The psycho-pedagogical service provided by the AC Milan Youth Academy features two teams that work respectively on the pitch and inside the residence that houses some youth players.
The Pitch Team is made up of five professional figures: 2 psychotherapists, 1 psychologist, 1 pedagogist, 1 educator. Also two trainees participate in the work of the Team.
They carries out several activities which can be summarized as follows:
- Planning, developing and managing educational and performance-oriented actions
- Planning and performing ad-hoc training sessions
- Updating the players' personal file
- Drafting the match evaluation forms
- Monitoring the school performance
- Planning, analysing and assessing the tools adopted
- Mentoring, monitoring and managing individual players and taking care of special situations
- Supporting, mentoring and training the coaching staff
- Relations with the families
- • Participation in training and refresher courses at other Elite Sports Clubs (specifically, the Team has been part of the mission with the athletic and nutrition area at RCD Espanyol and FC Barcelona in order to get to know the management of psycho-educational services of the two clubs and reporting about our activities with a view to share the best practices. We met the Espanyol psychologist and explored the 360° Masia Method with the Head of the Player Care Service at FC Barcelona, SIAE).
In order to plan, implement and monitor these activities, the Pitch Team met on a monthly basis and, depending on specific needs, fortnightly.
To help understand the Team’s work, some insights will be presented on three specific activities, with a focus on both grassroots and competitive activities:
- supporting, mentoring and training the coaching staff
- supporting and mentoring the team
- supporting the development of the single player
- defining training initiatives for team groups
- establishing the relationship with families
SUPPORTING AND MENTORING THE TECHNICAL STAFF
Working with the grassroots activity staff (including women's teams) basically meant interfacing with the head coach. The first part of the season was devoted to observation and mutual knowledge (both of the working methods of each individual staff and of the peculiarities of each age group), while the second part of the season was devoted to interventions on the objectives shared with the head coach and assistant coach.
Specifically, with regard to the categories from 2010 to 2005, the dialogue with the coaches (also through an initial and an intermediate stage) mainly provided an occasion for listening and sharing, supporting the reading of the different situations as a whole (for example regarding the relational and communication styles adopted, the management of the group, the relationship with the parents...) and action proposals targeting individual situations including the most problematic ones.
The training initiatives promoted in collaboration with the Milan Foundation involved the team and their respective staff and were an opportunity to share real solidarity experiences and promote key individual and social values (diversity, respect for others, supportive relationship, generosity, collaboration, the value of each other’s limits and potential, the issue of error and correction...) also underpinning the sporting practice that athletes perform on a daily basis.
The educational dimension behind the sporting activity carried out in these age groups appeared as more evident and direct, representing a right occasion to affirm and consolidate key values and educational targets, for the purpose of training the young players. The process we started allows scope for development and stresses the need for medium-long term planning.
Compared to the two older categories of the Giovanissimi Professionisti A and B, working with the staff mostly involved support to the head coach, through a constant presence in training sessions and league games. Starting from the proactive observation of the group dynamics, the ways in which the staff relate to the players and how the players relate to each other in different moments of their performance, as well as some episodes that occurred during the season (both on and off the pitch), we discussed the issues with the coach to assess which were the most suitable actions/relational modes to be performed.
There were several well-planned ad-hoc meetings to take stock of the team situation or to report about the players’ or the staff’s feedbacks.
As for the competitive activity, in the wake of the path launched in recent years, the team has actively contributed to promoting and implementing a real and effective integration between the different areas, in line with the Integrated Method understood as a link and systemic development between the different dimensions involved in the sporting activity: technical-tactical, physical-athletic, health, socio-relational, mental and cognitive dimensions. Shifting the focus from the psychologist-coach relationship to the promotion and enhancement of the staff work, has meant acting on different fronts: if on the one hand we helped apply "professional knowledge" on the different individual situations that from time to time emerged in the meetings, on the other we tried to encourage the development of greater relational and collaboration skills in the adults involved; in both cases, starting from a constant link with the technical coordination team and the issues that emerged in the methodological meetings.
The different moments of discussion, more or less formal and structured, have become a "means" to raise and develop awareness of the common work in every professional, as well as to favour the multidisciplinary integration that we have been trying to build for a long time.
SUPPORTING AND MENTORING THE TEAM
The initial support to the different groups was aimed at building a relationship and mutual knowledge. This meant a presence on the pitch during training and at the weekend match, which was better defined in the second part of the season with different modes depending on the different age groups.
