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Summer Coaching Symposium Clinician: Julien Legrand

Note: This is the first in a four-part series profiling the clinicians headlining NorCal Premier Soccer’s 2023 NorCal Coaching Symposium. The event, which will be held June 9-11 in Oakland, will be co-hosted by USL Championship club Oakland Roots SC. To sign up for the symposium, click here. First up is Julien Legrand, the first team manager for Olympique Lyonnais Feminin, who are the defending UEFA Women’s Champions League winners and 15-time champions of Division 1 Feminin in France.

In a 20 year career with Olympique Lyonnais Feminin, Julien Legrand has worn many different hats, but what hasn’t changed is the way he views the game.

Legrand has occupied various roles including youth academy coach, U6-U14 director, academy director, and, currently, team manager for the first team. In this new role he serves mainly on the administrative side for a club that’s fresh off winning the league and Champions League double.

“But in my mind I’m still a coach,” he said from his home in France.

A coach since he turned 18, Legrand developed a distinct style of philosophy that differed from his peers at the time, one that focused on training through game-related actions rather than developing skill without context.

“I have to explain how I see soccer, for me it’s a sport where you have to always make choices,” Legrand said. “Whether to defend, attack, dribble, shoot the ball, It’s all about choices and choices have to be at the middle of your thinking. In a game of soccer, you always have teammates, you always have opponents, and you always have a direction to score, and a goal to defend. You have the intensity of the opponent. So you have all of these elements and for me when you’re doing your training session, you have to think about all of these ingredients.”

Legrand recalls being a young coach and watching an exercise put on by the French Football Federation in which players passed the ball back and forth hundreds of times in order to learn the correct technique.

“Now with my experience and observations, I only consider things that are more like soccer,” Legrand said. “For me, in soccer exercises, you need to have more ingredients. You need to always have teammates, you need to always have opponents, you need to always have choices. I want to develop players who have to think ahead, look everywhere, and make choices.”

“The technical skills have to be with choices because I don’t want to develop robots, I want to develop soccer players and soccer players who are using their skills but with strategy, with tactical aspects, with choices, with intensity, with opponents,” he added. “I don’t want to create unreal situations and unreal environments to create exercises, we have to keep the ingredients of the game.”

It’s these ideas that hopes to demonstrate at the symposium, as he has in the English language on his YouTube page.

And for Legrand, it’s more about quality over quantity.

“I don’t have in my book or in my head 600 different exercises,” he said. “I maybe only have 30 exercises, but I would prefer to have one top level exercise than 30 that aren’t so great.”

The symposium will mark Legrand’s inaugural visit to California, one he’s been looking forward to for quite some time.

“I want to meet people who have the same passion as me and discover more of your wonderful country,” he said.