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Academy

INTERVIEW: Dan Bolas reviews the Academy season and talks about the Sky Blues development philosophy

31 May 2022

Coventry City Academy Manager Dan Bolas has been looking back on the season for the Sky Blues youngsters.

With the campaign now at an end, the City Academy chief has been able to look back on a season where the operations of the Academy, based at the Alan Higgs Centre, has been able to return to normal after the effects of the Pandemic, which has helped the young players.

"It’s been really good," said Bolas about the 2021/22 season.

"With COVID not being a thing of the past but something that we’ve all learned to live with and become a little more manageable, it’s given the boys the opportunity to have a little bit more of a consistent season across all of the age groups.

"We had the Under 18s in over the lockdown period to keep them going but the schoolboys programme was a bit stop-start, and we’ve been very fortunate this year to have a consistent programme. That’s given us a good opportunity to keep on developing the players, keep on working on how we want them to improve as individuals, how we want to develop the philosophy of how we play."

With the players in the Academy regularly, the Sky Blues coaches have had increased contact time with the players and the youngsters have been able to continue their develop at the Club.

"The young players have taken a holistic approach to their learning as well, Bolas said.

"Going to the gym a little bit more, doing more analysis work with them and making them well rounded individuals as well as well rounded footballers.

"There’s an added appreciation for being back in the building and being able to do some of the things that they couldn’t do before – little things like being able to get changed as a group and as a team together before games, whereas previously they were having to arrive in kit due to the COVID regulations.

"Also being able to have a team talk and get a group of players together in a class room before a training session or before a game and show them stuff on a tactics board, again which was restricted when we were limited in access to the buildings.

"I do think it’s given players an added appreciation for what they are doing and the programme that they are in now on a day-to-day basis."

Bolas, who joined the Sky Blues in October 2019, also took the opportunity to explain the principles and theory behind the approach being taken to develop the young players at the Academy, making sure that they are challenged regularly on and off the field.

Bolas explained:

"Through the schoolboy programme it is about development and we like to spike the boys development. We look at making games where it will be difficult and we don’t expect the boys to win – we expect them to be challenged and expect them to work really hard to get success in those games.

"We also try and put games in where they will dominate the ball and have lots of possession and time on the ball, and that’s been part of the development philosophy over the last 12 months to 2 years.

We’ve seen our Under 9s teams play in tournaments down in London, playing at Nottingham too, as well as their regular games programmes. That the same with the other age groups up to our Under 15s, who have played lots of different games ranging from grassroots academies  at 16 years old, so playing up and age group and really spiking the challenge physically for them, to going to places like Manchester City, Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion, who are Category One Academies."

The games programme varies across age groups, with some having more competitive matches than others as part of their season. However, the Academy makes sure that fixtures that are scheduled provide different challenges and types of opposition to really test the young Sky Blues player.

"For the game programme we have for Under 15s it’s been a real mix," said Bolas.

"We’ve played Category One teams in friendlies and Category Two teams in friendlies, for the younger boys it’s a real mix – from the top end of Category One to sides who are lower end of Category Three, who have a different philosophy to ourselves.

"It helps them playing different types of opposition and it’s a really important part of their development journey – they never play they the same game twice."

Providing this mix of fixtures is matched with provided different challenges and environments for different players, based on how the coaches see the players as developing. 

Bolas said:

"We speak a lot in the Academy about players not having the same season twice. They don’t play the same opposition in the same position each season.

"If we have a player who we think is a late developer, they might play an age group down. Not because we class it as down in terms of a weaker level, but actually that might give more success with the ball because their physical limitations or their development hasn’t happened at that stage.

"In the same way, for boys flying in their age group or performing really well, it might be an opportunity for them to go and play an age group up or play in a different position in their own age group, where you’ve then got to really challenge and develop your own game."


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