Ep 25: Academy Success, Data & Analytics – Tony Annan, ATL United Academy Director
Atlanta United Academy Director Tony Annan joined SoccerWire analyst Marc Serber via Zoom for Episode 25 of The SoccerWire Podcast. Annan shares what defines success for Atlanta United’s academy, the role data and analytics plays, and what the club is doing during the COVID-19 outbreak.
[0:45] Annan shares how everyone in the Atlanta United Academy is holding up during the COVID-19 pandemic and what he misses most during this time.
[1:49] Explaining how to academy is staying connected via Google Classroom, sending out fitness programs and self-analysis, one-to-one coaches calls at both a personal level and a coaching level.
[2:59] A story on the staff doing a toilet paper juggling challenge.
[4:25] The impact on development that COVID-19 is having, and discussing how many clubs are doing the same individual workouts.
[6:55] Annan shares that clubs find out a lot about players during this time and who is willing to put in the work and that players have a chance to work on individual weaknesses.
[9:10] On trying to stay in communication with parents who are overwhelmed and what the academy is doing to help families that are struggling.
[10:25] Annan’s reflections on passion for soccer and the impact it has on one’s life both with and without it.
[11:39] Explaining that everything is on the kids to keep themselves motivated and in shape, now that it’s from a distance, you find out who has what it takes.
[13:05] Annan shares that with extra time he is catching up on missed academy games, national team games, studying film, and has been watching Newcastle United classic games.
[15:24] The driving factor for Atlanta United Academy success is their large player pool, explaining that the clubs in Atlanta do a great job, have really good coaches, great organization, and how most clubs willing to work with Atlanta United because they’re transparent. Another factor is the ATL United Academy staff and their efforts as well as talented individual players. Annan says there is no secret recipe: be honest, hard-working, and detailed in approach.
[17:10] Annan shares everyone is looking at other clubs to see what works and that if you watch look listen enough you can take something from everyone. He also says football (soccer) is a company of thieves (drills, tactics, etc. all stolen from each other) but you have to create your own philosophy and methodology.
[19:23] Annan shares the goals for the academy – produce professional players, 9 in 4 years (2 in first team). He shares they have recently hired an individual development coach (doesn’t coach a team just works with the individuals), have a nutritionist and transportation, and the club is expanding with different elements that help move them forward.
[21:29] is it the system or the league that is producing the players, not convinced that the “DA or the league” is producing the players – the clubs and coaches are producing the players, the DA is not a bad league, there are challenging games, but up to clubs to develop players, can rag on the DA but at the end of the day what are they doing to be part of the solution, DA is not to blame, blame (if there is any) lies on the clubs training and environment.
[25:08] Annan shares what data metrics are they looking for and that coaches can’t forget the natural essence of the game and your eyes -those tell the whole picture everything else is backed up by data. He believes data gives you evidence that you are right as a coach and that you have to apply data correctly. He also shares that what you do in training and how you do it will show in the game data that you’re doing the right thing.
[28:19] Annan explains if data can keep out a player that might not have the metrics. He says clubs might lose a player with poor data by never using the eye test but the players also have to be accountable. Plus, there are top managers who don’t care about data because it doesn’t fit their philosophy and that the most important thing when using data is to have everyone on same page. There needs to be a trust/understanding between everyone, they are all support mechanisms for head coach. Annan says that utopia is when all departments work together and trust each other.