On Tuesday, the U.S. headquarters of adidas was the setting for Ajax’s second clinic during their training week here. Half of the team revealed themselves as true coaches. Head coach Frank de Boer saw his team give valuable football lessons.
“My name is Jan and I’ll be your coach today”, says Jan Vertonghen, introducing himself to the rotating groups. “What are your names?” He takes over the technical skills training. In other parts of the field, Miralem Sulejmani (dribbling), Jeroen Verhoeven (finishing) and Toby Alderweireld, among others, are active with the kids.
“Sports are under pressure in our school system”, says Patty Goffe on behalf of adidas America. In cooperation with Major League Soccer and the Portland Timbers, adidas is running several special projects under the banner of community soccer. Football serving the community. The US Soccer Foundation, America Soccer and, today, AEGON, are intricately involved. Issues such as sportsmanship, winner’s mentality and endurance are also useful assets off the field. “We want to show how sports are a part of education. Moving is important. And football is simple in that respect: throw a ball onto the field, and there you go.”
The Ajax players visibly grew into their role as coaches, although it was tough to keep some of the kids focussed on the lessons. “They’re cheeky, but in a good way”, explains Alderweireld with a smile. “Their enthusiasm is the best. This is a great way to get kids moving and playing football. Most of them have really been looking forward to being coached by a real pro. At least, that’s what they told me.” As the Belgian defender finishes his sentence, assistant coach Hennie Spijkerman’s voice rings out across the field. The groups can move onto a new skills game.
Mariano gets an exclusive football lesson from Alderweireld. The 11 year old Portlandian is thoroughly enjoying himself. No wonder, since the Cruz Azul defender has been playing for three years, and has been champion for all of them. Twice on the field and once indoors. The champion feels at home with the Dutch champions. “It was fun”, says the rising star. “Now I want to get some autographs. And I’ll be watching the Timbers – Ajax match tomorrow with my father.”
Earlier that day, coach Frank de Boer addressed 52 coaches of U17 and U19 teams. The coaches from the state of Oregon were invited by adidas, and heard all about the Ajax philosophy. The many trainers were impressed by the explanations about the youth training program and football style. The same was true of the shown highlights of the Ajax – FC Twente championship match. The head coach, with his assistant Danny Blind, watched along at adidas ’headquarters.
“Stand still and dance on the ball”, explains Vertonghen to his pupils. While he elaborates, the defender makes clear what he expects. A short dribble cut off by alternating the left and right foot on the ball. His advice is followed. Some kids’ motor skills aren’t as refined as their guests’ from Europe, but this doesn’t stop them from trying to show their stuff. For the more reserved kids, Aras Özbiliz has some advice: “Don’t be shy, just play soccer!”
Watch the clinic report on Ajax TV on Thursday.