Dutch Soccer Secrets - Peter Hyballa - ebook

Dutch Soccer Secrets ebook

Peter Hyballa



What is the secret of Dutch Soccer? How can a nation of about 16 million inhabitants regularly produce world-class players like Cruyff, Haan, van Basten, Rijkaard, van Nistelrooy, van der Sar, van Bommel, Robben and van Persie, as well as world-class coaches like Michels, Cruyff, Beenakker, Advocaat, Stevens and van Marwijk? What lies behind the successes of Ajax Amsterdam, of Louis van Gaal and of Dutch soccer manager Guus Hiddink? This book is a first attempt to present expert knowledge of internationally proven useful and effective Dutch soccer coaching in theory and practice, based on qualitative data collection. The authors outline the theory and practice of the "typical" and sometimes unique Dutch content, methods, organization forms and elements of educational knowledge, including the training philosophy of the KNVB (Royal Dutch Soccer Federation), selected Eredivisie and internationally renowned Dutch soccer coaches; unique technique training content and methods (Coerver, Meulensteen and Frans Hoek Methods) and tactics training (position play and pressing forward); innovative forms of play and testing for soccer-specific conditioning training; the new Ajax coaching model "Heroes of the Future" and interviews.

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Peter Hyballa,born 1975 to Dutch parents, is a DFB (German Soccer Federation) instructor and has a Master's degree in Sports Science. He is currently Head Coach of the soccer team Alemannia Aachen (2nd Division Germany). He was German Under-19 Vice Champion in 2009 and West German Champion with BVB (Borussia Dortmund). Peter Hyballa provides coaching education throughout Europe and the rest of the world. He is also a freelance author on the DFB specialist publication “fussballtraining” (soccer training).

Hans-Dieter te Poelis a DFB soccer instructor and has experience of coaching players of all abilities while specializing in high-performance youth coaching, as Consultant on Training Theory at the Regional High Performance Center in Essen, Lecturer in Soccer at the German Sports University in Cologne and research associate at the Federal High Performance Center in Dortmund. He is also active in the education of teachers and coaches in Universities and High Schools, regional pedagogical Institutes, schools and clubs.

For both my sons Nils and Jens, and my wife Isabel, who allowed me to have “so much free time” to write this book. God bless my deceased father Egon, my mother Elisabeth, and my uncle Hans te Poel who recently passed away for the many fruitful discussions and arguments we had about national and international pro soccer.

Hans-Dieter te Poel


Dit boek draag ik op aan duits-nederlandse ouders En aan Opa en Oma Verhoef!

Peter Hyballa


Thanks to my friend, Peter!Thanks to my friend, Hans-Dieter

This book has been carefully written; however, no responsibility is taken for the accuracy of the details provided. Neither the authors nor the publisher can be held responsible for any damage or injury that results from the information provided.

Peter Hyballa & Hans-Dieter te Poel

Dutch Soccer Secrets

Playing and Coaching Philosophy – Coaching – Tactics – Technique

Meyer & Meyer Sport

Original title: Mythos Niederländischer Nachwuchsfußball© Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2011

Translated by Heather Ross

British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Dutch Soccer SecretsPeter Hyballa/Hans-Dieter te PoelMaidenhead: Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd., 2012

All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, no part of this publication maybe reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means now known or hereafter invented without the prior written permission of the publisher.This book may not be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise disposed of by way of trade in any form, binding or cover other than that which is published, without the prior written consent of the publisher.

© 2012 by Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd.Auckland, Beirut, Budapest, Cairo, Cape Town, Dubai, Indianapolis, Kindberg, Maidenhead, Sydney, Olten, Singapore, Tehran, Toronto Member of the World Sport Publishers’ Association (WSPA)www.w-s-p-a.orgISBN: 978-1-84126-763-0E-Mail: [email protected]


