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Argentina Coaching Education Trip: Part 4

BUENOS AIRES – With the 30-plus coaches returning to Argentina’s capital city early Friday morning, NorCal Premier Soccer’s first-ever coaching education trip to South America was nearly finished, but not before one last stop.

Founded in 1903 as the first soccer club in the country inaugurated by natives, Racing Club was the sixth and final pro team to welcome NorCal to its facilities during the 10-day experience.

After watching various youth trainings at Racing’s complex, the coaches were invited inside for a lecture regarding the methodology of the 18-time Argentine champions delivered by General Coordinator Miguel Gomis.

According to Gomis, the club completely changed its structure in 2018, attempting to modernize its structure with an emphasis on data-backed approaches and sports science research.

Racing scouts players from all over Buenos Aires, but most of the talented prospects come from the more impoverished areas of the city, making life-education just as important for their youth players as their soccer education.

The vast majority of players in Racing’s academy – or any soccer academy worldwide – will never play professionally so it’s imperative that the club help prepare their youngsters for a life after soccer.

One of the biggest issues the club faces is malnutrition and a lack of education in things Americans might take for granted like proper nutrition and hydration habits. Because of this, Racing holds regular classes to teach players about these subjects and even runs their own school.

Still, the margins are paper thin and every year roughly 30 percent of the youth players don’t make it back for the next season.

Despite all of this, the youth academy must develop players for the first team in order for Racing to stay afloat. According to Gomis, athletes reach maturity around the age of 22, but the higher ups hope that the system can speed up that process and start introducing youngsters to first team soccer at 17.

“We must find a way to accelerate this process,” Gomis said. “Europe is coming for players at a younger age now and because of Argentina’s economy, it’s a necessity to sell players.”

The club attempts to accomplish this by helping their students with various different qualities, with the emotional and physical aspects proving paramount.

“It’s not so much the technical aspect (that needs to be emphasized),” Gomis said. “If they’re playing in the highest youth team, they already have that.”

Following the visit with Argentina’s third most-decorated club, NorCal’s coaches headed downtown for a closing dinner where each individual presented their thoughts on the training they observed Wednesday and received a diploma of course completion from the Argentine Technical Football Association.

For the nearly three dozen who flew halfway across the world in the hopes of bettering the level of youth soccer back home, it was a time to recognize all the hard work they’d put in and reflect on a truly unforgettable experience.

“What stood out the most for me in Argentina was the discipline and dedication from the youth players to learn to play the game,” said NorCal PDP coach Loni Brewer. “The intensity was high, both on and off the field, whether the players were playing for the reserves or the first team. There was also a dedicated staff at each club other than just coaches. For example, there were nutritionists, trainers, therapists, and others who monitor and track all the players to make sure they are well enough and where they need to be to play at the best of their abilities.”

“I’m thankful for this amazing experience and appreciate the transparency the clubs provided regarding their methodology and style of play,” Brewer added. “I hope to bring back the dedication from all the staff and players here to help motivate and incorporate the passion each and everyone brings to this beautiful sport.”

None of this trip would have been possible without the hard work of NorCal’s numerous local fixers, who set up the entire itinerary and helped each coach with any issue that arose.

In addition to regular partner Premier International Tours, Buenos Aires-based company Sport Management Creations organized a trip that was enjoyed by all participants.

Those on hand to assist were Sports Management Creations founder Dario Stawski, local entrepreneur Tomas Borrelli, and tour guide Ariel Maza.

For Borrelli, whose father Enrique serves as the Academy Director of the virtual campus of AFTA and the General Manager of Belgrano, it was his first experience interacting with soccer coaches from the United States.

“It was a very good experience helping organize this trip,” Borrelli said. “In this time, I realized that you are very good coaches coaching at a very good level. We were very happy to do this trip with you and have all these people here in Argentina.”

Once the lunch finished, the course did as well and the NorCal coaches returned to their hotel ahead of the long journey home Saturday.

“I want to thank Loek van Zijl of Premier International Tours and his partner Dario of Sport Management Creations for putting together an incredible itinerary,” said NorCal Coaching Education Coordinator David Robertson. “We asked for nonstop football and that’s what we got. We visited six clubs, we watched an incredible amount of sessions, and we’re all going to come back to California hungry and thirsty to apply what we’ve learned on the field.”

“What was really nice about this trip is that it’s the first time we’ve taken a group to South America so it was new to everyone and everyone’s eyes were open,” Robertson added. “It was incredible to see the culture, the passion, the drive of the locals and a good time for us to reflect to see how far we have to go to instill that passion and that drive in our players.”