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 2, we continue talk with Philippe Eullafroy about an overview of the process being pro and how quality throughout the Academy process is primordial.
The process of becoming a Pro
Players can come in the Impact Academy as early as 12-year old and start the process towards being a professional soccer player. Like a funnel, players go up in the ranks as they get older and a filter process will keep the best (on and off the field) until they get to the U21 level.
More after the jump
Obviously, there is a filter over 7 years but it does not mean that we start with 300 players at the age 12 to arrive with only 20 players at the U21 level.[...] But it's a filter that they [ the players] would have known before. At the Academy, nothing is a sure thing and every year, the player will need prove that he deserves to stay with the Academy.
-- Philippe Eullafroy
The ultimate step is to get to the U21 team, a sign that you have gone through the process and that the Academy has penciled you as a potential professional soccer player but with a huge margin of progression and a lot to learn. The transition from the U21 to the professional team is not instantaneous. There is no magical spark that shows up and suddenly the U21 player is ready to make the jump.
It's not a spark but more of an evolution. We feel it coming and it's not a conclusion that just pops up one morning and we say to ourselves that the player is ready. We feel it coming that he has arrived [to that level] . All the structure we have in place, within the club, gives us the opportunity to gradually introduce the player with the pro team.
-- Philippe Eullafroy
With a collaboration between the Pro team and the U21, the dominant and performing U21 player starts to practice with the professional team. When his presence in practices are more regular, the Montreal Impact look at introducing the player with the MLS Reserve team. After passing the MLS Reserve test(s) where the player performs as well or better than some of the current professional players, this is when the professional contract usually comes in.
When we ask Philippe about
I would say that it's a slow path...It's not a feeling but an observation that we make when we see the player getting better at everything and is a step above the U21 level. And the next step is the Pro Team.
-- Philippe Eullafroy
Quality over Quantity
Concerning the Academy, we cannot win by playing badly -- Philippe Eullafroy
The Montreal Impact Academy has a distinct European feeling and style in the way it is run. In a North American context, it is a testament that soccer knows no boundaries and at the end, it's all about quality. The Montreal Impact Academy does not want to send players lacking in technical skills to the Pro level. At that level, there is no time to learn or perfect important but basic skills ( technical, positioning etc..): It will be too late.
The level of excellence is seen from the coaching staff`s commitment and knowledge to the Academy practices. You can feel and see the structure around these young players trying to become professionals. Outside the physical and technical quality, the mental aspect of the Academy process is omnipresent and these young men can only benefit from that.
Outside the ''must-win'' mentality that is necessary at the professional level, the Montreal Impact Academy has been and still is in the process of producing high quality players and men to fill up the ranks of the professional team.
The secret weapon for the Montreal Impact lies in the people (coaches and staff) surrounding this structure and the club's commitment to invest in this structure. The secret weapon for the club lies in the Academy's capacity to deliver capable players and capable men.
Stay tuned for more on the Academy, including some of its young and upcoming players , the U16 and U18 teams starting their adventure in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy league and more.