Foreword by René Meulensteen

Authors’ Foreword

1 Following the “Treasure Map” of the 2010 World Cup Runners-up

2 State of the Art

3 Talking About Talent

3.1 Talent Spotting

3.1.1 Talent Scouting

3.1.2 Youth Talent Scouting by the KNVB

3.1.3 Youth Talent Scouting by SC Heerenveen

3.1.4 Youth Talent Scouting by NEC Nijmegen

3.2 Talent Development from the Perspective of the KNVB

3.3 Talent Development in the Netherlands and Germany as Seen by the Dutch Technical ReviewTrainersMagazine

4 The KNVB Philosophy

4.1 The Dutch Youth Soccer Master Plan

4.2 Soccer as a Learning Process

4.2.1 “Techniek, Inzicht, Communicatie” – the TIC Model

4.3 Age Groups in Talent Coaching

4.3.1 Children (Pupils)

4.3.2 Junior Level

4.4 The KNVB Match System

4.5 The “Five-Phase Model” of Dutch Talent Development

5 The Dutch Youth Coach in Clubs and Associations

5.1 The Tasks of the Youth Coach

5.1.1 The Tasks of the Youth Coach at Dutch National League Club NEC Nijmegen

5.1.2 The Tasks of the Youth Coach in KNVB East District

5.2 From Coaching and Teambuilding to Management Style in Dutch Youth Coaching

5.3 Youth Coach Training in the KNVB

5.4 The KNVB Soccer Academy

6 Playing, Coaching and Training Philosophies in the Netherlands

6.1 The Zeist Vision in Youth Soccer

6.1.1 The KNVB Training Methodology

6.1.2 The Importance of Game Training in Dutch Youth Soccer

6.1.3 The Dutch 4v4 Training Game Form in Theory and Practice

6.2 Dominant and Offensive: The Playing and Training Philosophy of Louis van Gaal (German Champion and Cup Winner in 2010 and 2010 Champions League Finalist)

6.3 Detail and Technique-oriented: The Playing, Coaching and Training Philosophy of Huub Stevens (Austrian Champion 2010)

6.4 Individual Coaching: The Current Playing, Coaching and Training Philosophy of Ajax Amsterdam (Dutch Champions 2011)

6.5 Be Dominant and Create Positional Play: The Current Coaching and Training Philosophy of FC Twente Enschede (Dutch Champions 2010)

7 Dutch Technique Coaching in Theory and Practice

7.1 Technique Learning

7.2 Youth Technique Training Using Example Passing Drills With or Without Shots on Goal

7.3 From the Coerver Method to Coerver® Coaching

7.3.1 Technique, Speed and Self-Confidence: The Sparta Rotterdam Soccer Academy

7.4 “Soccer Technique”: The “René Meulensteen Method” and sportpartners

7.5 The Dutch Goalkeeping School Using the “Frans Hoek Method”

7.5.1 The Game is the Foundation: Interview with Thomas Schlieck (Goalkeeper Coach at German National League Club Arminia Bielefeld) About the Special Features of Goalkeeper Training in the Netherlands

8 Dutch Tactics Coaching in Theory and Practice

8.1 Classification of Tactics

8.2 The 1-4-3-3 System

8.3 The Four Main Phases of Tactics Training

8.4 Special Features of Dutch Tactics Coaching

8.4.1 Position-Specific Tactics Training

8.4.2 Playing Drills for “Ball-oriented pressing”

8.4.3 Playing Drills with Kaatsers1

8.4.4 Playing Drills for Set Pieces in Zonal Defense

8.4.5 Playing Drills to Open up the Game

8.4.6 Playing Drills for Team Tactics

9 Dutch Conditioning Training in Theory and Practice

9.1 The Zeist Vision and the Special Features of Conditioning Training

9.2 Soccer Conditioning: Soccer-specific Interval Training by Dr. Raymond Verheijen

9.2.1 5v5 Playing Drills (Verheijen & Hiddink)

9.2.2 The Dutch “Interval Shuttle Run Test (ISRT)”: A Conditioning Test for Soccer Players

9.2.3 For and Against Soccer Conditioning with Particular Reference to Modern Integrative Approaches (of Erik ten Hag [Assistant coach at PSV Eindhoven)] and Andreas Schlumberger [DFB])

9.3 Soccer-specific Coordination Training

9.4 Development-specific Youth Conditioning Training at FC Twente Enschede


1 In the Netherlands, the verb kaatsen has a general meaning of “hitting the ball.” However, in Dutch playing and training practice, Kaatsern has a specific meaning referring to the technique of “one touch” ball contact in all possible directions of play and is linked to searching for new running positions. For this reason, the term is retained throughout the book.

