Photo credits: RTV Oost
Theo ten Cat is a UEFA A Youth licensed football coach, the owner of DutchCan Soccer and a former Vitesse, FC Twente, FC Groningen and Aberdeen soccer player.
In this exclusive interview conducted by Nuno Milheiro, the 57-year-old coach tells us about his recently founded project, which forms a bridge between Canadian and Dutch soccer, and analyzes the current panorama of Dutch soccer.
After several years of being invited to organize youth camps in Canada, Scotland and the Netherlands and the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, Theo took advantage of his 30 years of experience as an academy coach and player helping young and talented soccer players to develop themselves to become professional soccer players. “I decided to start my company, DutchCan Soccer, last year. Now I got my own company, the TTC Academy. At the moment, we have four sessions in the year – two before the summer and two after the summer – for six weeks. We do training sessions on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I have got kids from U9 until U13, and I am trying to get two friendly games in every course. Two weeks ago, I started my Elite Academy, where I do scouting. It is step by step”.
Hopefully, in December, I will have 16 players who will be my first official TTC Academy team in a certain age group.
“That is my plan so far, and we will provide other things as well, of course”, he said.
Unquestionably, grassroots football has a lot of tradition in the Netherlands, with strong influences from names such as Johan Cruyff and Rinus Michels. Despite this historical heritage, it is not at all problematic for new coaches to implement new methodologies with young players.
If you take your dog in the car, go to a forest and open the door, what do you think the dog does? He runs away! That is how it should be with kids as well.
“Let them do all their things first, and then, slightly, you try to control them a bit. They are full of energy and adrenaline, like the dog who comes out, but he takes a rest as well, and we get used to the situation. That is what I do with my academy as well. When I start at 3 o’clock, the boys come most of the time at a quarter to 3, and I have got 20 balls and everything set. Then, I tell them “boys, please do not ruin my training organization!” and we have a talk. For the first 10 minutes, I let them do whatever they want”.
The 57-year-old coach considers that there has been a paradigm shift in the formative process of players, in the transition to the senior level, and in the Dutch League itself since he hung up his boots. “You have three or four good teams, but the rest… I have seen matches where if I did those kinds of actions – in a game or even during a training session – the coach would come to me saying “Theo, you had a bad day, take a shower and try tomorrow”. There is a couple of interesting games, with Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Feyenoord, AZ Alkmaar, and FC Twente, but that is all. FC Twente is not playing that good football, but they have a system sorted out, and it is difficult to win against them. It is not even nice to watch, but they take a lot of points out of the games.
There is also one thing that has changed in the Nederlands. When I played, every international top player was in the Dutch league.
“I can come with Romário, Ronaldo, Frank Rijkaard, Marco Van Basten, Ronald Koeman, etc. Every top team had top players. They started their careers in the Nederlands, but they did not finish them. Romário and Ronaldo went to Barcelona, Robin Van Persie to Arsenal, Ruud van Nistelrooy to Manchester United, and Giovanni van Bronckhorst to Rangers, but in their first years, they played in the Dutch league”, Theo added.
The Netherlands is finally qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, after having missed the 2018 edition, but his expectations for the national team led by Louis Van Gaal are moderate. “I do not think they will have a problem making the first group stage. They will probably win. The more surprises there are, the greater the chances that one of the good teams will win. It is the most consistent that will probably win the World Cup. I do not see them again. It is too defensive. Just give Memphis Depay a ball and one to the other ten players so that he can play with his own”, be concluded.
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