm-up area for the pros.

The speed test was run in the shape of  'T'
Laszlo walked the group down a hallway that was covered with framed photographs of every player who has played for the first team at Ajax. Two pictures stood out to the group among all the others...Johan Cruyff, the Dutch Master, and John O'Brien, the US National Team member from California who first came to Ajax when he was 14 and now playing for the Dutch powerhouse on the first team.
 
Before heading out onto the pitch for the training session, the team was shown the office of head coach Co Adrianse, as well as, the state of the art strength training room for the
players. The team was taken onto the field for a team photo. This in itself was an extremely unique experience due to the fact that spectators are never allowed even near the playing surface let alone on it. The picture was taken, then it was time to train........
The bus ride from  de Toekomst to the ArenA is only a few minutes and after moving through a security checkpoint, the bus was escorted directly into the Arena through a high steel
gate into the security moat that separates the playing field from the fans. The bus stopped just a few feet from the playing surface.
 
Before beginning the session the team was given a very private tour of the ArenA. The Amsterdam ArenA is one of the worlds newest and modern soccer stadiums. Guided tours are popular and quite common but the YPT players were taken places within the stadium that are rarely seen by people other than Ajax players, coaches, and staff. The team was taken through the players entrance which is constantly monitored by security guards at a computerized security checkpoint. TV monitors show different area of the ArenA always in view via hundreds of security cameras.
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