Troy Douglas enjoying ‘unbelievable’ coaching opportunity with Ajax
Troy Douglas could not believe his eyes when he received a written invitation for a job interview at Dutch powerhouse Ajax.
“When I moved back to the Netherlands in 2016 I was just about to set up my own business and I got an e-mail from Ajax to come in for a meeting,” the former Bermudian Olympic sprinter told The Royal Gazette.
“I honestly thought it was a joke. I thought it was someone playing around with me, so I didn’t take it seriously until I got to the complex and they let me in. That’s when I realised it was not a joke.
“At the meeting they basically said ‘we’ve asked six different people about you and five said you’re the right guy for the job we’re looking for’. So that’s how I ended up in the position that I am in now at Ajax.”
Douglas has been appointed as the head performance coach at Ajax, who play in the Eredivisie, Dutch football’s top tier.
“I’m the head performance coach so I’m pretty much responsible for policing the workload of each player in the second team for Ajax,” he explained. “I have to make sure that their load is the right amount that makes them fit enough to move on from the second team to the first team.
“I work closely with the sports scientist. The sports scientist and myself work closely with policing the workload of each player and we work together with the performance team.
“I’m pretty much the one who oversees the meetings with the performance team. In the meeting I make sure that everything is in check for the second team.
“For the first team I am responsible for the specific technical training when it comes to speed work and agility. Whenever one of the coaches in the first team has a problem with a striker or a back, say his footwork or his speed is bad, they come to me and I work closely together with them.”
The 58-year-old is honoured to work at the highly decorated club, which he considers as a “dream come true”.
He added: “It’s an honour to be working in such an organisation because most people dream of working at a world-class organisation and I’m working in one so it’s a blessing for me.
“It is an honour and a testament to the hard work that I put in. I have worked in every kind of sport, performance-wise, as a coach here in the Netherlands. That’s where I got my skills, so for the last 20 years that’s all I have done here.
“The sport world has dramatically changed. But pretty much what changes that have been made I did not realise that I was very integral in the changes that we are dealing with today. I did not realise that I play an important role in that until I was thrust into the position I’m in at this time.
“For me, that’s a dream come true. It’s fun and I really, really get to experiment with everything that I always wanted to experiment with as a coach.”
Douglas also takes great pride aiding in the development of some of the best players on the planet.
“Who would ever think that a former Bermudian athlete would actually be working at one of the world’s biggest soccer clubs as head of performance and responsible for the development of some of the soccer players who, if I call out a few names, people in Bermuda would be like ‘no, you’re joking’,” he said. “These guys are some of the biggest stars in the world, so to know that a Bermudian has played an important role in the development of that football player is pretty fun.
“I can go on and on and on, as there’s so many young football players that are making headway on the international scene that a Bermudian had a role in that so it’s something to be proud of.”
The job demands much of Douglas’s time, something he takes all in stride.
“It’s no problem, I don’t mind it,” he said. “I’m talking and laughing with football players every day, so I don’t mind.
“There are no days off in professional football. I work seven days a week and there are times I can go working 14 days back to back.
“I have a 40-hour contract but I work 60 hours, so it’s Monday to Monday.”
The job at Ajax is not entirely new to Douglas, having performed the same duties on the local football scene with Cleveland.
“A lot of people don’t know the job I have at Ajax I was doing at Cleveland when they played in the Eastern Soccer League and made it from the Second Division to First Division,” he said.
“Every year I have been working with the second team I get a new head coach and this is the second time I have been in charge of the second team.
“I normally don’t travel with the team. But this year we have a coach who wants me to travel with the team, which takes me back to the days when Cleveland played First Division and I had to go to every game and sit on the bench.
“The fun part about Bermuda is that it’s smaller. But over here I’m going all the way to the other side of the country and that’s like three hours on the bus.
“I’m getting home 1am, 2am and then I have to be back at the club at 8.30am.
“It’s killing this old man’s body right now. But I’ve done it before.”