The Knappenschmiede academy aims to consistently help young footballing talents to make the transition from youth football to the Schalke first team.
The club is highly committed to making sure that their players – and especially their young players – have the best possible opportunity to succeed. Bit by bit, under-17 and under-19 players are brought ever closer to the level of a professional player. The phrase hard work pays off increases in importance. The development of individual players is taking more precedence. Teamwide success can and should be of secondary importance. However, all competitive teams have to play at the highest level of competition respective to their age groups in order to best further the players’ development. These values ensure that all youth players are optimally prepared for the senior level of football.
The aim of the Knappenschmiede academy is to effectively prepare every player for the level of competition they are playing at, with the hope that by the end of the season, as many players as possible are ready to take the step up to the next team in the academy. Training sessions are to build on from one another – within each season and also from age group to age group.
In order to help each and every player – irrespective of age and ability – as much as possible and to bring them along to the level of a professional player in a sensible way, the structure of the academy was remodelled from the 2011/2012 season. Specifically, the academy was split into an under-9 to under-15 section and an under-16 to under-23 section. And within the older section, the under-21 to under-23 level is considered the transitional phase from youth to professional football. Aside from playing league games at their age-level, all youth teams take part in regular friendly matches against competition from other countries.
In order to bring the academy players closer to the first team, the under-19s travel internationally with the Bundesliga side around the time of the UEFA Youth League group stages, should the first team have also qualified for the Champions League as well. The academy players travel on the same plane and mostly stay in the same hotel as the professionals. As well as that, Schalke’s top youth team will play against their counterparts from the first team’s Champions League opponents, before they experience the Champions League game itself live in the stadium.
Additionally, some under-19 and under-23 players are periodically selected to take part in first-team training. International breaks and training camps are the perfect time for this to happen, as the team is without its international players, and so both sides benefit greatly. Moreover, one of the first team’s fitness coaches holds a session with the under-16 to under-23 players in the academy once a week.
With the planned construction of a new training complex, there is also an idea in place to include a communal dressing room for all under-16, under-17, under-18, under-19, under-23 and first-team players. This would bring a large part of the club closer together as part of their normal training schedules.