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2024 Summer Coaching Symposium: Day 3

With nearly 500 coaches attending over a three day period, the NorCal Premier Soccer Summer Coaching Symposium concluded Sunday with more invaluable lessons taught by world class clinicians from all across the world at the Oakland Roots training facility in Alameda.

After leading a training session the previous day, veteran Scottish coach Gordon Young got the day started off with a lecture titled “Setting the Standards.”

Though designed to help coaches take a more deliberate approach with how they get the best out of their players in their situations, the conversation touched on a wide array of subjects.

For instance, Young lamented the fact that when he was the International Academy Manager at Sheffield United, 35 percent of the players who had first team contracts at the age of 17 didn’t play soccer anymore by the age of 23.

While Young challenged all the participants of the symposium to change this to help try to create lifelong lovers of the beautiful game, he also delved into other topics, like one’s coaching background.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re born,” he said. “If you have the tools and the passion, you can be a great coach.”

When Young finished speaking, the course’s attendees were greeted by their final new clinician of the weekend, former FC Barcelona Femini and US U17 Women’s National Team coach Natalia Astrain.

A native of Spain, Astrain was the first female coach in her home country to earn a UEFA Pro License, and retained the principles learned in her home country, while adding in things she picked up during her time coaching in the United States.

For each of her three detailed field sessions, Astrain brought the coaches into the classroom first to explain the objective, show video from her past teams of what she was hoping to get out of the players, and went over the US Soccer principles and sub principles that the training was designed around.

But there was still room for nuance in Astrain’s instruction, for instance before her lesson on transitioning from defense to attack, Astrain showed one of US Soccer’s primary principles in the area, namely playing forward quickly.

“It says that we want to play forward quickly, but that’s not always possible,” Astrain said, harkening back to her time in Spain where players may value having the ball more than quickly making direct movements upfield. “Sometimes you need to secure the ball first, and then you are able to play forward.”

Defending to attacking was just the priority of Astrain’s first session, with the second flipping the topic to attacking to defending, while the third covered breaking lines and switching the point of attack.

All three lessons featured the help of NorCal’s PDP girls and left a lasting impression on those in attendance.

“The way Natalia was able to break down her ideas and get that information across to the coaches in an easily digestible and relatable way was incredible,” said San Francisco Elite coach Loni Brewer. “Before each session she showed us video clips of what she hoped it would look like and then on the field it accurately resembled what we had just watched, complete with detailed thoughts on her coaching points, freeze moments, and guided questions.”

“It’s always refreshing to see a female coach of her caliber working with our PDP girls,” Brewer added. “She’s such a great role model and mentor–I hope to see more of her work in the future.”

Rounding out the day was a third lesson from AC Milan Youth Academy Director Professor Vincenzo Vergine, who spoke about technical mental competencies before NorCal’s technical staff, specially trained in Vergine’s sports science program, delivered a field session based around technical skills and speed development under the watchful eye and direction of the Professor.

And with that, the event concluded, hundreds of coaches from dozens of different clubs heading back home to help improve the level of the game all throughout the state.