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2023 NorCal Summer Coaching Symposium: Day 3

The 2023 NorCal Summer Coaching Symposium culminated Sunday with more invaluable lessons learned for the more than 200 coaches who gathered at the Oakland Roots Sports Club training facility in Alameda for the third straight day.

Sunday’s lineup featured Project 51O Head Coach Dannylo Ayllon, former Dutch Men’s National Team assistant Frans Hoek, Olympique Lyonnais Femenin Team Manager Julien Legrand, Ukraine Women’s National Team Head Coach Lluis Cortes, and Jamie Levoy and Sissi from California Storm.

“I think it’s been great, the opportunity to see some of the top coaches in the world here in Northern California is fantastic,” said Albion SC Central Valley Executive Director Kevin Botterill. “The different perspectives of Frans Hoek and the Dutch system versus the Spanish systems of Barcelona and Lyon in France is fantastic.”

The day began with Ayllon, who gave his match analysis from his squad’s game the previous night. The day before, Ayllon gave the NorCal coaches a talk on how his team planned to play in the match before the contingent watched it.

After that, it was time for Hoek’s presentation on set pieces, which gave those in attendance a deep dive into the Netherlands’ plan that resulted in a tying goal off a free kick in stoppage time against Argentina in the quarterfinals of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“You need to be ready for every single situation, but this also means that you can surprise the other team with your set pieces,” Hoek said.

Hoek then worked with half of the NorCal U17 PDP pool to teach them that set play and several variations before they tried executing them in a match against the other half of that same pool.

While the PDP players then listened to a presentation from UEFA Pro License coach Gordon Young, the coaches returned back inside for Legrand’s lecture in which he went through his coaching philosophy and what he tries to instill in his players at Lyon.

According to Legrand, female soccer participation in France is much smaller than in the United States, but is growing by 10 percent annually and the senior team has managed to become one of the top squads in the world.

While Legrand’s presentation covered a variety of topics, some of it included the DNA of Lyon, which involved the ideals of intensity, love of the game, attack, and surpassing oneself.

Rather than defining these values as coaches, the club asks each player to think of their own definition and relay that back to the coach.

“We are creating a common lexicon that every player can understand,” Legrand said.

The Lyon Team Manager also touched on the idea of different kinds of superiorities that one can find in the game, whether that be from having greater numbers, being in a better position, or finding a mismatch. This was an idea that multiple clinicians brought up over the weekend.

“A couple of the clinicians talked about the different ways of establishing superiority,” Botterill said. “You have numerical superiority, positional superiority, and qualitative superiority. I think that’s a novel way of explaining that to our players to understand the different ways that you can gain advantages over the opposition.”

After a brief break for lunch, the symposium resumed with a Q&A session featuring Legrand, Cortes, California Storm Owner and Head Coach Jamie Levoy, and Storm assistant Sissi.

While a multitude of topics were covered, including injury prevention, unstructured play, how to promote better decision making, the off-field aspects of coaching, and who will win the Women’s World Cup, perhaps the most time was spent following a question about the tactical and technical differences between American players and players from other countries.

“You can’t divide a player into different aspects, tactical, technical, etc, because it’s the whole person,” Cortes said. “If you have a lot of skill but you can’t control your emotions, you will never succeed. There are a lot of talented players playing in Spain who are in the third or fourth division because of issues like this.”

The discussion naturally evolved focusing on the complete game, rather than skills in isolation.

“In our academy, all the different parts of the games are worked on together in each exercise. You can be a specialist of kicking a ball against the wall or juggling, but that is not soccer,” Legrand said. “Each exercise should have all the ingredients of soccer. Maybe Instead of 100 controls and passes by themselves, it’s better to do 50 controls and passes but in a game situation with all the other elements.”

And then Levoy chimed in to add information about the bigger picture.

“As coaches and a society, we don’t focus enough on recovery, both physically and mentally,” the California Storm boss said. “I’ve seen so many players get burnt out, just the burn out that we put on these kids becomes overwhelming. I think it’s important for them to take a break and let them miss the game a little bit. A lot of times those players come back more fresh and with a little more creativity and energy because they’ve had some time off.”

And with that, the symposium concluded with one last field session from Cortes, who ran an exercise focusing on the final phase of the game: goal scoring.