Chelsea FC Foundation International Development Manager, Ian Woodroffe on the upcoming Digicel Academy

With the Digicel Academy around the corner, it was the perfect time to quiz the International Development Manager on his thoughts about the programme, the importance of youth development initiatives – and his advice for the 32 aspiring young footballers who will be trained under coaches from Chelsea FC.

{IMAGE VIA:} “Ian, this is a huge opportunity for these 32 young boys to spend a week training under coaches from Chelsea. Firstly, what advice do you have for them as they prepare for their week of training?”

I’m sure the players are very excited about this fantastic programme and opportunity created by Digicel. From a Chelsea FC Foundation coaches’ perspective, we ultimately want all the players to join us with lots of energy and an open mind to enjoy, engage, learn and benefit from their experiences gained from the training. This is further enhanced by the exposure and cultural interaction with many other players from all across the Caribbean.

For many of them, it is their first time away from home – what challenges might this pose for them? And does their ability to cope speak to their longevity in the game?

Being away from home is not something that the players should be apprehensive of. Many of the players are in the same position plus they also won’t necessarily know each other. The detail and planning from Digicel and Chelsea is to the finest point. I’m sure this will be a positive opportunity that could encourage the players to explore the globe further given the opportunity in the future.

This is the fifth year of the Digicel Kick Start Clinics programme. In your opinion, how important are these types of initiatives in ensuring the ongoing development of football?

This programme of engaging coaching and training from other countries, while bringing together talented players to further test themselves, is very important in order to further develop playing ability and understanding. I would encourage any young players to embrace such an opportunity given the chance. As we know, football is the most popular global sport, we never stop learning and developing as the game continues to grow and evolve.

Having been chosen as the best in their groups, these boys are coming to the Academy armed with a ton of talent. However, from a coaching perspective, what attributes – other than talent – would you be looking for in the boys?

There are many factors that affect player development and the chance to progress to a higher level in the game. I would encourage all players to try and play to the highest level and continually look to test themselves against the best opposition they can find. Ultimately, you don’t get much reward in any sport without a lot of hard work, dedication and determination to achieve your goal.

All of these boys dream of becoming successful professional footballers. What advice do you have for them to make it on an international level?

Every young footballer across the globe has the dream of becoming a success, so there’s a lot of competition. My advice on development is to enjoy the game, work hard to improve all aspects of performance, always try to play at the highest level – and keep testing yourself to become better. We never stop learning and there is always something to improve even at the highest level. Who knows what you can achieve, only time will tell.

The Football Association in England recently made some important decisions on the youth development plans in order to improve technique and game understanding at a young age. What do you think is most important for young players in terms of development and structure – and what do you think is needed in the Caribbean in terms of improving the youth development programme here?

As this is the first year, it’s very difficult to comment or make comparisons to the English game. We’re just looking forward to working with all of these young players from across the Caribbean. I’m sure it will be a positive experience for us all.

In terms of next steps, what advice do you have for the boys in building on what they have learned during their week at the Academy with the Chelsea coaches?

I would hope the opportunity given by Digicel and Chelsea FC Foundation will encourage all the players to work hard and strive to become the best they can be in there footballing life. The opportunity to explore a new country and engage with people from outside their own country will hopefully be a positive experience, and one they learn from and want to continue. Socially, with 32 young players together, I’m sure the experience will be one where they leave with many new friends from different countries. For me personally, the most exciting part about the whole programme is that it’s not a one off but is part of a long-term relationship between Digicel and Chelsea. We are very much looking forward to developing this whole programme over the next few years.

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