Former Malta international Andre Schembri and Dr Luigi Fenech launched NxtEra – a football academy for boys and girls aged 5 to 12 where the focus would be on fully developing the potential of the young players.
“NxtEra is not just a football school. It is a system which we would like to adopt and which should change the culture at how we look at football. NxtEra is based on three pillars: quality coaching, parent education and first-class administration,” said Schembri.
The former Hibernians and Marsaxlokk player, who went on to play in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and India throughout his career, said the coach should not be the process but the coach would be following the methodology which should develop the boys and girls.
The CEO of NxtEra, Dr Luigi Fenech, who is also one of the co-founders of this academy, spent one year working within the legal department of top Belgian side Club Bruges and their sporting department. He said that while there, he got to see first hand the planning and the preparation that goes into the structure as a whole, witnessing the level and intensity Bruges place on the foundation phase.
“It is very simple. Football today has become so expensive and purchasing players has become so difficult that it makes much more sense investing thirty, forty, fifty million in a first-class grassroots system, providing athletes with all the tools they require to progress to be able to excel and make it into the first team.”
“While there, I immediately realised that if you have a structure and adopt a similar philosophy and we are being guided by a coaching partner – and we are being guided by MBP (Making Better Players in Barcelona) adopt a couple of touch points that are being adopted in these top academies, there is no reason why we cannot make it.”
Fenech revealed that NxtEra has already concluded an affiliation agreement in Belgium and in July, the coaching staff and administration will travel to Belgium and will sit down with their directors of coaching and directors of the academy and together with the philosophy that we are creating together with MBP, they would be guiding us on touch points which are easy to implement in the local scenario to make sure that progress takes place rapidly, providing the chances for athletes to make it at elite level.
Andre Schembri added “In football, there are three stages – the foundation phase for those aged 5 to 12, Youth Development phase for those aged 13 to 17 and the professional development phase for those who would be able to secure a professional contract. What you do in the foundation phase is of utmost importance as that is what shapes the athlete. What you don’t do at that age, you won’t do at later stage.”
“Unfortunately, in Malta, we invest a lot at top level and on foreign players. We believe clubs should invest in grassroots as the young players are the future. As NxtEra, we would be focussing on this age group as we believe this would enable these players to develop and may be get the opportunity to play abroad. We believe a lot in this project. We are working with our partners MBP and together we are creating the philosophy.”
Schembri stressed on the need to focus on the curriculum rather than the coach and that the coach should not be the process. Together with MBP, we are creating the curriculum adapted to the Maltese culture and how we should develop the young players. Dr Fenech added that it was important to adopt a philosophy, a training curriculum and training structure which matches the Maltese identity.
The Head-Coach will be Martina Borg. Borg is a psychology graduate and completed her Masters in Sports and Exercise Psychology at Staffordshire University UK. She has formed part of the Malta women’s national team and apart from playing for five years in Italy.
At Nxt Era, groups will be formed according to the concept game-understanding rather than age groups, since children progress at a different rate. Andre Schembri and Martina Borg will be analysing their level of game understanding and grouping them at the level in which they are.
Schembri explained that there are three stages – the Egocentric stage – the younger kids who believe the game is all about themselves and the ball; the Summative stage – where the players start to understand that they need the cooperation of others and the Collective stage – where the players fully understand the need of cooperation with the rest of the players. The curriculum will be adapted to the different stages.
Nxt Era will not be another academy where young players already playing for an academy would go for extra training sessions.
“We believe in our methodology and coaches and therefore we cannot allow players to go to another nursery where we do not know what curriculum is being followed. Our strategy is that after the age of twelve, the young players would move to any other academy,” said Schembri.
However he stressed that NxtEra is looking forward to working closely with Malta Football Association and local clubs.
Dr Fenech said that after five, six years of elite foundation coaching – at the age of twelve, the young players would be ready to filter into clubs.
“Phase 2 focused on children aged twelve to fifteen is something we have discussed at length. Between the age of twelve to fifteen, it is important for them to filter into clubs – for clubs to have players of a certain level performing with them and also for the players to get to the competitive age. We have discussed this with Club Brugge and they will be monitoring our players and when the right players identify themselves, they will have the possibility to go for a trial, training camp or scholarship. For example, players who show potential at the age of eleven or twelve could be given a four-year scholarship.”
NxtEra will be open for boys and girls aged five to twelve. Sessions will be held three times a week at St. Dorothy’s School in Zebbug which has a state-of-the-art football pitch, a heated pool and an indoor gym.
For more information, visit www.nxterafootball.com