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Key Highlights From the COPA x TSG Hoffenheim Digital Media Press Conference.

Roger Hampel


COPA TSG Hoffenheim
COPA TSG Hoffenheim

Dr. Jan Mayer, CEO of TSG Hoffenheim, and Mark Hall, CEO of COPA Soccer Training Center FOT: TSG Hoffenheim


TSG Hoffenheim has announced a landmark three-year partnership with the California-based COPA Soccer Training Center (COPA STC), located in Walnut Creek. This collaboration, rich in scientific and innovative spirit, is set to revolutionize the football landscape by combining the expertise of a renowned German football club with the advanced training methodologies of an American center.

 

COPA STC, founded in 2015 by CEO Mark Hall, stands out with its state-of-the-art facilities that span over 10,000 square meters. Equipped with high-tech systems and a team of experienced coaches, the center is a haven for both upcoming MLS talents and seasoned professionals, providing a holistic approach to their development. Mark Hall, an advocate for a data-driven approach in football, is committed to establishing a standardized test for objectively assessing football players’ skills – a vision now shared with TSG Hoffenheim.

 

Here are Football Business Journal’s key highlights from the COPA x TSG Hoffenheim Digital Media press conference:

 

Introduction of Speakers: Dr. Jan Mayer, CEO of TSG Hoffenheim, and Mark Hall, CEO of COPA Soccer Training Center, were introduced along with their respective teams. Notable members included Dr. Adam Beavan from TSG and Charles Campbell and Barry McCabe from COPA.

 

COPA Soccer Training Center’s Vision: Mark Hall discussed COPA Soccer Training Center's evolution, from a prototype concept developed over seven to eight years, to its current expansion plan. The center is a part of a larger vision to create 'sports malls' across the United States.

 

TSG Hoffenheim’s Unique Approach: Dr. Jan Mayer explained that TSG Hoffenheim, a club from a small village competing in Germany’s top soccer league for 16 years, has succeeded by focusing on developing talent through diagnostics and individualized training, which attracted COPA’s interest for collaboration.

 

Talent Development in the US: Charles Campbell of COPA emphasized the need for objective assessments in talent identification to overcome the subjective biases that currently exist. The collaboration aims to utilize data and technology to develop players and identify talent that may otherwise be overlooked due to traditional scouting biases.


Hoffenheim's Goals for the Partnership: Dr. Jan Mayer outlined that the collaboration with COPA presents an opportunity for TSG Hoffenheim to increase its visibility in the U.S. market and to share their success story. He also pointed out the innovative spirit of the partnership that contrasts with the traditional approaches in Germany.


Leveraging Existing American Talent on this partnership:

Roger Hampel, Football Business Journal: Considering the American coach at TSG Hoffenheim, such as Pellegrino Materazzo, and players such as John Brooks, as well as Californian Quincy Butler in the second team, are there plans to integrate these players into the partnership with COPA? Could they potentially be sent to the United States for programs at COPA to highlight this partnership?

Dr. Jan Mayer, CEO of TSG Hoffenheim: "Our core competence revolves around developing people through a unique approach. We have now measured these data for 15 years, which means we have normed data. Therefore, when someone comes for assessment, we can determine from their first measurement whether they are very good, average, or not so good. This allows us to individualize our advice on what they should focus on next to train and develop to the next level.
 We have been doing this for 15 years, and no one else in the world has data like this. That's why our approach has been successful in Germany. Our rate of developing people from our academy to the professional level is 23%. Typically, other clubs have a development rate of between 1% and 3%.
 Therefore, our training is very different for each player. If this results in developing players here or seeing players in the US develop in a significant way, then it could be an opportunity to leverage all these trends."

 

Talent ID Initiatives: COPA is launching a talent ID initiative to offer free assessments for up to 10,000 players annually. This initiative is designed to provide opportunities without the barrier of the pay-to-play model prevalent in the U.S., promoting equality in talent identification.

 

Future of Talent Development: The conference touched on the evolution of talent development, with an emphasis on cognitive functions and the biological age of athletes, rather than just physical abilities. COPA and TSG are looking to utilize technology to assess and develop talent more objectively, predicting a shift towards data-driven approaches in the next 10 to 20 years.

 

Investment in Technology: It was noted that there's approximately $23 million worth of technology at COPA, which is being used to assess and develop young talent. The discussion highlighted the disparity in investment in youth talent identification and development between the U.S. and Europe, with COPA aiming to bridge that gap.

 

United States Soccer Development: The overall aim of the partnership and the initiatives discussed is to support the growth and development of soccer in the United States by providing innovative and objective approaches to talent identification and development.

 

COPA TSG Hoffenheim
COPA TSG Hoffenheim

FOT: TSG Hoffenheim


Economic Models for Talent Development: There was a discussion about the economic constraints of American soccer clubs in supporting youth development compared to European clubs. Mark Hall emphasized the need for a different economic model in the U.S. to achieve the level of youth development seen in Europe.

 

Benchmarking and Dual Highway Approach: TSG Hoffenheim is interested in benchmarking American talent against German talent. Dr. Mayer and Dr. Beavan noted that the exchange of talent and ideas is not just one-way but rather a dual highway, where both Germany and the U.S. can learn from each other’s systems and methods.

 

The Question of Creativity in Player Development: In response to a question about ensuring creative player development amidst a highly scientific approach, Adam Beavan indicated that the focus on measuring cognitive and psychological aspects ensures the development of creative decision-making skills in players, not just technical skills.

 

Presentation and Use of Data: Addressing a question about data presentation and whether it leads to a single defining score for talent identification, the COPA team explained that while they do provide a simplified composite score (the COPA score), they also analyze a deeper set of metrics for identifying talented players. They strive to gamify the development process to engage young athletes, comparing their scores to professional players and maintaining live leaderboards.

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