More is not necessarily better for talented youngsters at Ajax

Life as a talented young athlete is not always simple. It takes a great of effort to juggle school, matches, training and just growing up.

During a visit to De Toekomst, the academy run by Ajax, the young tennis players and their coaches were told how Ajax handles this. Ruben Jongkind and Wim Jonk, who are in charge of the academy, were happy to make to the expertise and resources of De Toekomst available to the players and coaches. Jongkind explains, ‘We’re always happy to share what we know. I’m sure that we’ll learn things from the people at KNLTB, and so we all benefit.’

Mapping out growth phases

Besides the technical aspects, ‘sports for growing children’ was another of the subjects discussed at length. Ajax has used scientific methods to map out the growth phases of talented young football players, applying the findings to create a clear vision. Ajax performance coach Bas Harsema gave a mini-lecture where he translated this vision to the tennis players’ situation.

Time to rest

Richard Krajicek comments, ‘There’s a natural tendency to want to train more and more all the time. It’s no different with the group that Esther and I are mentoring. So it was extremely useful to hear how Ajax tackles this issue. Rest receives a great deal of attention at this club, combined with proper nutrition and individual training designed to suit the player’s growth phase.’

Valuable glimpse behind the scenes

The experts at Ajax determined the respective growth phases of each of the young tennis players. This information was used to provide their parents and coaches with guidelines about what is advisable right now in terms of training and competing. Dr Babette Pluim of tennis association KNLTB explains, ‘Our visit to Ajax gave us a valuable glimpse behind the scenes. Obviously we also have special programmes for each child, but the scientific basis gives us an even better grip on the matter.’ Richard Krajicek adds, ‘For one or two of the kids this explanation in fact has triggered changes to their training schedules. That was in fact the goal: to become even more aware of what they do with their bodies. They’ll be needing them for a long time to come.’

Find out why Diede de Groot and Ruben Spaargaren are so happy with Esther Vergeer.