Aspire Academy places its students with a whole range of external teams – involving different systems and different demands. Our strategy is specifically geared towards the development of the individual player – towards his technical-tactical, physical and mental skills. To be able to hold their own in their teams, Aspire Academy students need above all to possess one quality: game intelligence. Players need to be able to understand the game in order to understand their role and their responsibility in the game, irrespective of formation or scenario – and to be able to apply their skills effectively. Our biggest task is to make sure our players understand the logic and structure of football, in any given situation. A good player is a rather active player being aggressive and wanting to play adominant role in the game.
Aspire Academy scouts the world for the most competent coaches it can find for its teams and its players as individuals – for one simple reason: coaches are the interface between the game and the players. Any player‘s development will be dependent on the quality of his coaches. It is the goal and the responsibility of our coaches to make sure that the players learn what they have to learn. But they also have to make sure students understand what they‘re learning and why they are learning it. So it‘s absolutely crucial for our coaches to possess superb communication skills. They also have to be able to motivate students, to get the very best out of them. This is especially important, because sometimes players aren‘t even aware of their full potential. Aspire Academy coaches are specialised in the respective age group with which they are working. Each age group has its own challenges and priorities. A coach has to understand what‘s going on in the mind of a player of a particular age, what the next stage in his development should be. A good junior coach knows that his job is to help a player to develop, and that his development is a work-in-progress. Overall they have to have the opportunity to be excellent footballers at the end of their development.
Qatar is only a small nation, so naturally the talent pool is smaller compared with other countries – that‘s why it‘s even more important to really nurture individual athletes and leverage their full potential. On an organisational level, this means that all of the key players in the footballing nation of Qatar have to be pulled together. There are already joint ideas and initiatives between Aspire, the QFA (Qatar Football Association) and the clubs of the QSL (Qatar Stars League). We have built up a collaborative network which enables our players, even after leaving the Academy, to compete at the highest level – in the QSL or with foreign clubs. We now need to maintain and further expand this network. All eyes are on the 2022 World Cup, of course. The players destined to represent Qatar in this tournament will come from this environment. Some of them are in a great position already – having also come to recognise the World Cup as a real opportunity for themselves and for their nation. But 2022 must not be regarded as the final destination, it is merely the first big milestone in the roadmap for long-term development. Even more important than the World Cup itself is what we are cultivating on our path to the World Cup – a new culture of competition, new methodologies and a winning mentality. The idea is for football in Qatar to benefit from the 2022 World Cup for many years to come.
While categorization is done on a general level, training loads of a football player can vary based on rather biological than on chronological age. The Aspire Academy Football program is divided into two yearly blocks. We consider the following teams and age groups as relevant to our program: Feeder Teams (U-9/U-10 and U-11/U-12) and Aspire Academy Teams (U-13/U-14, U-15/U-16 and U-17/U-18).
Feeder Teams U-9/U-10
During these two years the aim is to develop game-related techniques with the emphasis on fun and enjoyment. The coach creates an appropriate learning environment to enable players to master the ball and to foster their natural development through playing small sided games. There is a small amount of unopposed technical practice and instruction as required, however the amount of tactical information is minimal in Year 1 and limited in Year 2. The players experience different activities, play many small sided games - 1 v 1, 2 v 2, 3 v 3, 4 v 4 - and experience playing in different positions including goalkeeping. By the end of the stage, the students have learnt how to act with the ball purposefully.
Feeder Teams U-11/U-12
This is an important age range for acquiring a good technical foundation and to continue the development of game related techniques. The coach creates an appropriate learning environment to enable players to master the ball and move towards development via opposed situations while encouraging creativity. Possession practices are directional if possible to encourage awareness and receiving the ball to enable the player to play forwards. A host of tactical situations are introduced. The overall emphasis for the age group is to learn through playing small sided games.
Aspire Academy Teams U-13/U-14
These age groups represent the first two years as full time Aspire student-athletes for the majority of the players. The aim is to continuously build on the work done in the Feeder Teams and to develop technical competency and ball mastery. Our goal is to develop players with the confidence to play with both feet. There is emphasis on directional passing practices and developing 1 v 1 proficiency. The players will make the transition to playing 11 v 11 football and will need the basic tactical knowledge on a group level to enable them to perform within this different environment.
Aspire Academy Teams U-15/U-16
As the players get older the emphasis is on developing tactical proficiency on a group level as well as enhancing tactical skills on a team level. The coach incorporates proper passing into sessions such as switching play, receiving into playing through the thirds or midfield players playing side on. At this stage, there is still an obvious need to work on technical development and morning sessions can be used for this work that is covered in isolation.
Aspire Academy Teams U-17/U-18
At this stage sessions are aimed more at individual players or small groups of players always relating to specific game situations. These sessions develop strengths and improve weaknesses. The players spend more time analyzing their performance both individually and as a team and developing their decision making and their ability to perform effectively. The main focus changes to ensuring that players leave Aspire Academy as fully equipped as possible to play at a high level.