10 Talent Development at Ajax Amsterdam in Theory and Practice

10.1 The Previous Coaching Philosophy of Ajax Amsterdam

10.1.1 Ajax Talent

10.2 The Ajax Playing Style

10.3 Ajax Training

10.4 Ajax Coaching Staff

10.5 The New Ajax Model:Heroes of the Future

10.5.1 Ajax 2010: The Interview

10.5.2 The 7-12 Age Group

10.5.3 The 12-15 Age Group

10.5.4 The 15-18 Age Group

11 Conclusion and Outlook

12 Appendix

Electronic Media



Photo Credits


I am delighted to be asked to write the foreword for this very interesting book about various visions & strategies of developing young players. In my search to become the coach that I am at this present moment I have asked myself the following questions a lot. Why do I, as a coach, do the things that I do? Why do I train young players the way I do? And is this the right way? Why do I train youth players, and senior players in a different way? What is right? Where lies the truth? What is the truth? Plenty of questions to think about. Plenty of questions that set me out on a journey to discover what in my opinion are important key factors when it comes to identifying talent, developing potential and building successful teams.

Looking back on my road to discovery I can truly say that I can identify myself with every level in football. In my 30 year long coaching career I have worked at all levels in football. From the lowest Amateur teams to the highest and one of the most successful professional teams in the world, Manchester United. I have worked with U-7 and U-8 age groups all the way up to U-18’s. I have worked with boys & girls alike of moderate levels all the way up to young talented internationals to the top professionals of Manchester United with the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo to mention just a few. This work along the spectrum of football has enabled me to create the strong beliefs that I hold about identifying talent, developing potential and building successful teams.

Football is the most popular sport in the world, played in all corners of the globe. Culture and history have always played an important part in the popularity of football all over the world. Many changes have taken place in the last 30 to 40 years. Ranging from the physical, tactical, mental and technical aspects. Teams at the highest levels are fitter then ever and tactically better drilled. However, the same aspect that has made the difference over so many years is still in tact. It is still the players who possess the skills to be unpredictable in attacking play that make the difference for the team and the result. That was the case when players like Pele, Beckenbauer, Best, Cruyff and Eusebio were playing, and is still the case now. Look at players like Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi and Giggs. Developing technical skilful players who are able to dominate their opponent as well as being unpredictable in forward play: That to me is the core and heartbeat of my beliefs and philosophy in identifying talent, developing potential and building successful teams.

The answers to my questions about developing the new generation of young players lies in my opinion in analyzing the best teams and players in the world. They are the best because they make or have made the difference. In my search I spend many hours analyzing the qualities of the best teams of past and present. I also spent many hours trying to identify the qualities of the best players, past and present. Looking at the best defenders, midfield players and attacking players, I have identified the key qualities of successful teams and key qualities of world class players.

This information has formed the base and guidelines for my beliefs and philosophy that I have with regards to identifying talent, developing potential and building successful teams.

Kids of the modern era can't or don't play in the street or park as much. They grow up in a very fast and ever changing environment dominated by technology. Kids spend many hours in front of the TV playing the Wii, play station or Xbox live. Their eye-hand coordination is unbelievable, however their physical development stagnates.

Even more so that we all have an obligation to our current and next generation of young footballers that we provide them with the best possible environment and training methods, so they can enjoy the game and maybe become a future professional player that can meet de demands of the modern game.

Enjoy reading the various and different insights of all the professional people that have contributed to this interesting book. I hope it will help you on your journey to become the coach that you want to be with the beliefs that are YOURS!

Let's go and coach these kids!

René MeulensteenFirst Team CoachManchester United

Authors’ Foreword

The inspiration for writing our book Dutch Soccer Secrets is easy to identify: take two “soccer-mad” German soccer coaches, one raised in Westphalia (Germany) with a Dutch name and the other also raised in Westphalia with Dutch roots, both of whom are crazy about technique-oriented, creative and offensive soccer and who eagerly learn about and reflect critically on the ideal concept of our game that is afforded by an outstanding breeding ground of soccer talent.

But what are the secrets of attractive and effective youth development in soccer? Is there a kind of international, universally successful soccer playing, training and coaching philosophy? The answer is simple: what the soccer world has been raving about for decades is the Ajax model (and after the 2010 World Cup, the “offshoot” La Masia at FC Barcelona) and their Dutch soccer secrets.

