Another football season will soon be coming to an end and a few thousand football academy and centre of excellence players will be attending their second assessment of the year. For some, the April assessment could be the last if they receive the dreaded YD7 release form.
For parents and players alike, the April assessments can be a nervous time as coaches up and down the country write their reports and sift through the payers that they wish to retain for next season.
For some parents and players the next week or so could bring an end to many years of chasing up and down the country attending matches. Normal life could be about to resume now there’s no more requirement to train three times a week! At last, some mum’s can forget about the need to dash home from school, force-feeding their son whilst trying to find the training kit, boots, and the bloody shin pads again!
Whilst the thought of not having to run around like a lunatic chasing up the motorway every other day, coupled with the thought of all that money you are about to save in fuel and bottles of Lucozade Sport, for some kids and parents April will be a depressing month as the daunting truth that academy life is about to end.
Players as young as 9 will now be getting told that they are not good enough to be signed on for another season!
Some will leave with their confidence shattered. Others will find another professional club or return to the Sunday League.
For the older boys that have spent several years at the same club, receiving the news that they are no longer wanted can be a shattering blow for both players and parents as ties are severed with friends and acquaintances that have been made over many years.
For some players in the under 15 age groups the reality of life after football could be about to hit home as they discover that they are not going to be offered a scholarship. The end of the dream has finally arrived!
For the players that are kept on its business as usual!
A few months off before returning to the club in early August if your club is on the breadline, which most are. For the lucky ones, mainly at Premiership Academies, they could be going on football trip’s abroad during the closed season, or playing in tournaments against other top flight academies! For most kids, the closed season means no training, no matches, and a well-earned summer holiday. The only competitive football is likely to be played at football galas up and down the county as many academy players masquerade as Sunday League players once again and hook up with their old teams once again!
For most players, once August arrives, its back to training to discover who the new coaches are! The usual routine of rushing down the motorway, buying a week’s supply of sports drinks, and eating dinner at 9.30pm soon returns.
Players are given the customary fixture list of all the forthcoming matches over the new season and look forward to the ones against clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea.
Come late August the friendly matches start again with the full match programme starting the first weekend of September. Under 9’s, 11’s & 13’s play matches together, for example at home the first week, with the 10’s, 12’s and under 14’s playing away that week and so on rotating home and away each week of the season. The early Sunday mornings return with the requirement to get your son to the club at the crack of dawn for the customary team coach trip to the away matches.
For the kids who are about to start their first season at an academy, the harsh reality of top flight youth football begins to dawn on them during their first competitive match of the season. They soon discover that the time and space they had in the Sunday League has suddenly vanished and they no longer look like their Sunday League team’s best player!
For the kids that have been released, some will continue to play competitive football at another academy or centre of excellence, but for many it’s back to the Sunday League or a different sport altogether!
Finally, the 2012-13 season will bring some significant changes to the football academy world as we know it with the introduction of the Football league Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). Many clubs may still not know which category they will be in after the start of next season as they await the results of the forthcoming Football League inspections that will take place at all professional clubs that wish to operate as a football academy.
For the Premier League clubs, category one beckons and most Football League clubs will be setting their sights on category two. Many lower league clubs will end up in category three whilst a number of clubs may well close down their youth programme altogether!