Atlanta United academy manager Tony Annan laid out his plan for how the academy will work with the first team and the challenges within his role in this question and answer session.
The academy is under construction as part of the team’s headquarters in Marietta. Tryouts across each of the team’s age groups are being scheduled and games will start this summer.
Q: What are the goals for your job?
A: I will take care of the players, the players’ development and also coach management, day to day. Richard (Money) is responsible for the planning and implementation of the curriculum. What falls on me is No. 1, the players are educated in the right way and looked after in the right way. No. 2, is the coaches implement Richard’s system.
Q: When you say look after them, what is involved with that?
A: First and foremost is education, making sure that they do well in school. Not all of the kids will be pros, we know that. Next target on the agenda is making they get into college and get their education. Hopefully, along with a welfare officer (counselor) that we will hire, we will be able to take care of them and make sure their grades are up to scratch and we can give them the support they need.
They are going to spend a lot of time at the football club training. We don’t want the homework and education to go away. When I say looking after them, I mean health, education, their overall well-being.
Q: The ratio of practices and training to games, what do yall envision?
A: Keeping the game as the main thing is important, so meaningful games, not playing too many tournaments, not playing too many games. We will be in the DA (Developmental Academy) system so they will set our games for us. It’s important that we have an international trip with our kids so we can expose them to the international level and show them were the bar is actually at.
The training will be four nights a week with the fifth optional. We will also do individual development plans. Our goal long term is to have players in a school system that is accessible during the day so that we can get a few more hours with them during the day. That won’t work for everybody. Not all players are on that path or will choose that path. That would be where we’d like to get to: more hours training and the game is the main reward.
Q: What are the challenges in your role?
A: Challenges so far is getting the right staff. We’ve canvased the country and feel like we’ve got a good group of guys that we are choosing from. We’ve had a lot of interviews that have gone well. It’s been challenging to find the right fit for Richard and myself. We really want to be a tight-knit, close team.
Obviously, we have tried our best to build relationships in the community with other youth clubs. We don’t feel like we are competing because we are a different animal all together. But, some of those guys are not willing to get on board and support the program. That’s their prerogative. We will keep trying to make those relationship and inroads. Overall, I’d say 90 percent of the city is behind the club and have sent a lot of players to us.
It’s been a challenge but it’s also nice to see a lot of people get behind it.
Q: The tryouts, are they going to be only within the city, or will you go around the state and the southeast?
A: We would love this to be an Atlanta academy. We want kids from this city who love this city. We want it to feel like an Atlanta academy. I know a lot of models in the U.S. are get out and find them everywhere. I think the pool of players in Atlanta is so rich and diverse that we can put teams on the field without going far afield. We may eventually but to start this academy we want it to be an Atlanta academy with Atlanta players and Atlanta parents that support the first team, as well. That’s what we envision.
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