For the youngest groups and the girls, the presence of a Pitch Team member kept quite a low profile thus preferring a more indirect action towards the team over a more resolute action of support and back-up to the staff, urging particularly the head coach to act first-hand on the group.
As for the two older categories, the support activity to the group was focused on helping the youngsters to set the team targets at the beginning of the season and on assessing, at the end of it, what worked and what did not in the teaching strategy implemented.
The work of the Season was oriented to focus on performance involving more the team as a group than as individual players, i.e. listening, assessing and dealing with the possible issues and specific needs of the team, of the staff, of each coach and of each single player.
The team tried to align the objectives and reflections made within the Coordination meeting with the Staff and with the team through a continuous support work, feedback and discussion to promote the common project.
Below are the activities carried out in the teams throughout the season:
- Support to the management of players on the pitch (Training): working on communication and motivation
- Sharing the proposed approach to the game with the Staff during the week
- Support to the communication/relational mode with the team after the matches (immediately after the match and/or first training session after the match)
- Support in the management of video-analysis moments: communication planning (effectiveness and objectives), comments management, listening to the players' point of views
- Pre-match management support: the coach's and the staff's approach to the relationship with the young players
- Support in the management of the half-time break: time, relational/communication mode
- Support in handling the team’s specific needs throughout the season (unity, overlapping of activities such as school, homesickness, etc.)
- Support in building a successful mindset, stepping up competitive grit in training and during games consistent with the team environment and the championship played
- Support to the staff with respect to the phases of the team’s life cycle with particular attention to the youngsters who spent shorter time out on the picth
- Relaxation sessions intended for sub-groups
- Ideomotor training sessions intended for sub-groups
SUPPORTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF EACH SINGLE PLAYER
Great players are only made through a path of educational-relational growth that goes hand in hand with the technical-football one. This process, long and complex, is only possible by building a synergy between all the adult figures involved in the path, that is: the coaches, the Club, the family, the staff and the player himself.
Supporting the development of a youth player therefore means working with all these subjects. To carry out its job, the Psycho-pedagogical Team avails itself of 4 tools:
Aimed at “aligning” the players’ point of view with the Technical Staff’s with the following objectives:
- Explain and show the youth player the importance of the Staff work with the presence of different areas
- Start a path that makes these meetings regular in order to help interpersonal relationships with dedicated moments and with the idea of getting a feedback/evaluation, not judgmental but rather cognitive, which is an integral part of a player’s professional career
- Promote a better knowledge of the youth player by the Staff
- Support the player’s path to self-awareness
- Start a collection of information to draw up a thorough and user-friendly "player file"
2. MATCH EVALUATION FORM
The match evaluation form is a tool allowing to apply the integrated work at an operational level. It is an easy tool devised with the contribution from all the different areas and used by the different staff members. Regarding the mental area, in addition to the team-related entry linked to collaboration, there are two entries identified for the evaluation of individual players, a more relational one and another more focused on the emotional aspect: the proactive attitude, which is the level of commitment shown by the youth player, being proactive, active, having and taking the initiative during the game in the different phases of the game and the ability to master one’s emotions in both positive and negative situations related to the individual player and to the team; this aspect refers to the ability of refreshing their brain at a cognitive level without losing effectiveness in the game.
In addition to being the result of a shared work for the evaluation of the game, this form was also designed as a work tool to be used by the staff for planning purposes and to weigh the performance of individual players.
After discussing it with the Technical Coordination Department, it was deemed useful to introduce an evaluation tool for the players: the self-evaluation form. Evaluation of one's own performance, of one’s teammates’ and of the team’s as a whole, with a view to raise self-awareness as well as awareness of the group.
Such a tool also allows to monitor and develop knowledge of game concepts and principles. The tool was at first tested for a while with the Allievi Nazionali before considering the possibility of extending it to the other categories.
From the methodological point of view, after the game every player, even those who did not go out on the pitch, were filling the self-evaluation form with respect to their own performance and the team’s.
The aim was to create a moment of individual reflection on one's own performance, expressing, through specific technical and tactical terms and not generic ones, one's own evaluation and helping the process of learning/improving the principles characterizing the game proposal of the AC Milan Youth Academy.
The work produced interesting results and was considered useful by the players and the staff. In prospect, it is necessary to devise staff feedback modes meant to enhance the player’s analysis by encompassing the point of view of adults in order to spark a debate.
