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Academy Series - Part I

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich is clearly a club steeped in tradition. They are most likely to win their 26th Bundesliga title this spring and have hoisted the Champions League Cup five times. They have been the primary supplier of players to the German National Team, which has won four World Cups (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014) and three European Championships (1972, 1980, and 1996).

The Bayern academy and philosophy typifies many of the attributes associated with the Bavarian people – perfection, attention to detail, unity, diversity and innovation. The club motto speaks to this, Mia san Mia. This translates to ‘We are who we are’ and likely is as accurate as you can get in footballing terms.

Players are expected to play possession-based football and constant movement is always the standard. The measurement for quality is seldom the score line, but rather the style and fluidity of the football on display. Efficiency is a training hallmark as it helps to eliminate needless running.

The team always operates as a unit and players understand their role is to serve the team over themselves. This team unity philosophy has been furthered under the management of Pep Guardiola as he has been known to even require players to carry the goalposts onto the pitch, because he wants everything done as a team. Further to that academy players have access to the senior team’s training session to see how the players under Guardiola’s tutelage operate and carry themselves. The intention being to show them what the finished product looks like. Youth players often join the senior team in training camps as well.

Specific to training passes are often counted. This is consistent with Guardiola’s belief that 10 to 15 passes must be made to start an attack from the back through the midfield. Ball circulation has become a staple of Bayern Munich’s football and possession is the team’s best form of defense. When the ball is lost, the team presses to recover possession and begins circulating the ball and probing for attacking opportunities. They are trained to have an innate understanding of space on the pitch and are able to effectively occupy that space with a minimal amount of effort.

Paul Breitner, club legend and ambassador recently made the statement, “The most dominating person at FC Bayern is the ball.” That is the guiding principle at FC Bayern youth academy said Breitner. Training and development is designed around using the ball in order to teach and improve technical skills from an early age. At first glance this may seem like an obvious statement, however many programs – particularly here in the U.S. – put an unusually high emphasis on performance enhancement. In other words, spending time increasing speed, agility and power without the use of the ball. When given the choice to do fitness work or utilize the ball in training they will always choose the ball.

Training is age-specific but the competition is often against older teams to provide a challenging and competitive environment for players in Bayern’s youth system to compete against. FC Bayern is also known for it categorization of players in a multitude of competencies. Players are identified as leaders, role players (who can play a variety of positions with proficiency), and squad players. Part of the categorizing is the assessment of targeted growth plans for each individual – all based on the same system of play so there are no surprises when players are integrated into the first team.

One unique aspect of the club is their use of so-called Talent Day’s. These are mass weekend tryouts for admission into the academy. These tryouts are very rigorous and typically involve over 500 players from all over Germany and the world. The attributes they are looking for are quite simplistic and derived from the simple run of play. They don’t specifically test any technical skills – no one dribbles through cones – they just let the kids play. Attributes they look for are; how good is his movement, coordination and most of all, does he put his heart and soul into his football. Emotion and desire mean everything to them. Approximately seven players from that group will make it to the Bayern Munich Junior Team.

The meticulous approach at Bayern guarantees players are part of the machine. Players fit the system; the system doesn’t fit the player. The education Bayern Munich instills in its players revolves around versatility, intelligence, technical and physical dominance on the pitch. As such, individualized coaching is provided for each player as they are ultimately significant investments. The organization will analyze character, footballing ability, capacity to learn complex systems of play, growth potential, ability to handle difficulty while absorbing skills, honing technique, and maximizing a player’s mental and athletic output. Part of the evaluation process is personality testing where players are assessed in areas including confidence, sensitivity, arrogance and humility. This approach ensures complete development. Those who fall short will likely not succeed at Bayern. However, there is very high likelihood they will be successful elsewhere, which in the end is a success for the club too.

Want to try a Bayern Munich drill? How about trying this one on for size...

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