A history spanning more than 110 years, almost 150,000 club members, numerous unforgettable sporting achievements, famous players who have been or still are active for the club - that tradition is what the whole club is bound to. And that includes the highest possible commitment to the development of youth players. The overarching aim is to be a people’s club that has the community at its core. The Knappenschmiede academy and all of its players, staff members and teams are committed to this aim, which helps FC Schalke 04 to be as relatable as possible to its fans and members.
Development is of the highest priority
The development of young players is of the highest priority in the Knappenschmiede academy and thus at the centre of all decisions that are made and measures that are taken. The academy’s ultimate goal is to develop young, talented footballers so that they are able to play at the highest level possible (i.e. in the Bundesliga). The academy functions as the internal breeding ground for the professional section of the club, and ensures that the first team is strengthened by the best young talents year in, year out. This development is not only in terms of their sporting ability, but also aims to bring this together with their academic education and growth as as person. To give this the best possible chance to happen, S04 has made constant improvements to its academy facilities over the last few years across the board. It is extremely important that this level of football continues to be invested in.
Development of highly-gifted players
Particularly talented players are brought up to the next age group earlier than normal to ensure that they are always being challenged to get better. For this to happen, it has to be agreed to by the player’s coach, as well as the management team and head scout, before also being run by the first-team management. As a result, talented players are able to prove themselves at the regional/under-23 level by the time they reach the under-19 age group at the latest. It is the only way to prepare young, gifted players for the professional game.
The structure of the academy
In the younger level of the academy, FC Schalke 04 brings in a large range of players from the local area of Gelsenkirchen. This is particularly true within the under-9 to under-12 age groups. The idea is to avoid a high amount of turnover at this level, in order to develop the players within the Schalke framework in a long-term and sustainable manner. Performance analysis and the detailed selection process that follows is introduced for the first time at under-16 level. It is from this point only that other players are recruited externally – more specifically players that are from the Westphalia area and to a lesser extent, the North-Rhein area. However, the majority of the under-16 team will still be made up of players that have already come through the younger age groups of the Knappenschmiede academy.
At the under-17 and under-19 level, the aim is to only sign players that are Germany youth internationals. If it makes sense and is the best option for the academy, however, an exception can be made for players from the immediate area to be brought in. Every coach in the Knappenschmiede academy is to help further the development of the age group they are working with. In order to do so, they should have the best possible qualifications at their disposal and also be prepared to integrate new methods and philosophies to their style of coaching.
At the higher levels of the academy, in which the aim is to prepare players for senior football, Schalke ideally employs coaches who were formerly professionals themselves. Having coaches with the best possible qualifications lays the best possible foundation for the young players to learn what it takes to become a professional themselves. Former professional footballers also serve to function as role models that the team can look up to. They have a wealth of invaluable experience in all facets of professional sport which they can relay to their players.
In order to make sure things run as smoothly as possible on the sporting side of things, the Knappenschmiede academy requires all of its staff members to have the best possible qualifications for their job and a high affinity for football. They are also expected to be willing to continue to further their own expertise by being in constant communication with their colleagues.