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Young Player Development Program goes from strength to strength

Young Player Development Program goes from strength to strength
In September 2021, Manchester City opened the doors of the City Football Academy to give young people from the local community the chance to train like their heroes.

The Young Player Development Program is the first of its kind to be run at the CFA, allowing youngsters aged 5-12 to engage in two weekly sessions as part of a 12-week course.

A total of three courses will go ahead across the year, with limited places still available on the current program - running until 18 December.

Kristian Mahon is Program Manager, helping to not only develop the players but also the sessions themselves and the coaches who ultimately lead them.

He believes that the opportunity to play at the world class facilities provides a unique experience for participants, but he also stresses that the benefits of the program are more far reaching than what is learned on the pitch.

“These kids might play for local teams but to come in and experience the City Football academy is a key driver for why a lot of the players want to attend,” he explained.

“They want to feel a part of Manchester City and a part of how the football club do things.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE YOUNG PLAYER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

“It’s most kids dreams to want to be here and train here, so the fact that we’re able to offer that now for players of all abilities is great.

“Straight away the reward (for coaches) is seeing the smiles on their faces, seeing them enjoy the football, seeing them play without any pressure.

“And importantly, they’re walking away from a session knowing they’ve learned something or developed a new skillset in our environment with the support of our coaches. It’s invaluable.”

As alluded to, that feeling of inclusion and collective unity is an essential component of the Young Player Development Program.

That fact is further emphasised by the provision of a kit pack for each child, which contains a training shirt, a pair of shorts, training pants and socks, as well as a rain jacket and water bottle.

Mahon believes that the uniformed approach is an exciting prospect for those involved, but also, just like those in the City academy, provides the youngsters with a small taste of responsibility to help them develop and mature moving forward.

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“They have two sessions a week, so they have that individual focus, but we also have team development as well,” he said.

“It’s so important that players adhere to a code of conduct, they turn up in the right kit, be on time.

 “It’s a small responsibility but big on them week to week. It’s nice to see (them develop).

“We want to see them in every training session to make sure we are uniformed, we’re all the same and we all look the part.

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“Parents have commented that it’s a bit different to something they’re used to, but I’ve definitely seen a change in their players based on that added responsibility."

Despite the program still being in its nascent stages, Mahon has already noticed some of the players becoming familiar with some of the key skills they’ve been practicing regularly in each session.

The onus is placed on instinctively using those teachings in a match scenario, demonstrating a subtle but effective learning strategy that the course hopes to instil in those taking part.

Mahon is delighted by the progress he’s seen so far and expects the program and those involved to only go from strength to strength.

He pointed out: “The players are really starting to grasp the understanding of how we like the session to flow and be structured.

“A lot of the practices we do are very game related, allowing the players to make decisions, be creative and express themselves.

“We always say the best way to learn is to play,  and to try new things. Although the themes and principles may differ, they know what’s coming next.

“The challenge is then how the session may adapt within those boundaries and the types of constraints or questions that may be posed to them that will then challenge them.

“Already we’re seeing players understanding how we do things and recognising where and when they can challenge themselves further.

“And ultimately, we get to the end of the session and can see a natural progression in the players obviously, which is great.”

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