Talent Development Programme
In the summer of 2002, a few months after Germany lost to Brazil in the final of the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, DFB introduced the “Talent Development Programme”. At the initiative of Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder, DFB president at the time, 390 bases across Germany were set up where football talents worthy of being further developed would start their training. Initially, these bases trained youngsters between the ages of eleven and 17, while nowadays, the age group is primarily between eleven and 14 years.
Once a week, in addition to the club’s normal training routine, the DFB invites the regions biggest talents to an “extra session” in the talent development programme. “Unlike in their clubs, the coaches in our talent development bases have enough time to address every individual’s needs,” explains Jörg Daniel, sporting director of the talent development programme.
In 2007, the programme made its next step; a new orientation was introduced: The specific education in technical and tactical areas would particularly benefit a promotion of an elite player. The strong core who have helped develop the programme in the past few years shall now develop an education that specifically targets the development of an elite player.
With help from the regional association, the development of the eleven to 14-year-olds was moved as the focal point of the education. The older age groups were already being integrated into the development centres of professional clubs and received the best possible education there.
With approximately 25,500 football clubs in Germany, the 390 development bases give a rough ratio of 65 clubs per base. Thus, a tight web of bases has been formed, which allows an efficient scouting of potential candidates. Every talent is given the same chance to be scouted, developed and sponsored. That is the claim of the talent development program. Approximately 22,000 children and adolescents profit from the talent promotion every year.
Roughly 1,200 coaches, employed by the DFB, conduct the training sessions. Apart from the physical aspect that is required on the pitch, the talent development programme also requires expertise on the touchline. The DFB have hired 29 full-time base coordinators for the organisation of this project. They work closely together with the regional associations in order to ensure a smooth operation and communication aimed towards unified training and playing philosophies. Thus, the base coordinators assume a central role in the youth development concept.
The fact that the DFB invest around ten million euros a year shows how important the talent development programme is. Principally, the talent development programme is designed to be an ideal enhancement to the additional cornerstones of the DFB’s youth concept: The coach service, the school cooperation, the professional club’s performance centres and the youth national teams. Since 2006, the talent development concept is also being scientifically tested through research and analysis.
The DFB have made the continuous development of their youth players one of their top priorities. It is very difficult to foresee whether or not a young football player can develop into a quality professional in the future, given the complex structure of football as a sport. It’s important for U14 players to have good footballing ability, but that is never a guarantee that they will manage to make the grade at a professional level.
Evidence for that is the fact that in the 90s, only about half of the players that were making their national team debut also belonged to the top teams in Germany when they were 15 or 16 years old. The others were made up of regional top talents, but only became top-class players at a later stage in their development. It’s important to avoid focusing on just a small group of talents and thus discounting a large bulk of talented youngsters.
Instead, the DFB’s aim is to acquire talented and motivated young players in Germany and promote them as best as possible. In order to ensure an effective training style, every youth development base creates two groups of no more than 30 players. One group coaches U11 and U12 players, while the other group focuses on the age groups U13 and U14. A scouting system this qualified and extensive in these age groups is unique in Germany.