3. INTEGRATED EXERCISE
During the season, we tested an integrated field activity also meant to train mental functions, starting from the needs collected by the Competitive Activity Staff and by exchanging views with the methodological coordinator.
The intervention was given a “time-space focus” and consequently involved the role of the attacker first and of the defender then. Integration lies in implementing some exercises already carried out with interventions that allowed for a targeted solicitation of some mental functions considered significant in terms of performance and development of the player and the game.
From an operational point of view, the exercise was built as follows:
- Definition of the objective and detailed planning of integrated exercises
- Presentation of the experiment at the Technical Coordination meeting
- Testing on the field (1 per category), with the collection of effectiveness indicators and of the experiences from the players and the operators involved
- Observation and reflection upon the differences related to the age groups and competitive level of the teams, with feedbacks to be provided during the technical coordination meeting.
From the methodological point of view, the following aspects were taken into account:
- The exercise lasts 30 minutes just as all the other planned and scheduled activities which are consistent with the team’s needs
- Coordinating field interventions with players
- Favoring the fluidity of the exercise to avoid dead times and/or interruptions
- Collecting effectiveness-related information
- Collecting information on the players’ experiences and point of views
The exercise aims at:
- Training the player to stay focused on the action at a double level:
- Main: performing the attack play
- Secondary: keeping the eye for goal throughout the play
- Training the player’s ATTENTION to:
- Stay focused despite the changing variables
- Keep an excellent focus on the play
- Improving the “eye for goal” in the long run
- Developing greater awareness of the ongoing play while maintaining immediacy and speed
- Selectively shifting attention on technical/tactical aspects
- Improving attention shifting onto the main focus (variability of the play keeping the secondary focus).
The players appeared intrigued by the activity and especially by the possibility of exercising a mental part on the pitch. The players involved were 17 in all (12 attackers and 5 defenders of the goal) and the interesting outcome in psychological terms was the greater awareness developed by the players (especially in the Categoria Primavera) while they were doing the exercise. Specifically, at the end of the execution, the players seemed to have developed (as it came out from the following executions of the very exercise):
- a clearer understanding of the different phases of play
- a better understanding of the concepts of attention, fluidity of play and immediacy.
The above is striking as the dimensions stimulated concern concepts already known and assimilated, but perhaps the fact of not "training" them on the field in a specific and conscious way could make them pass for a "cognitive" learning without integration and harmonization in terms of motor schemes, priorities in the play and immediacy.
Another aspect not to be underestimated is that, even after a week, the focus on the goal is still present and spontaneously gets the players to autonomously go over the concepts trained. On the one hand, this information leads us to believe that the integrated exercise aims at stimulating football aspects considered significant while on the other hand it seems to carry a value in terms of learning.
If, after a single 30-minute experimental session, the concepts spontaneously come back to the players’ mind then it also means that learning is still having an impact by seeking new "anchors" in subsequent experiences.
DEFINING TRAINING INITIATIVES FOR TEAM GROUPS
The reason why we propose different initiatives other than the mere sports practice is that we believe the training path undertaken with the young players can be enriched by a further opportunity, which in line with the overall sporting project, develops the following values:
- Getting to know, meeting and discovering the value of the other, being this a mate and/or an opponent (in this latter case "the others" are people from a different sporting context, who find themselves in particular, difficult or uncomfortable situations, etc.) with a view to realize that diversity is not a negative thing but can be a source of mutual enrichment (give and take as something to be experienced in real terms).
- discovering the value of collaboration understood as the need of the other person, of the relationship with the other (which corresponds to the theme of being a team on the pitch, helping each other and one’s teammate)
- hence the theme of knowledge and respect (the other is different from me, I do not know him and as long as he remains a stranger to me, he cannot become a resource)
- understand that difficulties, limits and even mistakes may not be an impediment, they are not a condition to be removed but rather an opportunity to grow, they can even help to better deal with the situations on the pitch.
We did not want to create something exceptional, extemporaneous and aimed at provoking an emotion on the spur of the moment, but rather to offer an educational experience consistent with the current sporting project: the training of the young football player. It was equally evident that a careful and smart mentoring work from all the adults involved (technical staff in the first place) was key to the success of the proposal.
