Football Development Project: Kaizen Football Academy

Stu Jacobs started his Kaizen Academy back in 2010.
FAIRFAX NZ

Stu Jacobs started his Kaizen Academy back in 2010.

This week-long series examines football development in New Zealand and asks some of Wellington's prominent coaches to give their take on it. Wednesday's part four takes Liam Hyslop to the Kaizen Football Academy.

Kaizen Football Academy

Founded: 2010
Who's in charge: Stu Jacobs (Academy Director)
Club association (highest level): Wellington Olympic (Central League and under-17 Capital league)
Based: Wakefield Park in Berhampore and Alex Moore Park in Johnsonville
Players: 80, mainly under-14 to under-19, with a bit of work at under-12 level
Cost: $400 per school term, $1600 per year football fees
What do you get for that: Minimum of three field sessions per week, plus a game. Two gym sessions as well
Scholarships: Yes. Mix of full and partial
How many coaches: Four, although not all fulltime with Kaizen as they also work with Olympic, with the Kaizen players included in the sessions
Can the kids play for school: Yes, so long as club commitments allow it
Girls programme: Developing
Recruitment: Not really, mainly word out mouth

The Kaizen philosophy

Having coached at an Olympics, under-20 World Cup and assistant at A-League level, Jacobs decided in 2010 to put his money where his mouth was and start developing technically proficient footballers. Kaizen was born.

The first point of difference to Ole and the Phoenix is the price, at $1600 per year, although for that there is one less training session on the grass per week.

But that doesn't mean the training is any less effective. Jacobs is ever-present at trainings, which are conducted alongside Wellington Olympic's first team for the under-17s and under-19s. Those trainings include a host of former and current national league players who bring a high intensity level to each session. They ensure standards don't slip and are on hand to offer advice to the Kaizen players.

READ MORE:
*FDP: NZF's plan
*FDP: Team Wellington
*FDP: Wellington Phoenix Football Academy
*FDP: Ole Football Academy
*FDP: Can NZ be like Iceland?

The association with Olympic started last year, with Jacobs winning the Central League with the first team in his first season. The vision is a long-term one, but it remains to be seen if Olympic have the patience Western Suburbs have shown with Ole, with the first team struggling this year near the bottom of the table. The academy will continue regardless, but is in a much better position if it does stay attached to Olympic given they can bring players through the under-17 competition to Capital Premier and the Central League.

Jacobs also points to the influence of American James Prosser in getting kids into the US university system, although that is on a similar level to the Americans coaching out at Ole.

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How Kaizen sees the New Zealand football landscape

Jacobs said the growth of the academies could only be a good thing for football in New Zealand.

"Now these academies are in the marketplace you're getting better coaches who are more qualified, the kids are spending more time on the grass under their tuition, so I think certainly the by-product of that is NZF is getting better players when they get to the national teams.

"They're getting better players purely from the fact they're spending more time on the grass. For me, I could swing from the trees and go 'I'm the best coach in New Zealand, come and train under Stu Jacobs', but I won't. It's how much time you spend there and who you spend it with and the education you're getting."

The improvement in training was night and day to even 10 years ago, let alone what Jacobs encountered when he was coming through the ranks in Wellington in the 1980s.

"It's having the right programme with the right people with the right playing outcomes...then you're going to produce good players I think.

"The Phoenix have got that right, we've got that right, Ole have got that right, no doubt there are other organisations around New Zealand that have got that right. I think the kids nowadays are lucky, because I spoke to our 17s and said 'listen, when I was growing up, I used to go to Miramar Park, under one floodlight, and the warmup was 10 100s and then it was into forwards against the backs. That was it, Tuesday, Thursday, play on the weekend'. That was the national league. Now you've got GPS systems on kids at training, it's all monitored and really good staff because they're educated. I think we all bring a different element to that, which the kids are lucky to have."

A sour point of the current system was the selection of overseas-raised players for national teams, pointing to Australian born-and-raised Dane and Jai Ingham being selected for the All Whites this year.

"You could ask why are they being picked? Because we were told at 11 years of age that you had to do NTC [National Talent Centre] to get picked for New Zealand? It's the best players they'll pick. We'd like to think we can produce good players and that will work as well."

Tomorrow: Team Wellington's Jose Figueira puts forward his ideal youth pathway involving all of the national league clubs.

 - Stuff

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