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Interest in talent identification and the development of professional footballers has markedly increased in the past decade. Research in football has primarily focused on individual development and external factors affecting performance. In other sports, research from a holistic and ecological approach has examined successful environments, suggesting that such environments are not only unique, but also share features. Using a single case study design and a holistic ecological approach, this study investigated the youth department of the Belgium elite club KRC Genk (the Jos Vaessen Talent Academy). Results suggest that this environment, in many regards, is consistent with the shared features found in other successful environments in other sports (such as support of sporting goals by the wider environment and support for long-term development). However, three features were also observed as unique. These were (a) cultural awareness, openness, and sharing of knowledge; (b) the club’s ability to accommodate a broad diversity of players in the academy; and (c) an openness toward new ideas and learning on all levels of the organization. Collectively, our results indicate that Genk, in some respects, not only shares features with successful environments in other sports, but also bears unique features.
Ryom is with the Department of Public Health, Section of Health Promotion and Health Service, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. Ravn and Düring are with Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. Henriksen is with the University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark.