On Tuesday, Major League Soccer announced the fourth iteration of its partnership with the French Football Federation (FFF), an initiative that provides 20 MLS youth academy coaches with world-class training through a yearlong youth development course.
Representing the Chicago Fire Academy is staff coach Ross Brady, who began the program this week at France’s Institut national du football de Clairefontaine, an elite academy southwest of Paris supervised by the FFF.
“I’m familiar with some of the methodology and terminology since (Chicago Fire Academy Technical Director) Cedric (Cattenoy) came from France and he worked in a similar way,” Brady said. “Going into it, I felt prepared. There’s a lot of information being thrown at us that I’m trying to process, evaluate and then ultimately come back and apply.”
The initiative is the Fire Academy's latest connection to the FFF. Cattenoy was hired in October of 2016 from Paris Saint-Germain, and the staff recently added Ludovic Taillandier of Ligue 1's Amiens SC to its ranks. The partnership places participants through the same course and training demands the FFF mandates of its domestic coaches, but customized for North America’s needs. The goal of the program is to accelerate Major League Soccer’s collective expertise in player development.
“It’s good to get out there and push yourself out of your comfort zone,” Brady said. “There’s always a natural part where you start to fail or struggle, and that’s a part of it. Ultimately growth will happen if you learn from the struggles. I can tell you for sure this week there have been struggles (laughs).”
“Hopefully I can bring all this information back to try to help improve the players we work with and create a better performance environment,” he added. “From that standpoint, it’s a way to try to push the Club forward.”
The program incorporates features unique to each MLS market allowing coaches to better serve their respective club with learnings from this continuing coaching education course. Created in 2013, the partnership has already seen more than 60 coaches graduate through the program to earn an Elite Formation Coaching License (EFCL).
Brady will additionally spend a week immersed at Portugal’s S.L. Benfica as part of the course, where he’ll receive instruction from club management on training styles from top to bottom of the academy. Following several ensuing installments of coaching sessions in the United States and Canada during the following months, participants will return to Clairefontaine next September for a final week of evaluation.
At the conclusion of the program, all passing participants will receive an Elite Formation Coaching License.
“Where the league is trying to get to, I think they truly want to grow the game and try to produce higher level elite players that can benefit the league,” Brady said. “If we have a superstar that’s an American that’s playing in the league, that brings value to the league. You get the enjoyment of seeing an American player come through the system and playing in MLS, and if he has dreams to go beyond that, then you can sell him and get a return on investment as well.”