In order to make the initiatives effective, the activities have been conceived and proposed as a unitary gesture of the whole youth academy (Competitive and Grassroots Activities), of course differentiated by age and category (identifying a specific theme linked to the proposed initiative); moreover, gestures are not ends in themselves (the good Christmas deed) but can have continuity and therefore are:
- shared with the Staff
- prepared with the teams
- performed in the presence of the whole staff
- reproposed as part of an additional occasion for in-depth analysis and/or feedback with an aim to give continuity to the path
Building on this premises, the collaboration with the AC Milan Foundation enabled us to identify a few contexts where to experiment with such an activity, including Sport for Change (interventions in favour of social inclusion aimed at preventing or addressing deviant behavior or social exclusion), Sport for All (sport as a social bonding agent even in the face of disabilities, promoting access and support to sports practice in inclusive environments for disabled children).
The next step was to identify and share with all the staff of the Grassroots Activity the needs and/or the possible areas of interest of their team and then select the areas and the possible initiatives among those suggested by the AC Milan Foundation.
With regard to the youngest sides (Piccoli Amici maschile 2009 together with Pulcini femminile 2007 and 2008 and Pulcini maschile 2007 together with Pulcini Femminile 2005 and 2006) the need and the usefulness to promote an initiative able to educate the kids to respect differences with particular attention to the female figure, in this case the girls who play football. The direct objectives of the initiatives were:
- Understanding the commitment and dedication the girls from women's teams put on the pitch during matches
- Encouraging positive cheering and highlighting the importance of support for the success of the game.
The indirect objectives were:
- Removing gender differences in football, which are often still consciously and unconsciously perceived
- The understanding of common goals and passions.
Below is the programme carried out also in collaboration with the Milan Foundation:
- 2009 men’s and 2007-08 women’s teams initiative on the theme of RESPECT (starting from the representations, expectations, their sports experiences as individual players and as a team) through a shared moment and joint work (boys and girls divided into groups) aimed at producing posters with drawings, images and phrases.
- 2007 men’s and 2005-06 women’s teams initiative on the theme of RESPECT: the boys were called to watch the girls’ championship game from the sidelines. Before the game, the boys met to organize a "Positive cheering" initiative with the creation of posters and slogans.
- 2006 – 2008 participation in the Food Drive (national event on November 26), preceded by a presentation meeting; 45 people took part including children and parents + 9 including managers and coaches. Then the initiative was discussed in the classroom (also the parents of the 2008 categories took part in the initiative).
- 2005: visit and meeting at the Vismara Don Gnocchi Center for Disabled People and following meeting with team and staff in the classroom.
- 2003 and 2004: meeting and training with a group of youngsters from the Sport for Change programme (aimed at fighting against school drop-outs) of the Limbiate unit.
- 2004 women’s category: meeting and training with the team from the Sport for Change programme of the Bollate district. At the end of the sports activity, the kids spent some time together in the facility hall.
- Under 16: visit and meeting with the Kayros Community of Vimodrone (reception shelter as part of rehabilitation paths under detention - parole and projects for disadvantaged young people). Afterwards, the Kayros community kids were invited to visit the Vismara Training Ground. On that occasion there was a mixed mini-tournament between the two groups.
- Under 15: visit to the Cesano Boscone Sacra Famiglia Foundation (reception and assistance for people with disabilities). Meeting with the service operators who addressed the themes of the working group, of integration and the value of differences.
- The Under 15 were also engaged in a meeting with four young players from Primavera (Zanellato, Modic, Hamadi, Torrasi) to address the theme of the skills to be developed, the efforts and resources used in the path towards professionalism within the AC Milan Youth Academy.
The initiatives carried out confirmed their ability to play a key educational role. In addition to the more or less significant emotional impact (depending on the nature of the initiative, the place and the reality encountered), the adults’ mentoring activity and their ability to grasp the value dimension of the context, made the difference. Helping children to reflect on their experience, to judge it by going beyond the purely sentimental aspect and to grasp its implicit values present in the sports activity practiced, certainly represented the added value.
At the same time it is equally evident that, with all due respect to the objective value of the initiative itself, in order to make them truly useful and turn them into an opportunity for growth, it is necessary to try and give greater continuity turning them into much more regular initiatives than they currently are (once a year on special occasions).
