CHICAGO (April 30, 2010) – U.S. Soccer’s CoachesNet concluded its second educational workshop to Buenos Aires, Argentina. With the objective to offer unique educational opportunities to its members, the trip to Argentina offered coaches a chance to interact and learn from professional coaches outside the United States.
Similar to last year’s workshop, the main focus was on professional clubs in and around Buenos Aires. However this year’s trip included a two-night stay in the city of La Plata, located an hour southeast of the capital and home to two first division clubs. During the stay in La Plata coaches took advantage of professional club Estudiantes de La Plata and their willingness to share information. In addition, the group attended professional lectures, attended two first division games, observed two professional training sessions and visited some of the most well-known stadiums and landmarks in Argentina.
After flying all night, Friday was used to settle in, review the schedule for the week and acclimate to the new surroundings. To get the body moving, the group played 5v5 at an indoor futsal facility. The first day ended with dinner and great anticipation for what the following day would bring.
The morning began by visiting the Boca Juniors training grounds where the group observed the first team and reserves train and prepare for their game against Tucuman the following day. It was a special opportunity to see stars like Juan Román Riquelme and Martín Palermo up close.
After training the group had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Boca Juniors Chairman Jorge Amor Ameal, head coach at the time Abel Alves and their youth and executive directors. Not only did the coaches learn the philosophy and the history of the club but Coach Alves presented his keys to the game against Tucuman.
Boca Juniors youth philosophy from U-8 to U-18 is to develop and manage players. They look at development as a long-tem project and put no pressure on the players to win. They focus on teaching concepts and principles and allow the players to fix their mistakes in the games.
When asked about their impressions of soccer in the United States, both coach Alves and their directors said, “In time USA will be good once they begin to work with its U-8, U-10, U-12, U-14 and U-16 players more. What a player learns in the U-8, U-10 and U-12 age groups they will remember forever. These ages are the most important.”
Before departing the group took a tour of the stadium and field. “This was one of the most educational experiences of my life,” said Aaron Brunner of Woodbridge, Va.
The day was not done as the group would attend the first of two first division matches. Gimnasia La Plata played host to Racing in La Plata in what turned out to be an important match in the battle for relegation. With a packed and excited stadium of over 20,000 fans, Gimnasia won 1-0.
After an eventful Saturday, Sunday began with a very informative and interesting lecture. Gerardo Salorio, physical trainer for the Argentinean National Team in the last World Cup and current Argentina Football Association Director of Academy described his experiences of participating in six World Cups (both Youth and Senior), the mistakes and lessons learned and his relationships with coaching staff and players such as Lionel Messi and Riquelme.
Salorio detailed the preparation methods for different World Cups, team building activities and the final roster selection process. He was extremely insightful, humble and thoughtful. He mentioned on a few occasions how progressive the U.S. is when it comes to fitness training and that we have shown to be far ahead in fitness training, doctors and sports psychologists.
Salorio went on to detail what he believes were keys to their success in creating team atmosphere through communication, competition and fun games. Here is what the coaching staff looked for when selecting a World Cup roster:
At or above 6’1
Good presence (center backs)
Good heading ability
Fast and strong – must be fast and be able to take players on.
In closing his lecture touched on some of the initiatives the AFA were pursuing like organizing training centers around the country and finding another Messi.
“All (lectures) were very valuable but in my opinion, Gerardo (Salorio) was the best. His passion, mannerisms and experiences were brilliant,” said Brunner.
After a short break, Fabio Radelli, Director of Development of Tigres Soccer Club, gave a lecture on how his club prepares youth players to become professionals. The club’s focus is to close the gap between the larger clubs in Argentina and themselves. And they believe they can manage this through youth development. They have a strong focus on technique, individual development, coordination with the ball, real game situations, lots of games, movement with and without the ball and body positioning.
“You must take advantage of the time you have with a child,” said Radelli.
Some of his key points were:
• U-10’s train three times a week for 2 hours each
• 30 mins. of coordination
• 30 mins. of technical work
• 40 min. game (11 v. 11 full field)
His lecture also included video analysis of 1st team games and how video work relates to player development.
After lunch, the group took a guided city tour and visited a flea market prior to attending the Boca Juniors match. While the game ended in a scoreless tie, the stadium was electric throughout the match.
Monday morning came and the group packed up and headed to the city of La Plata where they would spend part of the next three days with professional club Estudiantes. Upon arriving each coach changed into Estudiantes training gear. It is a way they make visitors feel welcome and a connection to their club immediately.
After a few introductions, the group observed a U-18 session that focused on movement with and without the ball. The session included ball possession and a pressure game, defensive heading with the back four and ended in an 11v11 scrimmage.
After lunch and a staff game, the group was treated to a tour of the entire complex, including the 1st team area and ended with a video highlighting the history of the team.
That night Carlos Botegal, Director of Youth Development, discussed his keys to player development. Some of the points he made were:
• A health check is the first thing they do with each child
• They calculate that only three to five percent of all youth players will play in the 1st division
• Not as many kids playing in the streets
• Club continues to scout in all areas, including extremely poor areas. Offering food after games is more important to some kids and families then actually playing
Tuesday morning began with watching the first team train before they departed the next day for Peru for a Copa Libertadores match. Estudiantes and Argentinean International Juan Sebastian Veron took pictures and signed autographs. To wrap up the morning head coach Alejandro Sabella spoke for 30 minutes on his playing and coaching career, their memorable season last year and how they were preparing for their upcoming match in Peru. Sabella was very humble and thankful for us wanting to visit Argentina and specifically his club.
Listening to Coach Sabella was special for the entire group but probably even more so for Ruben Flores. Ruben, a former professional player now living in Canada, played with Sabella in Mexico and the two former teammates had not seen other since. Ruben, an “A” license holder from the U.S., Canada, Brazil and Mexico, who speaks six different languages, acted as the interpreter.
The day concluded with a clinic with 96/97s and 2000s age players. The separately run sessions focused on technique, possession and heading. At the conclusion, each coach was presented a gift from one of the youth players.
A full day was not yet complete as former World Cup Champion and current U-17 Argentinean National Team head coach Jose Luis Brown addressed the group. Coach Brown gave a presentation about the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, playing with Maradona and winning the final against Germany, 3-2. Brown brought along with him the World Cup medal and jersey he wore in the final game.
Brown took some time to address his current role and specifically how his team is preparing for the next U-17 World Cup in Mexico. He maintains contact with every professional club in Argentina, and through them he receives the best players. His current arrangement has him working with ‘94s every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The players train and play games with their club teams on the other days. The exciting day ended with a nice dinner at a local restaurant in La Plata.
Before heading back to Buenos Aires on Wednesday morning, the group watched an Estudiantes reserve match. The Youth Directors from professional club Independiente gave the final lecture of the week.
“It was an invaluable experience to be with this group of coaches in one of the top soccer developed countries in the world,” said U.S. Soccer National Staff Coach Juan Carlos Michia. “Just to see six year olds being coached by ex-professional players three times a week is something I would like to see happen in the United States.”
“The information and small details that the coaches offered to the young players, I believe, will make the biggest difference. I feel that the lectures we attended from youth, first division and national teams all offered a different variety and something we could all learn from. They were all so open about their knowledge and experiences of the game,” said Michia.
With this trip deemed a great success, U.S. Soccer’s CoachesNet will undoubtedly plan further educational opportunities. Stay tuned for information on future international coaching trips.
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