Since David Winner's book Brilliant Orange, we know that there is an “…idea of Dutch soccer…” (2008, 13). “Then, in 1999, I finally got the chance to live in Amsterdam – the city of Ajax, the heart and soul of total soccer – and look at Dutch soccer and the culture that produced it. I concentrated on the subjects that mystified and fascinated me – the stuff that had always seemed just out of reach. As a teenager, I'd been close enough to the great Ajax and the great Dutch team to become transfixed, but I wasn't close enough to see them. Essentially, I'd missed the whole thing because I never saw them in person. When I started talking to former players and coaches, it quickly transpired that they were still out of reach” (ibid, 17).

In 2010, under Dutch coach Louis van Gaal and with Dutch national team players van Bommel and Robben, FC Bayern Munich were German champions and Cup winners, Champions League finalists, Louis van Gaal was Coach of the Year, Arjen Robben was Player of the Year in Germany, and the Dutch national team were World Cup runners-up in South Africa! The authors could never have dreamt of these facts before they started studying this subject.

So, to cut to the chase, what is the secret of Dutch soccer? This book is an initial attempt to answer the question.

In the jargon of our sport, it wasn't the result of a 2:0 score, but instead is the product of the hard work of coaches Hyballa and te Poel over the last few years, ably supported by the 18 collaborating Dutch interviewees, Frank Wormuth (Head of DFB soccer coach's education at the Hennes-Weisweiler Academy), graphic artist/designer David Siebers, the DFB high performance center player Jens te Poel and the proactive and extremely innovative Meyer & Meyer Sport, the specialist sports publisher. The authors are extremely grateful to all members of the team.

In this collaborative process that is typical of all good teams, after collecting qualitative data, the authors quite deliberately eschewed the assessment of data in the form of qualitative category formation and a scrutinizing, research methodical procedure: the expertise of very experienced Dutch soccer experts in theory and practice should at first be presented in a subject-specific way without further comment to enable the readers to freely form their own opinions. This “stab pass” into “free space” should be “taken” and “converted.” Enjoy!

Brief summaries in italics are included to allow the reader to read the book from any point.

In addition, the authors also stay “close to the man” in the description and explanation of the numerous training practice forms, i.e., to coin a soccer-specific phrase, as close as possible to typical Dutch terms used by coaches on the training and match pitch. We therefore hope that the key points of each game and exercise form can be graphically clarified for coaches and teachers without the need for further explanation.

Unfortunately, there is not space in this book to discuss the currently (and increasingly) important collaboration of schools, colleges and vocational education in the development of young talent.

Thanks also go to colleagues Franz-Josef Reckels (BDFL-Westfalen), Richard Saller, the sports scientist and sports pedagogue Dr. D. Memmert (DSHS Cologne), Dr. K. Roth (Heidelberg) and Dr. R. Naul (Essen-Duisburg and spokesman of the German Association of Sports Science Soccer Commission), the Federal Institute of Sports Science and the KNVB for the many deep insights into course details, coaching and training plans, procedural specifics, game concepts and German-Dutch friendships.

In an interview with Kicker (2010, ps 6-8), Arjen Robben and Louis van Gaal noted a change in relationships between Germany and the Netherlands. On the subject of rivalry, Robben commented, “It is there, but I think it has lessened. Germany and the Netherlands were eternal rivals. I like the German people a lot. I like living here. In the World Cup, the Dutch are usually glad when the Germans are eliminated. This time they hoped that we would meet in the final. We are also very similar” (Smentek & Salomon, 2010, p 7).

The authors hope for a profound, creative and respectful collaboration based on their “werkboek”: may the many talented young soccer “seedlings” grow in “nutrient-rich soil” and flourish for the benefit of youth soccer. We can all become more inquisitive, better and more understanding every day and all over the world.

Peter Hyballa and Hans-Dieter te Poel, DFB Soccer Coaches

1 Following the “Treasure Map” of the 2010 World Cup Runners-up

“The best way to teach soccer to children is to play with them, not tell them what they shouldn't do.”

