Love football, have fun

Will Patz, a former youth coach at the Manchester United Soccer Schools, wants to bring the philosophy he learned with the English football giants to his new post as Program Manager of the ESPZEN Football School and Academy.

Out of a thousand six-year-old soccer players, only one will probably be able to make it big.

That is according to Will Patz, programme manager at the ESPZEN Football School and Academy.

Speaking to The New Paper yesterday at the academy's training ground at Turf City, Patz, 27, said: "I think there's no chance that you can tell whether a six or seven-year-old will become a great player, it's impossible.

"Even in the days of Maradona and Pele, no one would have been able to say they would go on to be the world's best when they were very young. Maybe the individual coaches would have seen something special, but not to that extent."

Patz will be leading the inaugural McDonald's Football Clinic, in conjunction with the ESPZEN Football School and Academy, from June 2 to 6 at Turf City.

The clinic will end with a mini-tournament where three participants, one from each of the three age-groups - Under-8, Under-10 and Under-12 - will win a year's scholarship at the football school worth $5,000.

The Englishman is a former Manchester United Football Schools youth coach and worked with players aged between seven and 16 years old.

Patz joined the English giants' youth development programme in May 2011. There were 2,000 applicants who applied, and he was one of 12 who got the nod.


He worked with United until last December when he took up an offer from the ESPZEN academy here.

He said: "I love football and I want the children I coach to love football as much as me and enjoy it as much as they can.

"The philosophy I learned at Manchester United was the relentless pursuit of success - not success as in trophies or medals, but the holistic development of a player no matter the age.

"I want to teach these children that it's not all about winning trophies or earning lots of money but to work as a team, grow as an individual and love playing the game."

When asked what he personally looked out for when he does spot a teenage player with special skills, Patz said: "I ask them if they want to learn about football and about life.

"Do they think they have already made it? Or are they humble and modest in their attitude, and are eager to learn. That's the big difference."

The Englishman believes that the phrase "player development" has been thrown around too loosely these days, insisting the coaching team at ESPZEN back it up with what they do on the field.

He said: "During our sessions we'll have a ratio of one coach to 12 children, and I don't think you'll find that small a ratio in any of the football academies in Singapore.

"If they're good dribblers, my plan is to teach them why they need to improve their passing and shooting, so they become more well-rounded.

"I want them to have as much time with the ball at their feet as possible, and we'll also have five-a-side games, rather than bigger games, so everyone plays a part."

Patz says he is here for the long haul and will be around to hopefully see at least some of the children make it professionally.


He said: "My goal is to make sure the quality of sessions I have with the children and the rest of the coaches is something I can be proud of, especially given my background in England.

"I want to share my knowledge with everyone and make sure there's a successful coaching structure in place in this academy. "Even if it takes five to 10 years, then so be it. I'm here for the long run."

This article was first published on May 29, 2014.
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