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Academy Insight - Juha-Pekka Berg - Head Coach Ilves Tampere U14/U15, Finland

Academy Insight - Juha-Pekka Berg - Head Coach Ilves Tampere U14/U15, Finland

Juha-Pekka Berg - Head Coach U14/U15

Ilves Tampere - Finland

Ilves Tampere U14 was one of the competitors in the
Chelsea FC U14 Football Cup. As part of the tournament organisation, had the chance to sit down with Ilves coach Juha-Pekka Berg. 47-year old Berg, who has played himself few games at the Finnish top level and mainly on second division in Finland, has been a coach at the club for almost 10 years. Sports is a very important part of life for this father of 3, whose own children spend about 30 hours a week training. His 25+ years experience as a teacher comes in very handy at Ilves, where's he's responsible for about 65 to 80 young players.

What's your role within the academy?
"I have many jobs within the academy of Ilves. I'm the U14 and U15 coach. There are 4 teams, which makes me responsible this year for about 75 players. Each team (about 18-25 players) has at least 3 coaches and one physical coach. I usually work with the 2002 boys on everyday training.”

“Furthermore I'm involved in coaching education; teaching the coaches at the academy. This part of my job comes natural to me, because I'm a teacher. The head coaches at Ilves Tampere are professionals or semi professionals. The rest of the coaches combine it with their own main jobs."

How many teams does Ilves have?
"We've made big changes to the club's system over the last 10 years and are still developing. I'm part of developing this system as well. Currently we have 2 teams per age category, so 40 teams in total in boys and girls. The youngest players are about 6 years old.”

“In terms of members we are the largest football club in Finland. We have about 40 competitive youth teams (boys and girls) and a lot of grassroots teams. They have their own 'sunday league'. Ilves is a member of Sami Hyypiä Academy (SHA) and co-operates with the Tampere Sports Academy and the city schools. Our first teams play at the national top level, both men and women. Our age groups U7-U16 are categorized on 2 or 3 different skill levels (1st team, 2nd team etc.).”

“The U14 boys practice at the school about 4 to 5 times per week as a team. During summer, when there's no school, there are lots of training sessions in the mornings. We work in small groups, with individual training sessions for the most talented players. We even have a talented player programme.”

What does your week schedule look like?
"My schedule is very busy and hectic. I'm at the school 4 mornings in the week, about 4-5 hours per day. Around 13:00 or 14:00 o'clock I'm free and then I go to Ilves. I do lots of planning, but also lots of coaching on the pitches and fields. Fridays are completely dedicated to football, working with small groups. During the week I’m involved in training sessions for about 10 or 12 hours. In Summer times (June-August) I work as full-time football coach (no teaching at schools).”

Can you describe the facilities at your academy?
"We have our own practice center (Vuores), which has one high level artifical grass field. The rest of the training sessions take place at other pitches around the city, which are owned by the city of Tampere. All the clubs train at these fields. You can imagine that it requires lots of planning for 40 teams who train at least 4 times a week! During winter, the teams exercise mainly at the indoor halls."

Academy Tools

How do you prepare training sessions?
"The preparation of our training sessions is structured, adjusted to specific ages. For example for my group from last year, all training sessions have been left for the next coach. That way the next coach can approach that particular age in a similar way."

Do you organize training sessions with specialists?
"Yes, we have small groups who do that. We cooperate with Tampere Sports Academy, for example physical training camps. Players have 3 tests a year and follow their programme as well. They prepare players with endurance and everything that has to do with physics. The sports academy is very large and offers both educational training, physical training and school programmes. We also work with Sami Hyypiä Academy. They do some physical tests like running and jumping and also test the football skills.

Do you work with video analysis?
"Our own staff film games. Then they watch, make clips and analyse. We don't have a video analysist. At Ilves, the coaches do the analysing themselves. For this, we also work with Sami Hyypiä.

What is the purpose of attending tournaments like the Chelsea FC U14 Football Cup?
"Of course, playing in this tournament is a big motivation for our players. Another goal is to play these kind of games, where we have to give our best and test our limits. In Finland we play around 5 or 6 tournaments and go abroad two times a year. It's very expensive. Therefore we will only send teams that are capable to play at this level. Otherwise it doesn't make any sense."

So how do you get your tournaments?
"We have contacts. In our club there's one guy who handles these kind of things. He is in touch with Academy Trips for instance, to discuss trips and tournaments."

How do you organize the scouting within Ilves?
"There's no scouting system. Players just come to Ilves, because we are the top team of Tampere. There are only a few clubs in Finland which are top level. There are many clubs in Tampere, but their level is low. In our area, Ilves is the biggest club and provides the best opportunities to reach the top. So if a player is good, he will often come to us. Our first team of course do the scouting and sometimes recruit players from other clubs or abroad. But we have also lots of players from our own youth system in our first teams"

What do you consider the most important tool to improve players?
"I think working in small groups and individual coaching for the players are important. As I mentioned, we have contacts with some talented players programmes and make specific training analyses. So far I think it's been very important in our club to develop football players as individuals."

Players Development

What is the academy's role in developing players as a human being?
"At Ilves we cooperate with the schools and try to concentrate on the mental training of players. We have a few schools who take part in this cooperation. Some players are in the same class and practise togetherin the morning. For example, both U14 teams train at the same time. During summer they practise more often in early hours, but during the school season they exercise once in the morning."

Do you involve the parents in this process?
"Of course, the parents of the players are always part of the process. We constantly evaluate with the parents. They're also involved because part of the money comes from the parents. That's where it gets very difficult. In Finland it's very expensive to become member of a professional club. For example, the amount for one U14 player could be around 3000 to 4000 Euros per year. When teams go abroad to participate in a tournament, the parents pay. As I mentioned before, we don't have our own pitches. The club has to pay rental fees for the use of pitches."

How do you trigger creativity in a player?
"We do a lot of small sided games and teach the players through the game. We encourage them to try and make them solve problems on the field and to see the possibilities of a particular moment. For each category we have a set of targets. Our policy is documented and the coaches know what they want to achieve within each age category."


How do you ‘sharpen your axe’? For example, do you follow courses, attend exhibitions or visit other academies?
“I watch a lot of games. For example, last December I visited Manchester to watch the games there. I’ve been active in the coaching course system in Finland. I try to be open minded and to learn new things about the game and how it develops. I don’t read a lot of books, because I hardly have time to read. When I do read, I sometimes read exercise books. I think the last one was Barcelona`s “Coaching the Tiki-Taka style of Playing by Jeb Davies”

Can you name some non-fiction books that you've read?
"'Goin' Back To New Orleans' by Bert Montgomery. It's about the music history of New Orleans, my favorite city. Also 'Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics' by Jonathan Wilson and 'Deep Blues-Musical and Cultural History Of The Delta Blues' by Robert Palmer.

Which apps do you use the most?
“Useful apps are LaOla (team statistics), FA Coach’s App (for all my training sessions) and of course Twitter.”

What are your 3 favorite websites for coaches or football in general?
1. (Ilves football club, junior teams)
2. https://www.eerikkilä.fi/valmennuskeskus/sha-jalkapallo/kehittymisen-seurantatatapahtumat (Sami Hyypiä Academy, Finland)
3. (FA)

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