Hernandez: 'Make Paris a global benchmark'
David, what is you role as the head of methodology at the Paris Saint-Germain Youth Academy? "Our objective is to make Paris Saint-Germain a global reference for youth development. It means creating a 'Paris Saint-Germain Football Identity'. But we can only do that if we work on a project over the mid to long term – it can't be achieved overnight. That has both advantages and disadvantages. The positive point is that we are not judged on our immediate results, but it means it takes time and we have to be very patient to see the fruit of our labour. Fortunately, the club has been on the right track for several years and we can draw on the experiences of people such as Maxwell and Sabrina Delannoy. They are emblematic club figures that work with us and are examples for the youngsters, because they have both proven that the best way to succeed is to put the team first, to have a 'collective' mentality ahead of an 'individual' one."
What are the main principles of the methodology department? "Our project is based on two main axis that should interconnect. On one hand, we work on planning the training content and methods for the youth academy and also a model playing style. On the other hand, we are developing a program called 'Handshake', designed to instil certain values in our young players. In my mind, the two are linked and of equal importance, because a football team wins because the players share a common tactical approach, they know what to do because they have worked together, and they also understand that this is the best way to achieve their goals."
Can you explain 'Handshake' to us in more detail? "This program is the work of more than 30 members of the club, from all different departments: from the Women's team, the Paris Saint-Germain Academy, the Foundation, the Youth Academy, the players' families, former players, etc... And out of all these discussions we have created five groups, or commissions: "Here, I have a big brother" is about fitting in and finding your place, of feeling that you belong to a club. It's about building pairs between a young player and an older player, so that the older player can help the younger one develop in terms of their football but also away from football.
"Here, we live together" is a commission that runs activities where there is no hierarchy; activities that reflect our personalities and help us respect each other, such as celebrating a birthday together.
"Here, the players are coaches" helps the youngsters learn to work in teams. Groups of six kids were created and each one must prepare a presentation on their playing style for the coaches. "Here, we play the QUIZ-PSG" demands respect for the club's history and everyone that is a part of this club. This group prepares quizzes for the coach trips and for when the kids have some free-time.
"Café with values" is a very important place, because here, the aim is to think about our behaviour, the values and the objectives of our club. It's very important to understand, for example, that we won't win the Champions League, until we are convinced that we can do it!"