Johan Cruyff (2002, p 25)

Underlying this quote from perhaps the greatest Dutch soccer player, Johan Cruyff, is an important and, as we shall see, also widespread approach to Dutch talent development, which involves accompanying and not patronizing young players throughout their soccer education. This book documents and analyzes how the accompaniment of children and young people is implemented and put into practice in the sport of the 2010 World Cup runners-up.

Particular focus is placed on sports pedagogy, didactics and methodology, as well as training science and kinesiology, although there will also be insights into the way the KNBV (Dutch Royal Football Association), with its regional associations and clubs, approaches talent development.

The most effective youth work in soccer is a topic that is discussed regularly. After World and European Cup tournaments, a particular talent development concept is always held up as an example (e.g., the DFB coaching concept in 2009). We also examine sports science research into the effectiveness of French, Italian, German or Dutch youth soccer coaching systems, as well as German Football League (DFL) evaluation concepts for the purpose of certifying the professional league youth high performance centers.

When they decided to write about Dutch Soccer Secrets, the authors’ main question was how a nation of around 16 million inhabitants (compared to around 80 million in Germany and 280 million in the USA) and around 1.2 million active soccer players (compared to around six million in Germany) can regularly provide:

•World class players (e.g., Cruyff, van Hanagem, Haan, van Basten, Rijkaard, R. Koeman, F. de Boer, Davids, Bergkamp, van Nistelrooy, van der Sar, van Bommel, Robben, van Bronckhorst, van der Vaart, de Jong, Sneijder, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Kuyt, van Persie)

•World Class coaches (e.g., Michels, Cruyff, Haan, van Basten, van Gaal, Beenhaker, Advocaat, Hiddink, Adriaanse, de Haan, R. Koeman, Rijkaard, Stevens, Rütten, van Marwijk)

• A national team that managed to end up as current World Cup runner-up after 120 minutes of play in South Africa.

World-class German players and coaches like Jürgen Klinsman and Rudi Völler and the Sports Director of German national league club FC St. Pauli, Helmut Schulte (formerly Youth Soccer Director at FC Schalke 04) ask themselves the same question, and are great admirers of the Dutch playing and coaching culture:

• “I find it really admirable that such a small country that for a long time has not had so many youth players as, for example, the DFB, has been at the forefront of world soccer since the days of Cruyff and Haan” (Klinsmann quoted in Hägele, 1996, p 54).

• “The Dutch have been playing the best soccer for years” (Völler quoted in Coenen, 1998, p 35).

• “Our Dutch neighbors have produced a good youth development program and FC Schalke 04 is delighted to use it as an example” (Schulte quoted in Reviersport, 2003, p 125).

Based on the authors’ own experience as top youth players and coaches, and the extensive analysis of Dutch and German literature and interviews, this book tries as it were to “bare the roots” of the expertise of the internationally highly rated Dutch soccer coaching in theory and practice (Flick, 1999; Hyballa, 1999, p 4; Kormelink, 2000, p 69; Pabst, 2001, p 38; Leerkes, 2003, p 56).

• What lies behind the methods and contents of the Dutch Soccer School (Secrets and Mythos) (Heflik, 1997, p 45; Kormelink, 2000, p 69; ibid, 2002, p 34)?

• Is there such a thing as a “Dutch Youth High Performance Philosophy?”

• “What is the secret of the Netherlands’ success?” (Hyballa, 2001, p 4).

The book proper starts in Chapter 2, under the heading “State of the Art,” which contains a presentation of the latest literature and research that should indicate the tools with which the issue can be identified and discussed. To this end, the authors have read, analyzed and assessed books, technical magazines, material from the Internet and coaching videos and supplemented them with interviews with experts on Dutch soccer (Chapters 6, 7, 9 and 10)2.

Chapter 3 describes the Dutch perspective on soccer talent in general and talent spotting in particular.


2 When translating terms, the authors refer to valid and reliable lexical and direct questioning by the authors.

Chapter 4 analyzes the KNVB with its ideas and conceptions relating to youth soccer development. The “master plan” (Chapter 4.1) is examined in detail in this context because it directly influences the composition and coaching of training groups in Dutch talent scouting.

