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The Academy: The Montreal Impact's Secret Weapon (Part 1)

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Mount Royal Soccer had the chance to sit down with the Montreal Impact Academy's Director of Development: Philippe Eullafroy. Philippe Eulaffroy is also the head coach of the U-21 Montreal Impact team and has a big hand in the architecture of the youth academy of the club. We sat down with him after a U21 practice at Complexe Sportif Marie-Victorin.

In Part 1 we talk about Philippe Eullafroy's path of becoming a coach and the philosophy of the Montreal Impact Academy.

Philippe Eullafroy, from player to coach

Philippe Eullafroy describes his professional career as simple as it started in the Troyes youth system in France. He spent most of his career in the club (1984-1991) and even played in Canada by the end of his career in a semi-pro league in Sherbrooke. During his years at Troyes, he made an impact (no pun intended) on the club and its supporters as he was part of the ''Team Of The Century '' voted by fans. He also scored the club's fastest goal in its history. As a player, Philippe Eullafroy has a resume and credibility that helped him in his next career path.

Transitioning towards his university studies in Montreal and the end of his playing career, the coaching path was not necessarily something he planned for in detail:

Circumstances and encounters help build our path. Going back to France after my studies, I worked for Stade De Reims for 4 years in every possible position except for being the pro-team head coach.

-- Philippe Eullafroy

From professional scout to the reserve team coach, he admits that it was always closely related to the young players, specifically between the ages of 18 and 22. Missing Montreal , he took over the McGill Redmen head coaching job which he held from 2005 to 2008 with 3 Coach Of The Year titles. He then joined the Montreal Impact in 2010 and has been since the Director of Development and the U-21 Head Coach.

Circumstances got me to take care of young players , which I like a lot. It's much more complex than training professional players. Taking care of professional players digs more into ''human management'' and optimizing the potential one has.
In terms of development, the progression is much more limited due to players having arrived at maturity. On the other hand, with the young players, everything needs to be looked at and setup in their progression.

-- Philippe Eullafroy

After the jump, the philosophy of the Montreal Impact Academy, an idea of the process of getting to the pros and more

The Philosophy of the Montreal Impact Academy

We asked Philippe about what is the Montreal Impact Academy ''raison d'etre'' if asked by a potential player's parent or anyone else outside or inside the realm of soccer .

First and foremost, It's a sports mission before anything else that is loud and clear: produce professional soccer players hoping that this professional career starts, at the least, with the Montreal Impact in MLS.

-- Philippe Eullafroy

Philippe continues on emphasizing beyond the soccer/sporting aspect of trying to become a professional soccer player. The concept backing up the ultimate goal has an important and fundamental human factor: Forming Men.

We want balanced men, mature men and responsible men. For the balance of that player, we want to train soccer players and want them to perform as good as possible on the field. Outside the field, the family environment around the player is important but so is having an academic and educational environment.

School is important for the player's balance [between soccer and life] but also if the player does not succeed sporting wise, he will have his academics to rely on outside the field. It is important for us to find that balance as to have a soccer player and a man.
I am convinced that if we have a quality person, we will have a quality soccer player.

-- Philippe Eullafroy

The Montreal Impact is abiding to success in the classroom not being mutually exclusive to a strong soccer player. Actually, the Impact and Philippe Eullafroy see the success in the classroom and on the field to be the same. The '' Sports-Etudes '' program was setup for Academy players as young as 12 years-old until they finish high school. Just recently, the club was proud to announce 100% High School Graduation rate from all its 12 eligible Academy players.

The program includes a schedule re-arrangement for the players to go to school, attend practices plus 90 minutes/day of monitored studies (outside the school). School work is performed during that period which also includes extra help (via tutors) for those in difficulties. Success at school and on the field go hand in hand and the Impact is providing the framework to help the young players to succeed in their academics.

This program is unique in Major League Soccer, although FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and the Vancouver Whitecaps have something similar but not exactly the same.

It is out of the question, at the Academy, to keep a player who has failed academically. It's a good deal for the young players who know that if they do not perform at school, they will not be kept on with the Impact.

And it's also a good deal for us as if we have a good player; we will absolutely do everything we can for him to succeed at school. We know that if he does not succeed at school, we cannot keep him [at the Academy].

-- Philippe Eullafroy

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our talk with Philippe Eullafroy as he shares with us the process of becoming a professional soccer player and how Quality is Always Better than Quantity.