AZ plays to win and to please the crowd. Preferably this is done with several players from the AZ Youth Academy. The aim is to let fifty percent of the squad consist of youth exponents of the club. This is now the case with players like Calvin Stengs, Guus Til, Thomas Ouwejan, Teun Koopmeiners and Myron Boadu. De AZ Academy is an important pillar of the club.
The AZ Youth Academy hugely developed itself in recent years and constantly keeps striving for further progression. Innovative is a word that fits the Alkmaar breeding pond, which won the prestigious Rinus Michels Award for best youth academy of the Netherlands in 2015 and 2016. Also, the AZ Academy has gotten the highest possible status according to the Quality & Performance Program of the Dutch FA.
In AZ’s vision football needs to be played with the intention to dominate games with an attacking playing style. The AZ Youth distinguishes itself with great game insight, self-management, imperturbability and creativity. The players are both technically and physically in optimal condition, so they can play on the level the AZ way of playing demands and persevere this level for an entire match.
Individual development is paramount in the AZ Youth Academy. Therefore, each talent gets his own personal program, so he can be offered ultimate development with customized accompaniment. They player himself is made responsible for his own development, so he gets more insight in his own output and gets conscious of his strengths and points of improvement.
The aim is to let fifty percent of the squad consist of youth exponents of the club. In the current season this happens to be the case.
The current first squad counts thirteen AZ Youth Academy exponents. Ron Vlaar is the most experienced of them, the others are captain Guus Til, Thomas Ouwejan, Calvin Stengs, Golden Boy-nominated Teun Koopmeiners, Pantelis Hatzidiakos, Owen Wijndal, Jeremy Helmer, Marko Vejinovic, Myron Boadu, Jasper Schendelaar, Adam Maher and Mees Hoedemakers. Also, Joris Kramer, Ferdy Druijf, Jamie Jacobs and Joerie Church are regularly included in the selection.
Through the years the AZ Youth Academy has development lots of players who now play professional football. Often they make their debut in the first squad, but AZ exponents are to be found in each layer of the game, like the top of some European leagues. Some examples of these players are Wesley Hoedt (Southampton), Jeremain Lens, Oğuzhan Özyakup (who both play for Turkish outfit Besiktas), Derrick Luckassen (Hertha BSC) and Ruud Vormer (Club Brugge).
In the summer of 2016 the AFAS Training Complex was opened in Zaanstad. A brand-new training ground for both the first squad and the nine teams from the AZ Youth Academy.
The main building of the AFAS Training Centre is multifunctional. On the first there’s a Family Home where the youth squads can eat and relax, and visitors can enjoy a beverage on matchdays. The games can be watched from the stand on the front of the building, accessible from the Family Home. On ground level there’s the dressing rooms, with at the end of the hallway the gym and a treatment room where the medical staff is working. Above the gym there’s an office area and the lunch room for the first squad.
At the AFAS Training Centre the players are offered a variety of surfaces to train on. There are both natural grass and artificial grass pitches, and in the summer of 2017 the palette of surfaces was given a substantial boost with the construction of the Under Armour Performance Playground. On this ‘triangle’ behind field 2 can be trained and played in all kinds of forms on artificial grass, sand and asphalt. Training on various surfaces serves the purpose of cognitive, technical and physical development.
AZ has a culture of constantly seeking for further improvements. Not only on organizational level and in the guidance of the players, but also in offering a wide range of facilities to fit this progressive vision. In addition to the Performance Playground mentioned above, it is also possible to play Teqball (a football variant on ping-pong) and Foot Squash. Furthermore, all resources are available in the gym to tailor physical programs and for the development of cognitive skills the club uses Virtual Reality and progressive computer games such as IntelliGym.
The AFAS Training Centre can be found at Zuiderweg 74A, 1456 NH, Wijdewormer.