Chapter 5 discusses in depth the role of youth coaches in the Netherlands. Youth coaches have a very high status in the Dutch coaching concept both in the Association and in the clubs. The acquisition of communication skills both on and off the pitch receives particular emphasis in Dutch youth coaching (“Coaching, Team Building and Leadership Style,” Chapter 5.2). The training of youth coaches and the newly formed KNVB soccer academies are examined more closely in sections 5.3 and 5.4.

Is there one single Dutch playing and coaching philosophy? The authors ask the KNVB and other nationally and internationally active Dutch players this question in Chapter 6.

Chapter 7 deals with game-oriented technique coaching (Chapter 7.1), the initiation, consolidation and variation of basic movement sequences according to the Coerver and René-Meulensteen methods (Chapter 7.3 and 7.4), as well as the Dutch goalkeeping school with the libero (sweeper) (Chapter 7.5).

Chapter 8 deals with the skills in tactics training that are implemented in the typical 1-4-3-3 system favored by the Dutch and position-specific tactics training with the aid of numerous illustrative training games.

Chapter 9 analyzes the great importance given to conditioning as a performancelimiting factor in soccer, which is very important in modern soccer.

In Chapter 10, we present the youth development of Dutch record champions Ajax Amsterdam and how it is currently evolving. Third parties often describe it as being an example for worldwide youth performance development in soccer. “All roads lead to Amsterdam. Everyone is trying to get on the Ajax bandwagon: the way youngsters are coached, the way soccer is played now – Ajax is always the example to follow” (Hägele, 1996, p 54).

Is the tradition of Dutch Total Soccer sustainable in the tension between the desire to play attractive soccer and winning matches? Are there ways of empirically identifying the exact key features of the Dutch playing and coaching philosophy through further studies? The authors address these and other questions in Chapter 11.

2 State of the Art

“Everything you know about is easy.”(Johan Cruyff, Nieuwe Revu, February 1995, quoted in Barend & van Dorp, 2006, p 194)

In order to be able to identify the current status of the theory and practice of Dutch youth soccer development, we draw on selected German, English and Dutch sources going back about 20 years. This extensive research is supplemented with narrative and illustrative interviews with selected Dutch soccer experts. Analyses of all available KNVB videos and DVDs, and observation of many playing and training sessions at the KNVB and at clubs in the Dutch national soccer league (Chapters 3, 5, 6 and 10, etc) support these qualitative studies. Through discussions with the youth coordinators of many leading Dutch clubs, such as René Hake of Twente Enschede, Olde Riekerink of Ajax Amsterdam, Iddo Roscher of NEC Nijmegen, Henk Heising of SC Heerenveen, Edward Sturing of Vitesse Arnheim and Danny Blind of Ajax Amsterdam, the authors have been able to gain deep insight into youth development work as currently practiced in the Netherlands. Consequently, quotes on the Dutch philosophy of soccer resulting from these interviews represent a preliminary analysis of the current situation.

3 Talking About Talent

“Fourteen-year-old players who would have had to move from the C juniors to the B juniors, were rejected because they were still lacking something physically. At that age, kids are still growing and also one is not simply rejected, but a third B junior team is created for the players if they are technically skilled.”(Johan Cruyff, Vrij Nederland, March 1981, quoted in Barend & van Dorp, 2006, p 49)

It is not only in the area of youth soccer that the concept of talent has been the subject of controversial discussions for many years all over the world. The knowledge, abilities and skills that a player acquires during his formation in the junior ranks are considered to be indicative of his future sporting progress. In order to structure a coaching plan for coaches, medical staff, officials and parents, the first general thing to establish is how the concept of talent is defined from different scientific perspectives. Specialist literature usually distinguishes between static and dynamic explanatory approach (Joch, 1992, p 83). The static talent concept comprises four criteria for the definition of a talent:

• Dispositions (ability).

• Willingness (will).

• Social environment (possibilities).

• Results (achievements).

Dynamic talent, on the other hand, is derived from an active and target-oriented process that has two main characteristics:

• The active process of change.

• Guidance through training and competition and pedagogical support.

Joch (1992, p 90) has developed an integrated definition of talent from both explanatory approaches, which is internationally recognized in modern high performance youth sport (Weineck, 2007, p 191).

“A person possesses or is a talent if, based on above-average ability, commitment and the possibilities of their environment (possibly match-proven), he obtains developable performance outcomes that represent the result of an active, pedagogically supported and, internationally guided process of change through training that is purposefully oriented toward a future high (sporting) performance level.”

