“Collective character is vital to success. Focus on getting the culture right; the results will follow.”
In conducting a thorough, top-down review of the club’s youth-development benchmarks, technical curriculum and Academy standards, it’s clear that Crossfire already emphasizes criteria common across many of the top professional soccer clubs in Europe.
The review was undertaken as part of Crossfire’s ongoing initiative to further professionalize the club’s overall environment, while formalizing development guidelines and procedures. The analysis began with a review and refinement of the club’s vision and overarching philosophies regarding player identification and character prerequisites, and from there it extended through directed studies of the club’ s structure, strategies for growth and sustainability, the preferred style of play, training standards, frequency and composition, learning objectives, and of course, technical content. At the conclusion of the initial review, the results were compared to those released in the “Report on Youth Academies in Europe” by the European Club Association and it was discovered that Crossfire Premier is already operating with guidelines and benchmarks very much in line with those from clubs recognized the world over as leaders in youth development.
Particularly of note were the standards of character, personal appearance and discipline required of Crossfire Academy players and how closely that aligned with similar requirements across the top clubs in Europe. To cite just a few examples, FC Barcelona prohibits earrings, dyed hair, tattoos and untucked shirts, AFC Ajax does not allow players to wear caps, and Arsenal FC requires its youth players to sign and adhere to a complete club Code of Conduct, which includes an educational component; Bayern Munich maintains academic standards for each player in their academy and those falling behind in school are not allowed to play or train, while Inter Milan also restricts players with poor grades or who have disciplinary issues away from the field. Standard Liege in Belgium prohibits earrings, piercings, tattoos and caps and makes it mandatory that players have “the correct clothes and a correct hair cut.”
According to the ECA, “[t]he focus on education, school results and the disciplinary behavior of players is the core philosophy in most clubs nowadays.”
These standards mirror exactly the standards of conduct required at Crossfire Premier for Academy players, where, like the European clubs in these case studies, it’s believed that adherence to a clear standard of behavior and personal appearance is essential to the overall social, psychological and personality development of each player. Players who cannot commit to such a basic standard will naturally struggle to fully commit to everything required to play soccer at the highest levels. The stringent educational requirements within the Crossfire Academy likewise fall in line with those across the European youth academies. At Crossfire, the emphasis on education leads to players who are qualified for and sought after by top universities across the United States, while the ECA notes that within top-flight professional academies, “[t]he principles of education are to combine football with school in building the character of the player. His personality and mental strength are decisive on the pitch.”
With initial analysis completed, Crossfire Premier is now beginning efforts at putting the data acquired into practice within new and formalized procedures for the continuing development of each of the club’s players, with the eventual intention of promoting a far greater percentage of Academy players from within the club.