Charbel Selwan, an Academy Coach at Hammarby IF, has been coaching since he was 16 years old. As a young player, he started at a small suburban club called Inter Ohoi, later moving on to Hesslebi (a local club in Stockholm) and Brommapojkarna. The 26-year old UEFA B License coach has been with the Swedish club for a little over one year.
How many teams and age categories does the academy have?
"At Hammarby academy, we have players from U8 to U19. Besides this, we have the U21 and the first team together. They are on the same training ground. The U21s are a mix of U19 players and first team players, who play in the Reserve League."
What does your week schedule look like?
“The players attend school and have morning practices there. I go to the school to give the training sessions. On seasons we train 3 times a week, off seasons 4 times a week in the evenings, depending on the age category. We have school practices from U8 to U19, varying from 2 to 3 times a week. We often have games on Saturdays and Sundays, two days in a row.”
What do you consider the main ways to develop a player?
"In terms of player development, consistency is extremely important. We have to have a common thread from the Under 8's to the Under 19's. So when we pass the team on to another trainer, we can just focus on the specific needs of that age group. We work together very closely and have weekly meetings with the coaches, where we talk about the education."
"Of course, playing games against top quality opponents is the most important. In Stockholm, there are about 3 teams which are good quality. The rest is not that good. The problem in Sweden is that academies don't like to go up against each other; it's a sensitive issue. So we only meet about 2 times a year. That's an issue for our academy and that's why we have to go abroad to face better opponents. It's a good experience for our boys to play against good opposition and top quality teams. They really learn from these experiences."
"Our biggest problem is that they play too little in these types of games. Often, we can go 10 matches in a row winning 5-0. At the Hammarby academy we train really hard and very good. However, because the matches are too easy for our teams, the things we train on don't go into the games. We can get 4 red cards and still win the match."
What is the purpose of attending tournaments? And how many tournaments does each team play on an annual basis?
"We sit down with the academy director during the winter (November-December) and make a year plan. We talk about tournaments, closed (invitational) tournaments in the south of Europe. We discuss the tournaments, schedule them and go. We try to get 2 big tournaments. We don't make a budget, so the parents have to pay for the tournament trip.
We have some tournaments that we go to each year, for example the AUDI KB Cup (the Nordic championship) in Denmark. But mostly, we receive invitations, gather information about that tournament and decide whether we’ll participate. The Chelsea FC Football Cup (organized by AcademyTrips.com) was the first cup in England for the Hammarby academy.
Getting more resilience is very important for youth players. What is Hammarby's policy to accomplish this?
"The Hammarby academy has specialists. Among others a physics trainer and a nutritionist who works with the boys and gives them information on what's good to eat before, after and in between training sessions." The boys are in a phase, they are becoming teenagers, so it's like a rollercoaster for them. We also have a database (in Microsoft excel) where we record everything from skills to physical to mental information."
What is the academy's role in developing a player as a human being?
"We have good communication with parents and we talk to players about their schooling. We have a really good eye on players that go to 'our schools'. By this I mean that we have specific schools for Hammarby, where players can choose to go to. They are not obliged to go there, in Sweden we're not allowed to do that. We also can't put all the academy players in one class together, because the school is open for everybody."
"We think that if you’re a good enough academy player, it shouldn't be a problem for you to play in the academy and to do well in school. You have to be smart. If you don't make it in school, then you're not going to make it in football. It's as simple as that. If they don't pass school, then they're not allowed to train."
Is there a policy on the development of coaches?
"We have both internal and external courses that we are free to attend. I think it's really good that the academy makes time for me to go to these courses. In my opinion, our internal courses are the best. In other countries the federations have the best people working for them. In Sweden it's not like that; the best staff are at clubs. Stefan Billborn is the main developer of the coaches at our academy."
- "I also took part in a course by the Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen. He was extremely direct, typically Dutch. For me, this was really interesting. It opened my eyes so to speak; we don't have to not tell the truth in football. We don't have time for that. The education is too short. In my opinion, you have to be direct with the players and the parents. Maybe not as direct as Verheijen is, because they are children, but you have to be honest and tell it like it is. I don't agree with everything Verheijen said, but I keep it in mind and keep developing from this."
