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Summer Coaching Symposium Day 3

LIVERMORE — In another day full of action at NorCal Premier Soccer’s Summer Coaching Symposium at Las Positas College, the more-than 300 coaches in attendance again received world class instruction from minds at the top of the game both domestically and abroad.

While Friday only featured a pair of field sessions, attendees lathered on their sunscreen and headed outside for most of a day filled with practical exercises that featured exercises implemented at the youngest levels to the college, pro, and international games.

But Saturday wasn’t only about the coaches, as roughly 150 referees attempting to raise their qualifications met for a fitness test followed by an assessor course that ensured that players, coaches, and referees were able to participate and gain from the event.

In the classroom, though, participants began the day with a lecture from a man at the top of the college game: two-time defending national champion Stanford coach Jeremy Gunn.

Gunn’s lecture featured anecdotes and lessons from how he built his teams, focusing on off-the-field aspects that has enabled him to win the first-ever titles with the Northern California powerhouse.

After the lecture, Gunn headed out to the field for his first of two sessions (the second comes Sunday) in which he went over attacking functions.

The session was both valuable in the exercises demonstrated and the well-rounded advice he dished out during it.

For example, in one drill, Gunn explained the importance of over-hitting a pass, rather than under-hitting it when pushing numbers forward.

“If that center back gives away a throw in, I don’t care,” he said after a player hit a soft pass. “If it’s short and we get countered, we’re in trouble.”

It was bits like this that interested the large crowd at his session, which served as a contrast to that of the previous exercise, led by Las Positas College Women’s Head Coach Paul Sapsford.

Sapsford, who gave a well-thought lecture about engaging players in the grassroots game the previous day, then showed his principles in training by engaging young players through games that appeared to be mostly about fun, but really helped players develop correct technique as well.

From there, coaches moved back into the classroom for Dr. John Cone’s second lecture in as many days regarding improving individuals by using a team environment.

Cone’s lecture was followed by a more specialized session from Frans Hoek, regarded as one of the best goalkeeper coaches in the world.

While Hoek’s lecture focused on set pieces, it was embargoed for public release due to much of it being implemented with the Netherlands national team, where he served as the goalkeeper’s coach in the squad’s latest World Cup run.

To engage the crowd, Hoek began by drawing upon his experiences as a coach at Ajax, Manchester United, and Barcelona, where he remembers a young Lionel Messi watching first team training through the fences, hoping to soak up everything possible.

From there, he spoke about his time with the Netherlands, drawing laughs from many of those in attendance.

“I think the Mexicans still hate Arjen [Robben], but I love him for the penalty he drew,” Hoek said, recalling the controversial late penalty that the Dutch winger drew that knocked Mexico out of the World Cup.

Alas, Hoek remembered that tournament with something of a regret due to “only” collecting a third place medal. “We were so close and we gave it away,” he said.

Still, Hoek’s final remarks reminded all about how great the game can be in its simplest form.

“The nicest thing is to play,” he said. “The nicest thing for me is being in the stadium warming up with the players with ball. That [brings me back to] playing football in the streets.”

Before Hoek led coaches out on the field for the practical exercise regarding set pieces though, it was time for Mexico U-20 National Team Coach Marco Antonio Ruiz to lead the first of his two  field sessions (the second, again, is on Sunday), which focused on pressuring opponents when they had the ball.

The high-intensity session filled the Las Positas College field with nearly everyone in attendance, showing again how valuable coaches felt the top level of instruction could be used in everyday environments.

Finally clinicians Hoek, Ruiz, and Javier Lopez came stayed around the field to answer any questions that each of the coaches had.

Check back tomorrow for another recap of all the action as NorCal’s Summer Coaching Symposium closes with more sessions from Gunn, Ruiz, and Hoek as well as two more sessions from author and former Real Madrid Academies of Mexico head Javier Lopez and a practical session from Positive Coaching Alliance’s Bret Simon.