Youth academy and social work
The 2015/2016 season again saw the youth academy’s competitive teams involved in a number of social initiatives. Both the educational psychology team and coaching staff were very keen to ensure the players were exposed to opportunities for development and education outside of the standard training model, in this case by meeting a range of people and integrating with other sections of society.
Giovanissimi Nazionali: The Special Onlus team, made up of 15-20 disabled children, was invited to visit the Vismara. The visitors mixed with the AC Milan players and were put through their paces with a proper training session including a series of exercises out on the pitches, followed by a friendly match and snack to finish. All of the players in the Giovanissimi Nazionali squad took part, tackling the various exercises together and building up strong relationships with the disabled children despite spending just a couple of hours together. The initiative was successful is letting the AC Milan players experience football from “another perspective”.
Allievi Nazionali: The team met around 16 youngsters from the "Lavoro di Squadra" [Team Work] project, organised by the Milan Foundation and ActionAid. After getting to know each other in the conference room, the players then had a joint training session. The aim of the initiative was to help the AC Milan players meet and get to know their peers, emphasising the importance of reciprocation and encouraging them to recognise the different contributions and experiences that every one of us brings to the table.
Allievi Lega Pro: The team and coaching staff met Emanuele Padoan from the Italy Amputee Team. The aim of this was not only to raise awareness and instil a culture of openness, understanding, respect and diversity within the players, but also to expose them to life experiences which will help them to mature as footballers and people.
|Educational psychology team members||13 + 2 supervisors|
|Training and residence team split||5 training, 8 residence|
|Team members by specialism (Psychology/Pedagogy/Foreign Languages)||5 psychology, 7 pedagogy, 1 foreign languages|
|Total number of meetings with players||450|
|Total number of meetings with technical staff/coaches||1 per week in each category|
|Total number of meetings with families||Average of 1 per family|
|Number of university students/interns working with the educational psychology team||4|
|Number of staff training meetings||4|
The first floor of Quark Due Residence was refurbished six years ago to accommodate AC Milan’s youth-team players and the tutors that work with them throughout their stay in the academy.
The residence is the place where AC Milan provides accommodation and assistance to the young players aged 14-18 who come from outside Lombardy and other registered players who, for one reason or another, are required to use the facilities. The aim of the residence is to provide the right conditions to foster a young player’s development and support their football commitments. AC Milan is committed to supporting young players throughout their teens, by providing a safe, family-oriented environment, proper role models, and help and support with school work and football commitments. The player’s mental and physical wellbeing is always the priority.
The ability to build relationships is a fundamental part of creating a sense of trust between the coaches, those staying at the Residence and their families.
Forty players were housed in the Residence in the 2015/2016 season: two from the first team, 14 from the Primavera, 17 from the two professional Allievi sides (U17 and U16) and seven from the Under-15s.
|Players housed in the Residence||40|
|Interviews with educational staff||207|
|Hours of evening lessons||between 320 and 400|
Weeks at the Residence are timetabled to help the young players manage their study and football commitments and free time.
Days are broken down as follows between Monday and Friday:
- Study/free time
- Study/free time
The weekend timetable factors in match commitments, meaning Saturday and Sunday are organised as follows:
- Study/free time
- Study/free time
Interview with Manuel Locatelli
I settled in really well. I met some people that I really bonded with and they were always there to help me. I knew when I moved into the residence that I’d meet people I could talk to, have a laugh with and rely on.What was it like moving into the residence and what did you struggle with?
The decision to move to Milan and the residence, a long way from my family home, was something I had to do and involved making sacrifices. We all have ambitions in life though, and my dream was to play football, so that meant being willing to make this sacrifice now to avoid having regrets further down the line. I can now say it was the right decision. Had I opted against it, I wouldn’t have managed to achieve the important milestone of my high school diploma whilst being involved in the first-team squad and everything that goes with it.What advice would you give your team-mates, be they your peers or younger players, to help them deal with this experience?
Listen to the tutors because if they say something it’s for your own good. I’d tell them to relax and not get hung up on what they’re leaving behind at home because you have to focus on training and not going out at night and simply having fun. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself at the residence but you have to strike the right balance. Some things are more important than others if your real aim is to make your dream come true.What will you take away from this experience?
