Aberdeen’s head of youth academy coaching Gavin Levey thinks every youngster should be coming back from the coronavirus shutdown a better player.
The Dons’ development department have been having fun during the enforced suspension of all football due to Covid-19, posting widely-shared and viewed videos of kids – many pre-academy graduates under 11 years old – and adults carrying out impressive homework drills on social media.
Among the skills demonstrated by the kids are keepy-ups with a tennis ball, keeping a ball up against a wall and dribbling.
Levey – who is working from his Balmedie dining room at the moment – says the unprecedented situation which has seen staff and players, all the way to the first team, exiled from Cormack Park and Pittodrie, has been a chance to remind youngsters of the value of individual practise.
He explained: “The important thing here, when you look at all of the good players who have come through the academy to the first team or gone on to play at other clubs, and we remind parents of this, it’s not necessarily what they do at the academy it’s what they do away from the academy. How much they practise.
“It has to be focused practise. You say to kids ‘what have you been working on?’ and they say ‘free-kicks in the back garden’. But how many free-kicks do you get in a game?
“Yes they’re important, but it has to be focused practise that’s about making your strengths stronger and making areas of weakness better.
“There’s no excuse now with the time they’re going to have.
Whilst we’ve no matches or training, one of the @AberdeenFC U11s used the extra time to become the first player to complete Level 6 of our homework programme. Perseverance & his desire to practice has been excellent. Well done O-C! 👏 pic.twitter.com/65RGaDVt2k
— Aberdeen FC Youth Academy (@AberdeenFCYouth) March 15, 2020
“If there’s going to be, let’s just say, a three-month shutdown, then every single kid should be coming back two-footed.
“Because if you’ve been told you’ve got 12 weeks to be able to control, pass and strike a ball with both feet, you have time.
“All the evenings and all the weekends, with the weather getting better as well.
“They might have to go online for inspiration and research things, but the internet’s there and they’ve got the time to develop.
“I saw a joke under one of the Twitter posts about how we’ll look back on coronavirus and how it helped football.
“I still think they’ll miss the team environment and professional coaching at the various academies, but having the chance for focused practise and to develop yourself as an individual, there is no excuse.”
😮 Tennis Ball tekkers & top bins 🗑
— Aberdeen FC Youth Academy (@AberdeenFCYouth) March 23, 2020
Levey’s colleague Liam McGarry, who oversees the pre-academy players the club work with, has been surprised by the reaction to the skills videos – which have inspired a social media movement of sorts.
He said: “The level six video was the first one we put on, a couple of weeks ago.
“I’d said to the players five or six weeks ago, whoever passes level six first would get put on the Twitter page.
“I didn’t foresee what would happen, but we got such a good response we decided to keep it going.
“I imagine now it’ll motivate the players to keep doing their individual homework, hoping – if the video’s good enough – they can get on social media and be viewed by 100,000 people, with people like Eoin Jess, Richie Ramsay and Judy Murray commenting.”
The Reds’ youth academy staff were prepared for the coronavirus shutdown and, as well as setting homework for the youngest talents, have supplied the older academy kids with individual fitness and technical programmes, as well as other tasks, to perform on their own.
Levey says the current situation means players are responsible for “owning their development” as they try to make their way in the game.
INSPIRE PRACTICE – FRIDAY WK 2
Alfie – Player Led Homework
🔴 Receiving to finish: Size 5 Ball
⚪️ Receiving to finish: Mini Ball
🔴 Receiving to finish: Tennis Ball
⚪️ Volleys & Touch: Size 5 Ball
🔴 Volleys & Touch: Tennis Ball
⚪️ Volleys & Touch: Mini Ball#InspirePractice pic.twitter.com/BCPgfQuDqf
— Aberdeen FC Youth Academy (@AberdeenFCYouth) March 27, 2020
The youth academy are looking forward to getting back to Cormack Park, according to the coach, as well as rescheduling trips to Continental tournaments which have been disrupted by Covid-19.
Levey added: “We’ve got a lot of international tournaments booked throughout the year we hope will be OK.
“We’ve accepted some invitations in Belgium this year and, at the moment, at most of the tournaments we attend, the Belgian teams like Anderlecht really set a standard. We’ve also got Holland and Norway.
“Two have been cancelled so far and hopefully we can reschedule later in the year.
“We’ve also got staff study trips to Scandinavia which have been cancelled as well, but – once again – hopefully they’re rescheduled.
“Everyone’s having the same difficulties and we’re just trying to make the best of the situation.”