"No other training program like it in the world."
This article, which features YPT founder John Fisher, appeared in Soccer America.
John Fisher began coaching at 18, while still in high school, helping out with a local club team. He has experience at the club, high school, ODP and now as men's coach at Neumann College in Pennsylvania. He has been coaching non-stop for 16 years. "The one thing that keeps me passionate about teaching others how to play better is the fact that I don't know it all yet. I am forever seeking out information about developing the young player. I read everything I can get my hands on and I work hard to put myself in positions to work under the best coaches I can find so I can know what they know. Of particular interest to me has always been how it's done overseas. How do they go about teaching young players in countries where the sport is practically a religion?"
As Director of Soccer for the Global Sports Academy, an organization that gives young talented players a chance to train and play overseas, last summer, Fisher was the first American coach to be personally invited to observe the youth coaches at PSV Eindhoven train the youth professionals. PSV is a legendary Dutch club. It has won 14 league championships, seven Dutch Cups, the UEFA Cup and the European Champions League.
Romario played with PSV for five years, Ronaldo for two. The Koeman brothers, Ruud Gullit and Hans van Breukelen also played with PSV. US National team member Ernie Stewart played professionally with PSV, and his 14 year old brother is currently a youth professional with the club. During the past World Cup in France six of the Netherlands World Cup squad members came from PSV including Arthur Numan, Wim Yonk, Phillip Cocu, and Japp Stam.
Like many European clubs, PSV Eindhoven signs players as professionals as young as eight years old. This signing does not involve money; it simply means that a player is committed to the club for one year, receives high level training, and plays in an age appropriate youth professional league against other youth professional teams throughout Holland. At the end of each year every player is evaluated and are offered another one-year contract or asked to leave. Yearly tryouts attract upwards of 2,000 players per age group, who are usually competing for only one or two spots.
PSV's training methods, like those of other Dutch clubs like Ajax that tout the 'Dutch Vision,' are world renown. Fisher was able to observe training thanks to Wil van der Kuylen, a Dutch national team member in the Johann Cruyff era, who invited him to attend the opening week of training for all youth professionals at the club.
For a week, Fisher watched young players train and play. At times he would stand at the intersection of four training fields. He marveled at the u10's training next to the First Team, full time professionals.
"What a thrill for those young players" he thought. "They know that if they work hard enough, one day they may train on that field too." All teams wore the same red and black training uniforms. All did the same training exercises, too.
One would expect the E1[8-10 year olds] to take part in very fundamental exercises, while the A1 [16-18 year olds] and the First Team would be involved in complex training exercises," he said. Yet the only differences between the age groups was the amount of surface area covered in each exercises and the pace of the exercises.
"The cornerstone of the Dutch Vision is passing and speed of play," Fisher recounted. "It is of utmost importance to Dutch trainers that even the youngest players inherently understand that the ball must move quickly." Certain possession exercises were done each session, by every team. Those made an impression on the American coach.
"It became clear to me that at home, with my own teams, I was trying to cover to much," he said. "In a single session I would start out with passing, then do some heading, and then try to get some shooting in. In my week at the club I saw close to 50 training sessions, but did not see many finishing exercises. The only shooting was in the small sided games that would conclude most training sessions." Fisher noted that this was not because the Dutch are not concerned with finishing, but because trainers will not move on to other areas of the game until they are satisfied a team can move the ball quickly and effectively under pressure.
Fisher was surprised that the Dutch training exercises he witnessed were not difficult. In fact, he said, "they are so simple, it's almost funny."
DUTCH METHODS WORK AT HOME
After returning to the US, Fisher put the methods he learned into practice with his u12 West Chester United team, in Pennsylvania. The players responded enthusiastically. Fisher was "amazed" at the eagerness with which his players took to the training and how that training transferred to game day. "The team moves the ball quickly," he reported. " Not without error at times, but they work hard at making the right decision."
He altered his priorities, too. "Not once have we talked about games we must win, or games we should not lose." he said "Our priority has been to move the ball quickly and to play well. The winning has taken care of itself." Indeed it did: Heading into playoffs, Fishers youngsters have lost only one regular season match.