Greater independence. I’ve also learned how to get around Milan on public transport without getting lost and I’ve grown mentally and matured a great deal thanks to this experience.
* Manuel joined the AC Milan youth academy in 2008, aged 11. He made his first-team debut on 21/02/2016 at home against Carpi FC.
Educational activities for youngsters at the residence
The education and support that the youngsters receive at the residence is bolstered by a series of activities which have been specifically designed for those living at the facility. Listed below are four activities which clearly illustrate the work done in the 2015/2016 season.
Alimentare Watson EXPO 2015
On 7 September at EXPO 2015’s Palazzo Italia, a meeting was held which aimed to raise awareness on the importance of specific nutrition as a key component of effective competitive sporting performance. Players from the Primavera, Allievi Under-17s and Allievi Pro took part in Alimentare Watson EXPO 2015, an initiative run by the Bracco and Teatro alla Scala foundations. Besides the AC Milan academy players, there were also youth-team products from Sassuolo and students from the dance academy at La Scala.
After a word from Gianluca Vago, rector of Milan’s Università degli Studi, and Luisa Vinci, the managing director of the Accademia Teatro alla Scala foundation, it was time for the expert speakers. AC Milan’s head of medicine Dr Rodolfo Tavana spoke about the importance of hydration for athletes. Inter’s Dr Volpi, meanwhile, discussed diet for young athletes. Dr Luca Mordazzi from the Mapei Sport Research Centre argued the importance of vitamin D, while Dr Cazzola from the Università degli Studi spoke about essential fatty acids. Dr Benvenuto Cestano, also from the Università degli Studi, gave a speech on performance optimisation and Dr Omar De Bartolomeo discussed nutrition in relation to the performances of professional dancers.
There were also two special guest speakers in the shape of Ivan Ramiro Cordoba, a former Inter player, and Oriella Dorella, a former principal ballerina at La Scala who now serves as the director of the theatre’s Dance School.
Storie di vita, storie di sport
“Storie di sport, storie di vita” was the name of a meeting held in February 2016 featuring Mediaset journalist Nando Sanvito. Sanvito has been driven by a love of investigative journalism ever since his formative years. He later combined this eagerness to learn with a career as a reporter. He analysed and read several case studies and told the life stories of numerous successful sports stars. The evening featured a handful of video documentaries on athletes and sports with a personal interpretation and commentary from the journalist on each story. The same question kept coming up throughout the evening: “Why is it that if the balance of power on the pitch is before our eyes, the result is not always a given and predictable?” That prompted a dialogue to explain how the life stories of the stars could serve as a lesson in the development of the youngsters at the residence. Thanks to straightforward language – video footage – and the enormity and dramatic nature of the human stories told in great detail, the youngsters reflected on sporting events and what it means to be a sportsman, before looking at whether fate or a higher power comes into it.
Eating like an athlete
Nutrition was a subject which was touched upon numerous times in the youth academy throughout the 2015/2016 season. These occasions included a workshop for the boys entitled “Eating like an athlete”. The players were split into five groups, with each of them focusing on a specific topic:
- Group 1 – Hydration
- Why is drinking important?
- What, when and how much should we drink to hydrate?
- Group 2 – Macro- and micronutrients
- What are the main nutrients?
- Which foods contain them?
- When should they be consumed and during which meal?
- What does it mean from a biological perspective?
- Group 3 – Breakdown of daily meals:
- Which meals should actually be consumed?
- Which is the most important meal and why?
- Group 4 – A balanced meal
- What does that mean?
- What’s in it?
- When should it be eaten?
- Why is it important?
- Group 5 – Diet in sport
- How important is it?
- What and how much should you eat before/during/after a match or training session?
Each group had the chance to consult the team of nutritionists who support the players throughout the season and were provided with slides to work on before answering the questions. At the end of the workshop, the groups came together to talk about the topic of diet in general.
#Care – A project to educate young people on respecting differences
#CARE stands for Conoscere (Get to know), Accogliere (Accommodate), Rispettare (Respect) and Educarsi alle differenze (Learn about differences). The #CARE project was run once again this season, with the focus on respecting women. The initiative took the form of workshops with all of the academy teams.