Day 1: Real Madrid vs. Alves
This is a #1 bucket list item for any soccer fan- to see a game in the Bernabéu! The historic stadium was packed, and the passion and atmosphere from the fans throughout the game was incredible. I was lucky enough to attend a match between Real Madrid and Alaves at Santiago Bernabéu, and although Real Madrid isn’t my team to see them play in their stadium was certainly something to brag about as a soccer person!
Day 2: RCD Espanyol Lecture
Taking part in a RCD Espanyol lecture left me with some interesting takeaways. For example, RCD Espanyol manages the player, parent, and coach interactions by only allowing players’ parents to watch training once per week. I also really liked their formula for success: Performance = Talent + Training x Attitude!
This session was also a personal highlight for me, as it brought back the memories of 2004 when my Georgetown team played against Espanyol’s reserves at the training ground stadium!
Day 3: Girona Lecture & Camp Nou
The coastal drive to Girona’s stadium is beautiful by itself, but it gets even better – Girona’s stadium sits on a scenic hilltop in this historic city.
Girona FC employs a great youth motto for their program: “ENJOY THE BALL.” Girona does a great job of breaking their academy down into two main developmental phases: U7-U15 is designated as the Learning Phase, and U16-U19 is the more advanced Performance Phase.
Though I’ve visited Camp Nou several times, it never gets old! Their special exhibit on Johan Cryuff was a huge highlight! Cryuff is widely known as the guy who started the modern way that Barcelona plays and develops its players.
Day 4: FC Barcelona Women
Having access to Barcelona’s famous youth academy “La Masia de Can Planes” was a treat! It’s easy to look at the grounds and imagine that the next Messi, Xavi or Iniesta could come from any of the fields. FC Barcelona Femení use the same facilities, and we had the unique opportunity to participate in post-training Q&A with the coach and one of the star players, Vicky Lasoda.
The day was topped off by Bucket List item #2 – the El Clásico at the Camp Nou. If you are a soccer person, then I need say no more!
Day 5: Nastic Tarragona & Catalan FA
After a morning visit and presentation with Nastic Tarragona, we had the opportunity to observe a rehabilitation training session for their players who are currently recovering from injuries. We also met with Albert Aliau, Football Director at the Catalan FA, who was the highlight of the entire program! I loved the following takeaways from his lecture:
Young players do not need warm-up. Start out with Rondos and get playing.
Training needs to look like the game.
Brazilian players do not learn their technical ability from coaches… they learn it from playing.
Article written by Keith Tabatznik, Director of Soccer, McLean Youth Soccer