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La Liga Formation Methodology Level 2 Course Day 2

LIVERMORE — The second day of NorCal Premier Soccer’s La Liga Formation Methodology Level 2 Course, co-hosted by US Club Soccer, provided yet another opportunity for those on hand to learn from the world class minds brought to the area from the top level of Spanish football.

And as temperatures in Livermore warmed up, former Athletic Bilbao Director of Methodology Gari Fullaondo began by demonstrating proper ways to warm up players for games and training sessions.

Among the battery of exercises Fullaondo, his brother, Zunbeltz, and Hugo Blanco put the players through were technical circuits, and stations to develop motor skills.

Back in much cooler indoor confines, Fullaondo picked up his lecture from the day before right where he left off the previous day, moving from more broad season planning strategies to the creations of individual trainings.

Again, Fullaondo reminded more than 100 in attendance of what, in his mind, is the overall goal of youth soccer: the development of players and in doing so, coaches must be able to adapt and work on different things with different age groups.

“Each age must work on different things,” he said. “Sometimes the time that they need to improve is faster or slower, but we need to take into account the progress that we see.”

Looking back on his experiences with Bilbao, Fullaondo gave a practical example of this, explaining the youth set up in the Basque powerhouse.

“In Athletic, in U-11, we win every game. We have the [best] selection of Biskaia (the region of Basque Country that Bilbao lies in), there is only one team in a region of 1 million,” Fullaondo said. “All the good players in under-11 are on Athletic. Sometimes we only win 7-5. But when we go away [from the region against bigger teams], we lose. Why?”

According to Fullaondo, the reason why was because of the formation that the youth set up chooses to use in 7 v 7, where they opt to play a 1-2-3, in order to simulate the attacking patterns of a 4-3-3.

Fullaondo said that the choice of formation results in superior possession, but a vulnerability at the back which leads to goals.

But he then reminded the audience of the why of the choice to play in such a dangerous set up.

“The most important things with the little guys isn’t to choose a system that gives the players the best chance to win, it’s to choose a system that gives the players more rules, more capacity [to develop],” he said. “For me, [a 1-2-3] is the best system to develop players. The objective is not to win.”

So what’s more important, the system or the style of play?

“The system is only the photograph from the beginning of the game…everything is important because it goes together,” Fullaondo said. “This system is for this style and these movements. These movements are what we need for this style.”

For coaches like Jordan Ferrell of Central Valley Monarcas and University of the Pacific, it was important to see these ideas in principle and practice in order to better be able to understand how to define his team’s philosophies.

“We’ve had success defining our philosophy, really defining how we want to implement it,” Ferrell said. “I think that’s one of the most important things that I’ve heard from [Fullaondo]. The challenge for me is to go into the organizations that I work with and define our philosophy as well as possible and define how we’re going to implement it.”

A participant of the Level 3 course that NorCal offered last year, Ferrell returned this year for a variety of reasons.

“I’ve come back because I’ve hoped to gain more knowledge about how I can become more detailed or how I can provide better sessions so the off-the-field organization of their methodology is very, very extensive,” he said. “You can always learn from that. Every day you get to learn from somebody who has worked in one of the best clubs in the world but then also worked for one of the best leagues in the world. In youth development, there’s a lot of different things that you can learn from his expertise, from their expertise.”

After another field session from Fullaondo, it was time for the hard worker to finally rest and turn the lecture series back over to Hugo Blanco, who previously presented at the beginning of the first day of the course.

Blanco’s presentation showed the huge advancements in technology in soccer as he pulled up video that was analyzed in real time in three different angles in order for coaches to be able to better understand what their teams are doing well and what they need to improve.

Using that same technology, Blanco then showed how you can teach systems using video and graphic technology before giving the crowd advice on how he thinks a team should be run.

“To select a system of play, you must take into account the capacity of your players and what you want to do, what you desire to do,” Blanco said. “I think it’s a balance between the capacity of the players and the way that they understand soccer. Sometimes one coach says I’m a coach that always plays in a 4-3-3. I think you must adapt your system of play to the characteristics of your players.”

The learning didn’t stop there, though, as NorCal’s focus on emphasizing developing first teams for all clubs through the new initiative LIGA NorCal (details here) was brought up as another experience can be gained from a course like this.

“The example that they’re giving is from the highest level, especially La Liga — the top teams in the world,” said Player Development Program Assistant Director Ian Mork. “For their youth development they all have a first team and we’re able to really have a concrete example with experience, first hand, of what that looks like.

“Our situation here in this country is obviously different,” Mork added. “We’re hoping in the future that all of our clubs will have first teams that will help the players continue to play throughout the rest of their lives. The model right now that they’re presenting is a really ideal way of teaching.”

As the course winds down with the final day coming Sunday, coaches have one last opportunity to gain more valuable lessons and fulfill one of the the most important pillars for an instructor at any level: continued education.