"At Hammarby IF, we have the best facilities, the best coaches and the best financial position in Sweden. Therefore, it's in the interest of the coaches, the club and the board if we can actually make players go up to the first team. The same goes for coaches. I sometimes visit other academies, like Ajax, Leicester City and Stabaek in Norway. And of course courses, books and seminars. I often read books or watch movies about leadership, for example Coach Carter. It’s a movie about the basketball coach. I believe football is a really close sport. And because the leadership is the same in every sport, I often try to look at coaching in basketball, baseball or even individual sports like tennis. This way, I get a wider view of leadership.”
What’s your recruitment policy?
“In Sweden, we’re not allowed to recruit before a player is 15 years old. After that, we’re free to recruit. However, the club isn’t allowed to make the first contact with the player’s parents. If you do this, you’ll get a penalty fee from the federation. Hammarby has a good name in Sweden, our first team has most attendance in the league and we have a huge fan base in Sweden. Because we’re such a popular club, the best players in the South of Stockholm will come to us.”
“The problem in Stockholm is that we have 4 big academies. We’ve divided the city in 4 areas and we have Southern Stockholm. If we scout, we mainly do it in this region. We have one head scout and several scouts around Stockholm, both part-time and full time. If a player approaches us to introduce himself, we’ll send a scout to watch them in their environment, in their club. We have scouts that watch games and they note down the players that are good enough. We add them to our database. In case we are being approached by a player (parent) and we already know him, we will invite the player to practice with the team.” “Of course, the player might not be good enough for our academy. That’s why we take him down for practice for about two weeks. After this, we evaluate him together with the academy director, the scout, the coach and often also the head of coaches. Our academy director has the final say.”
What makes the Hammarby IF academy different than others?
“The most important thing for our academy director is not to have the best players, but to have the best coaches. If you have the best coaches, then the best players will automatically follow. Our academy director is really good at recruiting coaches. He has the necessary network and budget.”
How do you trigger creativity in players?
“The most important thing for us is that we’re really focused on the 1v1 game, Ajax style, for the Under 8’s till the Under 13’s. This way, they’re allowed to think for themselves. We don’t discuss passing lines and tactical structures all that much. It’s almost like we train certain things in practice and then when we get to the game, we give them the ball and they just play. They can be creative and make their own decisions. When a player does make a mistake, we try to analyse with him what he could’ve done differently. We give them the technical tools, so they can understand the game.”
“Once a week, mostly on Fridays, we’ll sit in the club house and watch the previous game, we do video analysis. Mostly the games, because in my opinion they’re a little easier to watch than trainings. The training sessions are filmed when I think this is necessary. If we notice a “lazy” player we’ll approach him. Players don’t realise it when you talk to them, but they do realise it when they see themselves on camera. We do not have a full time video analyst. We have a team leader that films. The analysis is done by me. We use a really easy software programme (Spiideo). Most of the coaches know this programme.
What other digital tools do you use?
“It’s mostly video analysis actually. The physics trainer sometimes has heartrate, but nothing fancy. We also have to have a player development system, to be a SEF Academy. This stands for Swedish Elite Football. They have their own federation. You have to be in the first, second or third league to be a SEF academy. The federation checks us and rates the facilities, player development and so on. It’s a quality management system. The ratings are published on their website. That’s actually another marketing tool for us to get players.”
On average, how many players a year go to the first team?
“I think we have a minimum of 2 players. Of every age group, we want 2 in the first team, but 6 to be professional players. There are 4 in the current first team. That’s OK; we sold or released 4 last year.”
Which football related apps do you use the most?
“I use the coaching tool Supercoach, the coaching tool Feint and the Football Channel Fotbolsskanalen.”
And your favourite websites?
“The Belgian website Voetbalhuiswerk (‘Football Homework’ in Dutch), Secret to Sports and the Hammarby website.”
Thank you very much for your insights, Charbel!
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