Michael O’Halloran’s Celtic Youth Academy Report – Intermediate Academy (13-16s)

Youth Academy Report –  Intermediate Academy…

Unless Celtic supporters are on social media and follow the Youth Academy on this medium, it is fair to say that a large number would not have the foggiest idea of what the Youth players have been doing in football terms, during the last sixteen weeks since Lockdown began.

We have no doubt though, that given the standards at the Club and its commitment to developing Youth players, everyone would expect the young boys, one way or another, to get the ball at their feet and work at keeping their touch in, whilst staying fit and healthy.

Back in March, when the Academy training and the School programme stopped, the challenge was to find a way to keep the players engaged with the Academy programme and stay on track with their football development. Thanks to modern technology, we were able to design and put home learning and training programmes in place that would keep the players technically involved in football and psychologically engaged with their purpose and aims of becoming footballers.

Over the last sixteen weeks, we have been sending out a weekly programme, covering four days of technical content per week that has kept the boys working on individual techniques and continuing to enhance their abilities. This training content has come in the shape of individual practices that the players can do in their gardens at home or if they were able to find a suitable area to implement these sessions.

This became a challenge in itself for those boys that did not have had a garden, as it may not have been safe to use an area out with the confines of their homes. It was therefore vital that the boys did not do anything that may have put them or their families at risk and they were encouraged to use the programmes only if safe to do so.

For those boys who had no access to training facilities there was still work for them to do within the safety of their homes. Our Athletic Development Department had sessions in place to support the footballing element of the programme that would also help keep the boys keep in trim with conditioning work that they could do in the house. The players were also able to tap into other resources in our Academy, which included nutritional guidance and information.

As part of their football development, we gave the players written tasks to complete including match analysis and individual player analysis. They’ve been tasked with identifying tactical play, watching recorded matches of our first team and been asked to recognise first team players who play in similar positions to them and learn from their performances. These are only a few of the written exercises they have been given to help keep them focused. Thankfully, most of the Academy games are recorded and the players all have access to these games. This was one of the resources used during Lockdown and it was a fantastic tool to draw on.

We have tried to keep things as normal as possible and have been able to oversee the individual sessions in a virtual format on Zoom. The players have taken their electronic devices out into the garden and we have watched their sessions live and given them immediate technical advice just as we would in normal sessions on the pitch. Many of the players have sent in videos, which you may have seen on the Academy twitter page. This recorded content is also used to analyse the players’ sessions, with a view to giving developmental advice and feedback.

Another area where we have tried to keep things as normal as possible is player and parent meetings. Zoom and Skype have been excellent mediums to meet with squad players and their parents. We also carried out our Player Development meetings with the boys and their parents. This is a vital part of the Academy programme with at least two meetings arranged per season with all the Academy players and their parents.

Despite these strange circumstances, that we find ourselves in, the Academy programme has continued to operate throughout the Lockdown period. The success of this is in no small part down to everyone involved with Celtic Pools. This incredible financial support has allowed us to keep things, not just ticking over, but help our young players develop without too much disruption. All the support mechanisms mentioned above are through the support of Pools Agents, members and supporters who buy Paradise Windfall tickets. This will continue to help the conveyor belt of young talent come through to the First Team.

With restrictions now easing a little, we can see a bit of light on the horizon. Our Academy players will start to ease back in to phased pitch based training in the next few weeks. Due to government guidelines, we cannot have too many players on the pitch at any one time so we will stagger each squad’s training. However, with all the work put in during lock down, we know our boys are coming back with their development programme on track.

Michael O’Halloran
Intermediate Academy Manager 13s-16

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor, who has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email editor@thecelticstar.co.uk

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