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PLAYERS' FAMILIES
The relationship with the players’ families is build through meetings involving them that can be both individual and intended for team groups. The number of meetings organized throughout the season confirm the importance and the need for these occasions for the following reasons:
- Fulfilling, as a Club, a reporting role providing information about the Youth Academy sports project
- Creating spaces for dialogue and listening
- Creating the conditions for a more medium-long term training path
- Favoring meeting occasions among the parents themselves
- Raising the parents’ awareness of their task and educational role
- Involving the parents in an educational pact setting their respective roles and responsibilities clear.
The non-involvement (as already mentioned, with clear and full respect for the roles and responsibilities) of parents, inevitably generates dysfunctions, dissonances that end up having negative repercussions on the entire sports organization, on the success of the Milan sports project, on the young players’ performances and in particular on their growth.
Throughout the season, we organized informative/educational meetings with the families dealing with the following themes: “the role of parents and their expectations” (cat. Giovanissimi Regionali A and B); “The sports and educational project of the AC Milan youth players” (from category 2010 to 2005, both men’s and women’s teams).
Participation was very high, both in terms of numbers (20 meetings accounting for about 410 people) and in terms of attention to the topics discussed. The aim of those meetings was to provide food for thought and an occasion for debate among adults on their children’s sports experience, but at the same time also listening to the needs and concerns regarding the path they have undertaken within the AC Milan Academy.
Alongside the educational meetings, also various types of meetings were held with individual parents, both starting from their requests and on educational/behavioral issues generated within the context.
Below is a summary of the initiatives carried out:
- 110 welcome meetings (with a view to get to know the families of the new players and introduce ourselves to them)
- 5 school guidance meetings (with an aim to provide support in choosing the most suitable high school)
- 9 meetings on the re-elaboration of sporting experience (with the aim of enhancing the experience in the face of little involvement during the very performance)
- 10 meetings about educational/behavioural issues
- 21 greeting meetings in the presence of the Technical Coordinator Department (with an aim to support the parents all the way through the sports path within the Youth Academy).
Meeting with the parents of Giovanissimi 2003 and 2004
In February 2017, in agreement with the head of the Grassroots Activity, we organized an informative/educational meeting for all the parents of the category on the importance of their role in the youth players’ sports path. The aim was to stir a debate on the pressure the parents’ expectations may put on their children. It is well known that the parents play a key role in influencing their children’s attitude towards sport and in making their football experience fun or, conversely, turning it into a source of anxiety and stress.
The parents’ support, especially in age groups between 6 and 14 years, is therefore necessary for the success (understood as well-being) or the failure of the player.
The topic brought in by the parents regarded the school choice. Such a choice often causes anxiety and confusion as it coincides with a key moment in the players’ football career, which is the shift to the competitive activity and therefore the actual possibility of becoming a professional footballer. The most frequently-asked questions were: “Is it better to choose a little demanding school to make things easier or to choose a school that can provide a valid alternative if things do not go well?" And "are there any schools that take into account this double career and enhance it?".
We tried to answer these and other questions during the meeting, but for some of them a more complex reflection is needed also involving subjects at different levels (managers, school tutors, institutions...).
RESIDENCE PSYCHO-PEDAGOGICAL TEAM
The Psycho-pedagogical Team operating at the AC Milan Residence in the 2016-2017 season is made up of seven Tutors, with different professional skills. The presence in the structure is guaranteed 24/7 and varies within the working group: two Tutors have a full-time job, while the remaining five are part-time operators. The monthly internal organization is fixed and based on the presence in daily time slots as planned and agreed upon by the Tutors themselves.
In the morning and early afternoon hours, only one operator is on duty as the youngsters are at school (if not sick or for other reasons). In the late afternoon and evening time slots, instead, there are three tutors operating during the week (at the weekend they are just two), as the players go back to the residence after training and nearly all of them are in the building. The night shift is manned by a single operator.
In the next section we will discuss in detail all the activities and tasks.
1. WORKING APPROACH
In the 2016/2017 season, the residence housed 32 youth players, with some variations during the football year.
Attention and educational intervention are designed and implemented by taking into account different elements, including the player’s age, the growth path he is going through, the experiences and thoughts that he shares. Among the different age groups covered by the residential service, there are many differences between a 14-year-old boy, often at his first experience away from home and friends for such a prolonged period of time as a football season, and athletes who have already experienced, even for a single year, daily life at the Residence.