As you will see in the following Chapters, this integrated definition of talent is very similar to the Dutch approach to talent spotting (see Chapters 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2 and 6.4) and therefore needs no further explanation at this point (see van Barneveld & Vervoorm, 1997, p 9; Pabst, 2001). Instead, the interested reader should refer to:

• The current findings from the talent diagnostics and talent prognoses of the Heidelberg, Cologne and Tübingen research groups around Prof. Dr. Klaus Roth (Heidelberg), Prof. Dr. Daniel Memmert (Cologne German Sports University) and Prof. Dr. O. Höner (Tübingen) for motor performance component tactics in sports games (with emphasis on soccer) (see Memmert & Roth, 2003, pp 44-70).

• the implementation and analysis of computer-supported testing for prognosisoriented “talent” development in soccer by the Austrian R. Werthner (2001, pp 6-12) (see also Neumann, 2009, pp 129-135).

The latter, which is also used in FC Bayern Munich's talent diagnostics, could, using the talent criterion “trainability” (Hohmann, 2001, p 141), be used as a dynamic talent diagnosis method in high performance youth soccer.

3.1 Talent Spotting

Talent spotting in Dutch soccer represents a special challenge due to the highly complex nature of the performance requirements and the size of the country. If we consider the current international status of diagnostics in high performance youth soccer, despite significantly improved instruments for prognoses regarding conditioning, technique and tactics, there is still a high degree of prognosis inaccuracy, as they concentrate mainly on the future performance of the players concerned. In general, it can be established that “at the start of a high performance sporting training program … the suitability of an athlete cannot be determined with sufficient accuracy until high performance age has been reached” (Weineck, 2007, p 204). Furthermore, new talent diagnosis procedures are very time consuming and labor intensive. Along with this, there is, as in high performance youth soccer in all countries, the problem of the so-called “theory practice and/or practice theory gap,” meaning is it possible when talent spotting to combine sports science findings with subjective empirical knowledge derived from the practice of soccer so that a transfer into soccer practice is actually possible (see van Barnefeld & Vervoorm, 1997, p 10, et al.)?

As you will discover in the following chapters, Dutch associations and clubs are trying, with the participation of sport science, to develop talent spotting models and procedures that involve criteria that can be derived from matches. The following high performance sport basic principle is therefore supported in the Netherlands. “The criteria for suitability must be derived from the structure of the peak performance level to be aimed for at a later date” (Hofmann & Schneider, 1985, p 49).

3.1.1 Talent Scouting

Precisely because of the complexity of soccer talent spotting and procedure criteria and because the establishment of a soccer-specific catalogue of features is always dependent upon the objective identification of constitutional, social, physical and mental features and/or feature complexes, associations and clubs are developing guidebooks to help during talent scouting and in coaching these players according to their performance level (see KNVB, 1996, p 34). The KNVB has formed stages to avoid the over or under training of talented youngsters in the training and development process that can lead to disgruntlement and a lack of motivation. The efficiency of the established selection process also impacts on the financial and organizational elements and structures of the association, regional associations and clubs.

As well as the talent scouting by the abovementioned institutions in the Netherlands, a “well functioning scouting system is the basis of and determines the quality of all talent development activities” according to Kormelink (1999, p 13). The scouting system should therefore be adapted to the content of each age group and “players from the B Juniors must possess different qualities than players from the D juniors” (KNVB, 1996, p 34). In the Netherlands, mastery of the match and the training process is the context for the scout's analysis and selection of talent.

According to the KNVB (ibid), ball control (technical abilities and skills) and game intelligence are the key parameters in the selection of talent. The physical coaching of juniors is considered a less significant factor. The KNVB supports the training of talent scouts, who represent, according to the opinion of the KNVB, the cornerstone of the entire youth development program in the Netherlands: “Scouting, the identification of talent, forms the foundation of the whole talent development program (ibid, p 37).

