Sigi Meeuws, the Director of ZSC Academy, had the honour of being interviewed for a story in Abu Dhabi World, one of the most widely read publications in the capital. In case you missed it in print, here are his top tips to set yourself up for a great season of sports. You can learn more about the programme he operates by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 403 4228.
Choosing a youth sports academy is as much about finding the best program as it is about finding the best fit. While it is easy to compare academies on basic details such as fees, locations and timings, navigating the many options for lessons and practices to find a great match involves asking a few tough questions.
“It is important to make sure everyone is aligned on expectations and programming. Parents must be confident that their children will be safe, have fun, and improve their skills,” noted Sigi Meeuws, the Director of ZSC Academy, a club that earned silver in the youth sports academy category at the 2019 Middle East Sport Industry Awards.
A father himself, Sigi’s more than two decades of experience in coaching and sports management have earned him a reputation as one of the UAE’s experts in youth sports development.
“When you ask these questions to the director or head coach, pay attention to sport-specific details while considering the needs of your child and family,” he advises, noting that because best practices vary by sport, checking federation guidelines before the conversation can be helpful. “Their responses will give you more confidence to make the right decision.”
1. What sets your program apart from others?
Knowing the values, vision and mission of the academy is very important. Their focus - competition, growth, balance, or anything else – should align with your expectations to get off to a great star.
2. What are the pathways of your academy?
This question helps you know how your child can grow within the program. Ask things like whether players are grouped by skill or age and the academy’s approach for reaching advanced goals. For teens who are hardworking and gifted, find out if the academy has a record of scholarship placements or other specialty outcomes.
3. How are practices structured?
Practices should be designed around a specific outcome. Between warm-up and cool down, a lesson plan would incorporate tactics, technique, physical conditioning, motor skills development and match play in some combination.
There may also be unstructured self-practice time, breakout groups or “thought sessions” about injury prevention or nutrition.
4. What do you recommend for my kid’s training schedule?
When your kids are young, the director should consider age, skill, interest and family circumstances to help you create a schedule, which may include multiple sports to balance growing bodies. A rule of thumb is not to exceed one hour per year of age. If your kids are older, are there expectations to hit the weight room or participate in team runs in addition to a busy practice schedule, for example?
5. What opportunities exist outside of practice?
Some academies organize competitions, skills assessments, private lessons or workshops that support player development. Off the field of play, they may arrange social nights, nominate players for local recognition, or offer connections to volunteer at major sporting events.
To read part 2, which includes questions about the people involved in the programme, click here.