We can therefore distinguish the objectives and themes of work with minors based on the age and the sports situation they are in:
- welcome and support for the player’s insertion in the club, in a new city and in a new school environment;
- support in managing the challenges that characterize the sporting path (eg injuries, not being called up for a game, a packed agenda, managing expectations);
- Support young players being released from the AC Milan Youth Academy at the end of their experience, enhancing what they have learnt with a view to building their professional future.
The path to maturiry, across the various age groups, is also defined through the ability to embrace and endorse the value component contained in the rules. Being confronted with the rules on a daily basis, the young player develops their introjection, discussion and sharing.
No less important is the recognition of one's own goals, of the efforts to be made to reach them and the ability to solve problems when they are encountered.
In the same way, the respect for oneself and others is also promoted, both in terms of aspirations, needs and lifestyles, and in terms of professional roles and competences.
The general lines of the educational interventions are shared during the Team meetings, but such interventions are then carried out in practice. During the day, and even more throughout the football year, the young players’ life is characterized by many events.
The Team members play the role of facilitators: definition of schedules and transport, organization of revisions, preparation and verification of leaves, contact with the Medical Area for visits or therapies, proper fulfillment of the laundry service, lunch and healthy eating, documentation storage, check on proper hygiene in the rooms.
More structured and formal settings are implemented in ad-hoc situations such as:
- evening school homework which requires a particular space and time in which the Tutor can support the player;
- the weekend in which the players turn to the Tutor to report about the game just played and their experiences related to it. The adult figure facilitates the processing of facts, events and emotions and supports the youngster in their recollection.
- the Psycho-pedagogical team at the Residence also has to deal with other educational agents that revolve around young players.
First of all, the players’ families, with whom there must be a constant collaboration. Parents are always updated, most of the time by telephone, about their children's lives: they are informed about their progress at school, about facts or special events, etc. so that there can be a relationship of trust and a fruitful collaboration. The meetings between Tutors and parents take place especially on weekends, when families manage to come to Milan to visit their children: these are informal and unstructured meetings, where parents and staff have the opportunity to meet.
School is another institution with which the Tutors are confronted in their daily work. The young people hosted in the Residence are not just players but also teenagers who have to fulfill their school duties. School is a tool for daily work, but also sometimes a source of fatigue and a motive for continuous comparisons: the Psycho-pedagogical Team stresses the importance of school for the future of young people.
With reference to the organizational context of the AC Milan Youth Academy, the Residence Psycho-Pedagogical Team plays a key role in sharing information related to the young players’ daily life through the drafting of reports, school reports and individual profiles and taking part in Programmatic Meetings at the Vismara Training Ground, combined with formal occasions, such as meetings with enlarged teams, and informal ones, such as the evenings Coaches spend at the Residence or the games the Tutors attend as supporters. This implies the possibility of developing a planning that moves effectively both in the short term, with targeted actions addressing everyday life, and in the long-medium term, with the definition and sharing of wide-ranging objectives, the co-construction of tools and the constant verification of educational proposals. During the last two football seasons, the Psycho-Pedagogical Team also had the opportunity to organize educational meetings with the coaching staff.
2. WORK TOOLS
Over the the seasons, the Residence Psycho-Pedagogical Team used and perfected various work tools.
The Psycho-Pedagogical Team meetings involving all the Tutors and Dr. Francesca Luiso are held on a fortnight basis. The meetings provide updates on the latest events occurred at the Residence, on the dynamics observed among the young players, as well as an occasion to agree on possible educational interventions. The whole Team has the opportunity to share facts and opinions that also concern the school aspects or those emerged from telephone chats with parents. The tutors also have the chance to think and plan the play/educational activities promoted during the course of the season. Finally, Dr. Luiso, being present at Vismara on a daily basis, updates the Team on possible facts or contingent communications from the coaching/sports area.
Supervision meetings (introduced permanently since last year, in the 2015/2016 season when the service was outsourced to the Catholic University) are monthly meetings conducted by a supervisor outside the Team, Dr. Chiara D'Angelo. These meetings enable the Tutors to share their thoughts on the educational approach and to agree on it. Moreover, they have the opportunity to tackle the motivations that guide the methodological choices and to have a space to reflect on their professional figure. This work of recollection and review is favored by the point of view and mentoring of an external professional.
The Residence Psycho-Pedagogical Team also uses operational tools in its daily work. The main operating tool is the logbook: drawn up by the operator in charge to update the colleagues about what happens at the Residence on a daily basis, with organizational communications, descriptions and subjective considerations about the educational interventions that are carried out or proposed.