3.1.2 Youth Talent Scouting by the KNVB

In the Netherlands, it is assumed that the selection process in clubs and associations is not clear unless the selection criteria are transparent. The criteria upon which an assessment is based should be evident in matches and, in particular, the individual ability and skills of youth players from D juniors onward should be taken into consideration. Usually, F juniors and E juniors are considered to be too young for scouting purposes because the scouting process itself can often have a negative influence on the players’ personality development and hence their playing development at that age. That means in the Netherlands that KNVB scouts, who usually scout from D juniors level upward, do not lead training sessions, “…but let the kids play, and during and after a match establish the criteria. This only involves individual qualities of a talent within the team process” (van Amstel, 28.1.2003). So scouting is more of an observation process that focuses on the following criteria:

“Ball possession by your team; ball possession of the opposing team and the switch from ball possession to losing the ball and vice versa: In these match moments we can see how the talent behaves in certain situations.”

(van Loon et al., 1998, p 34)

The young players are also analyzed from a position-specific point of view, which means they should have specific abilities and skills in offensive and/or defensive game situations that are typical of their playing position. (see Kormelink, 1999, p 15).

3.1.3 Youth Talent Scouting by SC Heerenveen3

At SC Heerenveen, scouting generally takes place at junior4 and senior levels.

At the junior level, there are two different types of scouting:

• Scouting of E and D juniors (for soccer schools)

• Youth scouting of C to A juniors (see van't Haar, 1999a, p 43)

At the core of the work of the SC Heerenveen scouting department is communication with other scouts from the Netherlands and observing the matches of the KNVB national team. Furthermore, scouting also takes place in regions of the former Soviet republics, Germany and Belgium and especially in Scandinavia, which is particularly favored by the SC Heerenveen scouts because “the Scandinavian talents can adapt very quickly to the Dutch way of playing and living” (ibid, p 44). SC Heerenveen also works with scouts who continuously observe the development of young talented players in international leagues. Like the KNVB (see Chapter 3.2), SC Heerenveen is particularly careful not to remove talented young players from their familiar surroundings too soon. “At 13, 14 years old, talented, foreign young players are too young to move to the Netherlands,” says the former pro coach at SC Heerenveen and KNVB Association Coach, Foppe de Haan (currently Ajax Capetown) (quoted by Kormelink & Seeverens, 1999b, p 2).

SC Heerenveen looks at five aspects in its scouting:

1. Physical ability

2. Technical ability and skills

3. Resilience

4. Personality structure

5. Do the young talents have something special? (see van't Haar, 1999a, p 45)

When working with C juniors and above, the top scout primarily looks for specific qualities in the player such as concrete defensive play by a central defender, as demonstrated in positional play on the pitch.


3 Dutch national league club SC Heerenveen is the leading club in the province of Friesland. The club was founded in 1920, played in the 1993 Cup Final and was runner-up in 2000.

4 The terms junior and youth are interchangeable.

As position-specific training is not supposed to take place in the E and D juniors in The Netherlands, in these age groups, SC Heerenveen primarily scouts for technical ability and skills.

Young players who are particularly talented can play in the D1 and C2 junior teams of VV Heerenveen, partner club of SC Heerenveen. This intermediate step is necessary because in the Netherlands, the national soccer league is not allowed to organize matches for E and D junior teams.

All other scouted talent in the E and D juniors therefore remain at their home clubs and their associated social environments. SC Heerenveen has also abandoned its so-called talent days for these age groups, as is customary at clubs like Ajax Amsterdam and Bayern Munich. The scouted E and D juniors can only train together at the SC Heerenveen soccer school on Wednesdays, as the coaches, pitches and equipment are available there.5 At the start of the older C junior age group, the outstanding youngsters at SC Heerenveen can play and be directly nurtured by the club (see van't Haar, 1999a, p 46). SC Heerenveen wants these special arrangements to allow them to achieve an uninterrupted scouting, which, in the long term, leads into an uninterrupted, practical talent nurturing. The main purpose of SC Heerenveen's talent scouting is, as well as optimizing its own talent nurturing program, spotting talent for the benefit of its own professional team.

3.1.4 Youth Talent Scouting by NEC Nijmegen

On Feb. 19, 2010, Iddo Roscher, U14 coach and “Technical Manager” of the national league club's NEC Soccer Academy (Voetbalacademie) was interviewed about talent scouting at NEC Nijmegen, from which the authors have extracted the following quote:

“We don't look so much at whether a youngster plays well or badly. We are more interested in his ability and imagine whether in the future