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Guadalajara Coaching Education Trip: Part 3

GUADALAJARA – With five full days of learning under their belts, the 24 coaches from NorCal Premier Soccer and SOCAL Soccer League began Thursday with a bit of a debrief before heading back into the thick of the action Friday.

Thursday started with the re-arrival of a familiar face to the fold as the trip’s first lecturer, former Chivas Head Coach Marcelo Michel, returned to the group for a one-hour Q&A session so that the two dozen could ask more informed questions after having experienced the local soccer culture for nearly a week.

Michel began by addressing the coaches’ raison d’être. “You need to stop your mind and your heart to question the idea of why you are a better coach today than you were yesterday,” he said. “What are you going to do to improve your level? For me it’s very important to take this blessing of information and take some time to start forming your own methodology.”

“I’ve never started one preseason the way I did the previous season,” he added. “The future of footballing is you guys, I want to see you again on the pitch.”

After Michel’s talk, the coaches boarded a bus for the trip’s inaugural journey to Chivas de Guadalajara’s world-famous, spaceship-resembling, 48,071 capacity Estadio Akron on the outskirts of town.

While Saturday’s main event between Chivas and rivals Club America was still two days away, the group was able to check out the digs while taking in a match between the host’s reserve team, Tapatio, and Cimarrones de Sonora.

Well-rested from the relatively-short Thursday, the coaches woke up bright and early Friday for an excursion outside of the Guadalajara city limits as second division club Tepatitlan F.C. opened their doors to the 24 from north of the border.

The coaches took their seats in the directors’ box as the first team trained while Tepa Director Fredy Juaregui answered any questions that arose during the session.

Once the practice concluded, Head Coach Daniel Guzman joined the group to speak about the training and outline his philosophies as a manager.

The four pillars of Guzman’s methodology included the physical, technical, tactical, and mental aspects of the game, which he said he believed in integrating all together.

“The physical aspect is very important, but technique is also important because I think passing is everything,” Guzman said. “We always want to dominate possession because if you have the ball, you don’t have to run, you make the opponent run.”

“But,” he added, “the most important thing is the mental aspect.”

These philosophies have served Guzman well during a nomadic journey through soccer management that has taken him to 14 different clubs in Mexico including Chivas, Atlas, Tigres, and Tijuana.

Through that journey, the coach has seen it all, inspiring him to start off-field projects to help enrich the local community like the recently-formed Copa Jalisco that he instituted to try to get kids off of the streets and away from drugs and violence.

“Soccer is human before it’s wins and losses,” he said. “There are things more important in life than a soccer match, but soccer is an opportunity to inspire people. I want to inspire people to make a better society.”

“Hunger inspired me to be better,” Guzman added. “My parents didn’t know how to read or write and I have 11 brothers and sisters. I’m 57-years-old and I still want to learn.”

Once Guzman finished speaking, legendary Mexican goalkeeper coach Hector Quintero entered the fold, delivering a powerpoint presentation describing how he’s helped develop some of the top netminders the country has ever produced.

While Quintero agreed with the same four core philosophical ideas as Guzman, he had his own goalkeeper-specific criteria under the physical, technical, tactical, and mental aspects of the sport.

And those criteria have evolved for Quintero, who has rushed head-first into modern football developments needing goalkeepers with the ability to play with the ball at their feet in addition to the traditional aspects they were called on during most of the first 150 years of the game.

“The goalkeeper is a fundamental part of the team because they earn the team results,” he said. “The evolution of soccer has pushed goalkeepers into new opportunities – they previously didn’t need to use their feet, but now coaches are asking keepers to function as an additional field player.”

Following a quick pit stop to sample Tepatitlan’s trademark carnitas, the coaches ended their day by watching a third division match at Guadalajara’s historically-prominent club Tecos, the former stomping grounds of trip fixer Checo Gomez. The match provided a fascinating view into the multi-tier league foundation which elite senior football sits upon. It’s hard to believe a name like Tecos sits two levels below the star studded field of Liga MX playing.

Despite the main event still a day away, it was clear that the past five days served up a plethora of knowledge not usually found in such a short period of time.

“What I learned from watching the trainings and listening to the discussion was how much the coaches here push to have a high intensity in trainings,” said Sacramento United Boys Youth Director and U16 MLS Next coach Pedro Lupercio. “Some takeaways that can improve the level of the game in NorCal is the level of coaching education we’ve gotten here. All the coaches emphasized how important it is to continue to learn and improve as a coach – the game is evolving rapidly and the coaches must evolve as well.”

“This trip has been a great experience,” Lupercio added. “It’s awesome to learn from such experienced coaches. I was impressed with how much they opened up and shared their ideas and philosophies with our group.”