The Centre of National Excellence, Cherry Trees (Cr: Centór ó Nätiónähl Excellens, Cherry Trees), more commonly referred to as CÓNECT, is the national association football academy in Craitland, run by the CrFA.
The centre specialises in the training of young Craitish players, generally aged 21 and under, with the aim of promoting them to the first teams of League 1 club sides. Although CÓNECT's headquarters and primary facilities are housed in the town of Kahthajtensen, in Cherry Trees province, the CrFA owns a number of further centres throughout Craitland under the CÓNECT banner, with an additional academy in Hamstadt, in Zandarijn, run in association with the KZVB.
CÓNECT focuses on the progression of youth talents through to becoming fully-professional players. The process in which the academy aims to achieve this goal is through an integration scheme involving gifted young players, who attend sessions at the CÓNECT facilities based on their age group.
The youngest players in CÓNECT's academy are 12 years-old, with the first course of training finishing at 15 years of age. Between 12 and 15, players attend sessions during weekends which help the youngsters to hone their talents with basic playing techniques and tactical awareness. These sessions are held at all of CÓNECT's regional centres and may be attended by young players of all abilities for a seasonal cost.
Once players are aged 16, and are considered talented enough to progress the first course, they are promoted to the secondary process. During this stage, which lasts for two further years, the players' routines become more rigorous, attending sessions during the five week days, with focus on increased fitness and psychology in addition to advanced physical skills and tactics. Players of this age group generally attend their training sessions at the facilities in Kahthajtensen, boarding there during the week, and return home at weekends if desired. Mandatory classes in non-sporting educational studies are also delivered to the players by CÓNECT-affiliated teachers during this stage to allow them to gain recognised qualifications.
Following the secondary stage, after or occasionally during which players sign agreements with professional club sides, players have the option of two different routes to take, should they successfully advance. If they are willing, they may sign professional terms with a domestic club during the next valid transfer window to become a full-time player and CÓNECT graduate. The players may also wish to maintain their training and studies at the Kahthajtensen facilities for up to a further three years should they not find a club to join professionally.
For those players who decide to remain at CÓNECT following their 18th birthday, the academy offers further footballing excellence training and development as well as degree-level certificates in more studious surroundings. Approximately half of CÓNECT's players chose to stay at the academy for at least a year after completing the second development course for varying reasons. Those players who continue their time at CÓNECT for the full three available years of the third course are required to leave at 21 years of age. Although the majority of these players then find full-time contracts with Craitish clubs, some emigrate to attempt a career elsewhere, while a small percentage move into managerial and coaching positions, utilising the advanced skills gained in the years previous.
The following players progressed through the CÓNECT academy and have since represented teams at full international level.
Z Attended CÓNECT's Zandt campus.
Collaboration with professional clubs