The Wellington Phoenix are excited to announce a series of structural changes to the Phoenix Academy, with a focus on further improving its already NZ-leading level of service to young Kiwi footballers.
The first change sees current Wellington Phoenix Assistant Coach, Chris Greenacre, shift into the Academy Head Coaching role in a move designed to strengthen the Academy’s pathways into the first team.
Phoenix Academy Technical Director, Paul Temple says the decision to bring Greenacre onboard shows how serious the Club is about providing an elite level of player development to young Kiwis aspiring to become professional footballers.
“I think first and foremost, Greeny [Chris Greenacre] is a Club legend as a player and has been a Coach for 10-odd years now in the first-team environment, so to have someone with that kind of A-League experience coming into the Academy to work with our youth is a positive thing for everybody,” says Temple.
“It’s brilliant for our staff and the wider Academy as we’re trying to show that we have the best coaches in the country, working with the best players – so this decision fits our model straight away as Greeny is one of the best operators in the country.
“It’s awesome for Greeny too – he’ll be a Head Coach of his own team, have a key role in working with the next crop of young players, helping them progress into the first team and understanding the jump they need to make into becoming a professional; he’s got a unique skillset in being able to do that.”
Temple says that this decision allows him to focus on both managing a steadily growing Academy platform, and to build new pathways for young players who have the goal of making it onto the professional stage.
“When I first arrived here nearly six years ago we basically had one and a half teams and 2-3 staff, but we’ve now got to a point where we’re operating 7-8 Academy groups and 20 staff – so it’s grown phenomenally and is a totally different operation compared to 5 years ago.
“It’s reached a point as an organisation where I personally need to put more focus into how we continue building this Academy to be sustainable for the future – how we build the girl’s programme and how we tie everything into our philosophy, our blueprint and our culture.
“We’ve set out to make our Academy the best in Australasia and it’s my job to keep making this Academy better; so it’s not just about how many players we get into the top end, we want every boy or girl that comes through here to have a great experience, to learn a lot and to keep that love for the game – so that wherever they move onto, whether that’s the first team, a scholarship or a local club, they’re better people as well as better players.
“So the Academy will hopefully benefit from this change and from having Greeny on board – especially the qualities he brings as a coach and a person, which will be huge for the programme and its players.”
Temple is particularly excited about the Academy’s future plans for new pathways to help young women reach their footballing goals.
“With the Phoenix A-League Women’s team now in place, obviously that means we need to have a more defined pathway through the Club – starting with the youth programme and up – for young girls up into this first team.
“It’s important as a Club that we are also giving the girls the same opportunities and pathways as we do for the boys; so over the next few years we’ll be building a girl’s pathway up and that will be a mirror of what we provide in the boy’s space.”
Temple says that this ground-breaking work will take time and lots of collaboration for it to be successful, not just for the Academy but for the growth of women’s football in New Zealand.
“We’ve got a lot of ideas and intent but exactly how we achieve this and what stages this happens in are yet to be determined; we’ll work with NZ Football and other entities around the women’s game to ensure that we’re adding value and it’s not detrimental in terms of how the game grows collectively.
“We’ll collaborate with NZF and their FFDP programme on this to make sure that girls go into a programme that’s right for them and their ambitions – we know it’s going to be a bit of a game-changer and hopefully it’s an exciting thing for girls who have that ambition in the future, either to play for the Phoenix, another A-League team or overseas competition.
Temple says that the overall goal of the Academy is to provide an elite sporting platform for boys and girls across New Zealand.
“We’re aiming to offer a full-time training environment that offer the best coaching for both the girls and the boys, in the best environment for their development, and with a focus on all the things that go into developing a player as an athlete – the sports science, gym, analysis, well-being and the psychological aspect.
“These are all the different parts of growing a footballer as both a person and a player.”