A tool suggested by the Residence Team during the recent football season is the IEP. If in the recent past, the players’ profiles, i.e. the description of the boarder from a behavioral, scholastic, relational and family point of view, respect for the rules and the effects on sports activity, were prepared in an exclusive way, now these new tools also focus on educational objectives and related actions.
It is a work still under construction. In addition to the logbook and the IEPs, the Tutors also avail themselves of the attendance register. For managerial and security reasons, it details timetables (especially the morning school timetables) the actual presences at the Residence. The youth players’ files are made available to Tutors and contain several information needed for the work at the Residence. These folders, in fact, contain the personal documents of both the player and the family, telephone numbers of the parents, medical/health documentation (which is necessary in case a player needs to undergo a medical examination) and school history (school reports, important school communications, etc.). The daily agenda and the medical agenda support the work of the Tutor in the daily management of the engagements.
3. WORKING AREAS
The Residence carries out, by its nature, a residential function. In this context, the Residence Psycho-Pedagogical Team actively and constantly seeks to construct a meaning which goes beyond the "simple" residence thus complementing the purely logistic aspects.
During the 2016/2017 season, the Residence Psycho-pedagogical Team shared the specific acceptance of three different areas of intervention, entrusting each of them to the relevant tutors. Specifically, the three areas are: "school" (assigned to Claudia Besi, Paola Pastori and Simona Tediosi); the "Vismara" area (overseen by Elisa Guidotti and Donato Zaminga); and finally the one dedicated to "educational, cultural and play/ social gathering activities" (by Marco Villa and Andrea Mazza). As part of a network design, the Team acts as a bridge between the various Educational Agencies affecting the growth and development of each player: from school to the family, from the pitch to life at the Residence.
THE SCHOOL AREA
In fulfilling its educational role, the AC Milan Residence Psycho-pedagogical Team also supports the players in their schooling, as it is regarded as an educational tool par excellence in this phase of development. In our opinion, in fact, school is real life training which is key to develop life skills contributing to the player’s shift to adultwood:
- the Team identifies fundamental objectives to be pursued through the educational work on the school area: promoting autonomy, self-organization and responsibility;
- learning how to manage change;
- learning respect for the rules
- getting used to fatigue and building resilience;
- learning how to relate to adults; or learning how to relate to peers;
- learning how to manage their emotions; learning how to manage successes and failures.
For this reason, in agreement with the Club and the family, the Team undertakes a tailored educational path with the players that takes into account their inclinations and, at the same time, allows them to reconcile sports with school commitments. These objectives are adapted to the various age groups.
THE VISMARA AREA
Throughout the season, the Residence Team Tutors have been present in the youth academy offices on two specific occasions. First of all at the Wednesday Coordination meetings: the coaching staff, the Club managers, the athletic trainers, the nutritionists and all those working in the youth sector get together on Wednesday mornings for coordination meetings of a technical, coordinating and organizational nature. A positive aspect identified right from the start was the possibility of creating alliances and relationships with the other reference adult figures of the Residence guests. In fact, there were occasions when we could discuss specific situations involving the players and agree on possible action to be taken. As part of the Wednesday Coordination meetings, the Residence Psycho-pedagogical Team held educational training sessions. On that occasion we discussed the need for shared practices in taking responsibility for the player. The messages that adult figures send to a teenager, in fact, must not be contradictory but rather converge in the same direction. At the morning meetings, in fact, we chose a case (fictional and yet highly probable) and asked those present to work in groups on some given requests. Each group was representing a different educational agent that undoubtedly became part of the young footballer's life (Coaching Staff, Residence Psycho-pedagogical Team, Parents, Management). The plenary discussion following the work in sub-groups turned out to be very rich and full of ideas, so much so as to think of a "different" moment of revision, replanning and sharing of some aspects and rules.
The second occasion featuring the presence of Tutors at the Vismara Training Ground was Friday's programmatic meetings.
Here, the whole staff, from the Management to the Coaching staff, from the Keepers’ to the Video Area staff, all the way to the Medical Area and the Gray Area, open up a debate on specific players, starting from the various lists of those called up, and agree on the most suitable action to be taken to solve any possible problem and what are the choices to be made to ensure serenity and opportunities along the sports and human growth path. It also acts as a bridge between the pitch and the Residence.
