Message to all leaders in Talent Development and Academy Directors

Hugo Schoukens, CEO & Founder of Double Pass, has a message to all leaders in Talent Development and Academy Directors. 


“Dear leaders in Talent Development, dear Academy Directors, dear ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I hope that you and your family are healthy and well.

It is the harsh reality… A black Swan has landed (I refer hereby to the book “The black Swan” of Nassim Nicolas Taleb, 2007)

And yes, today we are confronted with a rare, unexpected, highly improbable event with a huge impact on different aspects of our society, sports society and our way of life.

It is also a certainty other black swans will probably land in the future (hereby I refer to the website and the book “the uninhabitable Earth” (David Wallace-Wells, 2019)).

The questions are now:

  • How to build robustness (infragility) to these impactful events and more importantly how to turn them into opportunities?
  • When will we return to ‘normal’ and what does ‘normal’ mean?
  • Will deglobalisation, social distancing, remote work, accelerated e-business and climate approach be part of the new normal and the new social and economic world?

At Double Pass, our team has reflected on these questions. Especially on deglobalization: closed borders, lockdowns, restriction on the movement of people, etc., which may lead to thinking again more local and national, focusing more on home-grown productivity.

So, this will have consequences for strategies and operations of companies, sports organisations and for your club/Academy.

Double Pass created a contingency plan based on 3 scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: we are back to normal within 6 months;
  • Scenario 2: we are back to normal within 1 year;
  • Scenario 3: there will be a ‘new normal’.

For scenario 1 and 2 we developed a survival kit; a short-term plan to bridge the gap until we will return to normal.

For scenario 3 we installed a new strategic committee discussing the ‘new’ normal by disruptive thinking.

To my opinion, it will be opportune for you as leaders in Talent Development, Academy Directors at professional and amateur clubs, to develop your own action plan. Specifically, to successfully bridge the gap for this challenging period.

We have translated our plan into an action plan for the talent development system of your club.  Our hope and objective is this plan will allow you to reflect on your situational context, stimulate your thinking and transfer it into action in your club immediately.

The club/academy stakeholders: for who are you doing this:

1. Your staff (heads of, coaches, support staff);
2. Your current players and their parents;
3. The new (to) recruit(ed) players;
4. Your community;
5. Your bosses (owners, board, CEO).

What could be the actions towards your stakeholders:

1. Your staff

  • Most of them are working from home today. It is not only their place for work but also – with the kids at home-  this became a place for school, for daycare, for recreation. We advise to help your staff in finding a well-balanced (and well structured) environment. We think that you and your heads of/ coordinators of the different departments can support them by organising proactively and on a regular basis individual talks with them. Besides these talks be available ‘at their convenience’ for all their questions;
  • This period is probably a momentum to further invest in development and innovation of your Talent Development system: philosophies, programmes, processes, technology, monitoring and of course the preparation of the post-coronavirus period together with your staff;  try to stimulate their go-for-it mentality, their thoughts and creativity individually and in collective meetings;
  • Be clear as a leader about your aspirational vision and strategy for the academy, the financial situation of the academy and the club and about their jobs.

2. Current players and their parents

  • Be visible and connected with your players and their parents and try to have communication every two weeks via your coaches or your support staff (try to understand their situation, their mindset, in general empathize with them);
  • To safeguard the readiness of your players during this lock down period, share with them training programmes taking in consideration indoor and outdoor opportunities; all aspects of development (Health, physical, mental, technical/tactical) should be included; For example: you may give them assignments and request their parents to make a video of their actions;
  • Consider this period as an opportunity to further elaborate on your Football Philosophy, curriculum, standardized exercises, game analysis with your players in individual and collective digital sessions; to elucidate your code of conduct for the parents and their role as a parent of a football player.       

3. New (to) recruit(ed) players

  • If your to recruit list of players is complete for the next season. Convincing the new player to sign is now your target. We advise you to organise ‘pre’-onboarding digital sessions by means of sharing video’s about infrastructure, culture and philosophy of the academy, testimonials of coaches and players, and setup video talks with players and parents;
  • In case your to recruit list is not completed. With regard to the younger age categories, we would suggest to intensify your relations with the satellite clubs (and their staff); your regional scouts and player informers. Use digital scouting systems for the older age categories.
  • Once players are selected, use also pre-onboarding digital sessions to convince the players and invest in talks with these players and their parents.

4. Your community

  • It is the momentum to enhance also your relations with the local government, schools, community clubs, sponsors, parents, underprivileged kids, disabled, and other stakeholders of your community;  
  • Organise webinars on different topics for your audience: presentation of your academy; educational programmes; training programmes;
  • Stimulate interest of the community to become a fan of the academy; the academy the place to be during game days… to meet and greet friends.

5. Your bosses (owner, board, CEO)

  • Install a digital “kitchen cabinet”, i.e. the setup of an ‘informal’ relationship line with your bosses and organize proactively phone and or video talks with them;
  • Convince them to continue to invest (even more) in the Academy, the central pillar of your club’s Business model and in developing homegrown players; the transition of homegrown players will contribute to a positive P&L of the club;
  • Share with them your action plan (progress and updates from staff, players, and the community; open discussion about your role and position in the club (which is to be part of the sport technical decision making committee).

Ladies and gentlemen, dear Academy Directors, dear leaders in Talent Development, I wish you a lot of creativity and a go-for-it mentality in creating a sustainable reason of existence of your academy and a lot of success when we will be in the (new) normal!

You are welcome to share your thoughts with us and we are available for discussion.

Stay Healthy and best regards.”

At your service, on behalf of Double Pass,

Hugo Schoukens
CEO & Founder

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