With the Wanderers Academy season already underway, Technical Director Ian Crook spoke about some of the challenges he's faced so far and the importance of developing a pathway for the next generation.
The Wanderers Academy has started off the season with a bang having only lost one of their last twelve matches across all ages in the National Premier League.
This year, the Academy has retained a lot of players with some new faces also signing on.
Given the nature of the Wanderers Academy and the various age groups, many of the players still go to school and at times it can be difficult for them to balance the demands of playing football and getting an education.
"With the older group, it's a lot easier.
"Trevor (NPL Head Coach Trevor Morgan) and I contact the schools of every player in the Academy just organise and make sure that their school work is up to date and that they aren't falling behind.
"With the younger ones, it's a little difficult because they train at night.
"We always say to parents that you need to be straight with us. If your son is struggling in school because of the late nights and maybe his grade have gone down for whatever reason, then we will need to give him a week or two to catch up" he said.
Thankfully, the Academy hasn't had to resort to that option with players doing well in managing their time and keeping up with their study.
The Western Sydney Wanderers strong start to the season has been very important in giving them a good position on the ladder early on, but the focus for all the coaches has always been on maximising each individual players development.
"At the end of the day for the Academy, results are probably the least of the things we look at... rather we look at their development.
"Don’t get me wrong, winning is important and a part of development, but especially with the younger group our 13s and 14s we are asking them to play a certain way where there is more of a chance of them to make a mistake.
“We’re asking them to play out from the back so they’ll maybe concede goals at times because they’re trying to do what we want them to do.
“But they sometimes haven’t got the power. Say if another team is pressing them, to get out they may have trouble with a longer pass” said Crook.
Looking ahead towards the future goals of the Academy, the outcome has always been to develop a pathway for players to make their way into the first team.
“It’s to always keep developing. It’s all about how many players we get into the first team.
“Realistically we can now look at where our boys are in the U13s and look ahead to see how many of those we can push into the youth team in three years time and then the first team.”