THE EDUCATIONAL, CULTURAL, PLAY AND SOCIAL GATHERING ACTIVITIES AREA
Every year, the AC Milan Residence Psycho-pedagogical Team selects and proposes to the guest players a set of educational, play and experential activities meant to provide pleasant and enriching occasions for social gathering, growth and reflection. The educational and cultural activities bring together education, discovery and culture. Specifically, many areas and issues that directly affect young people were addressed: knowledge of the city of Milan; sharing the rules necessary for cohabitation within the Residence; informative meetings on the eating habits suitable for a sportsman; meetings with the young guests of the Milan Rugby Academy; knowledge of the "AC Milan World" which is the organization and the history of the Club they belong to. Alongside these purely educational activities, the players were also given opportunities for meaningful experiences providing food for thought, not necessarily strictly linked to the sports field, and fostering values such as solidarity and respect: two volunteering activities with disabled and homeless people; a meeting with some integrated soccer athletes; a Film Club experience on the theme of "diversity".
Finally, they were offered moments of play and social gathering such as Christmas and Carnival parties, the Italy-Germany match at the Stadio Meazza, the season closing party. In addition to providing social gathering occasions, all these activities were also aimed at "team building" among all the Residence guests, encouraging communication and harmony among them and highlighting the importance of working together to achieve common goals and being together (sharing space, time, emotions).
Total number of the Psycho-pedagogical Team members
13 + 2 supervisors
13 + 2 supervisors
Number of Pitch-Team members
Number of Residence-Team members
Number of the Team members specializing in Psychology
Number of the Team members specializing in Pedagogy
Number of the Team members specializing in Foreign Languages
Total number of meetings between the Team and the players
Total number of meetings between the Team and the technical/coaching staff
1 a week for all the categories
Total number of meetings between the Team and the families
1 per family on average
Number of university students/interns supporting the Team’s activity
Number of educational meetings with the staff
Number of meetings with the families
Number of player guests at the Residence
34 until December; 32 from January
Total number of meetings between the Team and the school staff
Total number of evening lesson hours organized by the Team
from 320 to 400
Although we have already worked specifically on the aspect of "competitive sharpness" (see the work on the defensive phase "reaction to losing the ball’s possession" with important positive feedback), the progress achieved was not considered sufficient and, during different moments shared with staffs (Video Analysis, Technical Coordination, etc.), an explicit request to the Psycho-Pedagogical Team was made to identify tangible and practical tools / means to be implemented on the pitch (targeted exercises during training sessions) that can reduce this deficit.
We are aware that, from a methodological point of view, the problem is not due to reasons tied to the physical appearance (we are not weaker or less explosive than the opponents from the physical point of view ...), it is clear that athletic and mental areas can give life to an "Integrated" proposal.
Obviously, when thinking about an intervention, we deemed necessary to involve the young footballers so that they are more and more aware of the reasons to use some methods rather than others. The link between competitiveness / competition and performance must be clear for them as tools to convey motivation, awareness and above all effectiveness.
Another decisive methodological element is relevant to staffs’ greater involvement in terms of understanding and direct participation in the exercises (position to be taken on the field, attention to all stages of the session, including the athletic one, distribution of focusses, etc.
After these considerations we identified the “competitive sharpness” as the area to be improved through a higher motivation, using clear rules, challenges with prizes and sanctions (classic style conditioning). We also believe it is important to work with the athletes on the subject of respect for the opponent both during the preparation of the match, in the pre-match, during the match and also in the post-match in order to acknowledge such respect and to enhance its value.
The Equipe has identified a double action: the involvement and sharing with the staff of some considerations to promote a greater awareness of all the aspects involved in the "Agonistic Fury" (ie what we mean by "agonistic fury", who has it, how it is expressed, why, how the perception of the opponent comes into play ....) through a training session then reported into the weekly programming, describing actions and related tools to be used on the pitch.
The work carried out in a systematic way starting from November 2016, has seen staffs’ enthusiastic participation. They shared the aims, the objectives and the tools of the training project and they were, without any doubt, an active and proactive part of it. A provisional report, confirms the importance of pursuing the initiative, deepening some related concepts (attention to the defensive phase, the value of the opponent ...) as we partly did during the Technical Coordination meetings. The continuity and the permanent attention of the staff within the training session (according to a targeted distribution of the respective focuses) are, in perspective, the factors that will allow us to increase and consolidate the "agonistic sharpness", which, as we were able to see from the first results obtained, is a skill that can be coached.