VISITS _ Ajax of Amsterdam


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/accelration 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.

The bus ride from de Toekomst to the ArenA is only a few minutes and after moving through a security chrckpoint, the bus was escorted diectly into the Arena through a high steel gate into the security moat that separates the playing field form the fans. The bus stopped just a few feet from the playing surfcae.

Before begginning 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 thanAjax 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.

 

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, or, "the guy with the move", 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.

 

Before heading out onto the pitch for the training session, the team was shown the office of head coach Co Adriannse, 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........

 

Laszlo had 2 session planned for the team when they arrived, both in areas he specialized in?.fitness and 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 computer. 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 players would be tested. The test is a modified 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 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 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. The player we expected to do the best did exactly that by being the last to stop.

After the fitness test it was time for an agility/speed test. The team went down into moat, 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'.

More to come....