A world class academy in professional football: The case of Ajax Amsterdam
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionScandinavian Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology (SJSEP). 2020, 2 33-43. https://doi.org/10.7146/sjsep.v2i0.119746
The holistic ecological approach puts an emphasis on the environment in which prospective elite athletes develop. Applying the holistic ecological approach, this article examines talent development among male under-19 football players at Ajax Amsterdam which has a history of successfully developing several of its juniors to top-level international players. Principal methods of data collection include interviews, participant observations of daily life in the environment, and analysis of documents. The environment was centred around the relationship between players and a clubhouse community consisting of a team of coaches, teachers, experts, and managers that helped the players to focus on: Handling dual careers (sport and school), developing mental toughness, social skills and work ethic. Furthermore, the environment was characterised by a strong, open, and cohesive organisational culture based on each player as an investment, social responsibility and individual development before winning matches. We argue that the holistic ecological approach holds the potential to inspire coaches and practitioners to be sensitive to and analyse not only the individual player’s athletic development but also the overall strategies and organisational settings, in the talent development environment.