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Spain trip day 11: The finale

BARCELONA, Spain — As NorCal Premier Soccer’s coaching education trip to Spain came to a close, our roughly 30 directors of coaching were treated to a spectacle of attacking soccer at Europe’s largest stadium as FC Barcelona took on crosstown rivals RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou Sunday.

But first, we received a lecture from someone intimately involved with the late great Johan Cruyff, the man who installed many of Barcelona’s famous philosophies.

For 90 minutes that morning, Todd Beane, Cruyff’s son-in-law, the co-founder of the Cruyff Institute and the founder of the TOVO (Total Voetbal) Academy Barcelona gave us a demonstration that was decidedly different than anything we’d seen yet on the trip as it took mostly a scientific approach to learning.

Beane’s philosophies generally contradicted that of the status quo in the United States, namely that you shouldn’t use teaching technique to teach the game, but rather that through teaching the game, one would better be able to learn technique.

According to scientific studies Beane cited, a different part of the brain is triggered when someone is practicing technique without pressure (i.e. basic passing exercises) than when someone is practicing technique with pressure (i.e. rondos).

Beane therefore preached an approach to learning that involved incorporating more real-game situations into training sessions, while focusing on technique with those individuals who needed it.

“The lecture reconfirmed things that I’ve been in touch with,” said Andrew Ziemer, the Ballistic United Soccer Club Boys Director of Coaching. “The biggest thing is the teaching methodology has to do with more in the game and less in breaking apart the game into pieces such as technique or tactics or psychological aspects. It goes against what we’ve been taught in schools. As much as possible, the TOVO method combines all the game ingredients from the first to the last minute of practice.”

Three years ago, Ziemer and the rest of Ballistic began to institute some of the ideas Beane currently preaches after a club evaluation from Dutch goalkeepers coach Frans Hoek.

“Hoek saw that we were trying to teach the game and instead of starting with the game and working backwards, we were starting with the technique and working upwards,” Ziemer said. “Our curriculum was 80 percent skill in isolation and pattern play and 20 percent in the game. After Hoek studied our curriculum and made us aware of that, we decided to switch it, so we do do some training in isolation, but it’s before practice, or in their homework, individual development plan or in their warm-up and as soon as possible, normally after 10, 15 minutes, we go straight into rondos, positional games, small-sided games or tactical games.”

According to Beane, the approach that most in the United States have taken towards teaching the game has at least partially contributed to why he says Spain has 100 better midfielders than the United States.

Using the other approach, Ziemer says that he’s already seen an improvement in the quality of the players at Ballistic.

“We’ve seen big results,” Ziemer said. “We feel in the three trainings a week, if we spend the majority of the time with situations that relate the technique with decision making, with the cognitive process, that by the kids becoming more aware of what’s happening and being able to recognize space and get their head up and observe, with less technique, they can be more successful in a game on Saturday than a player with more technique who doesn’t know how to implement it in the game.”

Time will tell if Beane’s ideas prove successful in the United States, but his lecture represented the last in the long series of classroom sessions for our directors of coaching over our 11 days abroad.

Following his session, NorCal hopped on a bus for more FC Barcelona youth games before finally relishing at the chance to see the real thing in action as the senior team defeated Espanyol 4-1.

It was the perfect cap to the trip, with the genius of Lionel Messi — along with Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez — providing the exclamation point on a trip full of highlights.

However, just because the trip is over, doesn’t mean that the content stops.

Because of our packed schedule, NorCal Premier Soccer was only able to get so much up on the website and social media during the trip.
Keep checking back daily over the Holiday season for more stories, interviews, videos, photos and more from what we can easily say was a trip of a lifetime.

To read more about the ideas Beane put forward and more, click here.