Irish Based Catalan Elite Football Philosophy
Catalan Elite Football began this summer in Ireland. Based out of Parnells GAA in Coolock and running every Friday from 7pm to 9pm and catering for kids aged 6 to 14 years.
Catalan Professional coach Marc Miquel writes about his experiences so far in Ireland, in his own words:
After four months coaching in Dublin I’ve noticed many differences beetwen Football in the Catalan region and the football that is practiced here in Ireland. I can say that there’s a lot of work to do, its going to be a challenging process in order to reach the targets in which we have set for ourselves.
“Our focus in Catalan Elite Football is to develop tactical qualities of the players as individuals”
Our main focus is to change the mentality of Irish people and players both on and off the pitch. We want them to consider said that this process possible for us to develop more intelligent players.
Our main focus in Spanish and Catalan football is to develop the cognitive qualities of the players, to use the brain in the game. In Ireland from my experience so far, players think about the game a lot less than that of Catalan players. Maybe one of the reasons is the fact that they do not have a professional league with professional players on their doorstep to watch on a weekly basis. For this reason I have found that players need continuous reminding of the concept of training. We hope that we can make a small difference towards this, like our Academy Director says,
“every process starts with a little change.”
This process will acquire different methods to make the things, develop the qualities that the smartest players have (based around tactical elements) or start to produce different players.
“The players do not recognise the training as a training, it is more like going to enjoy time with their friends. They don’t think to improve as a players and as a team in every training, it appears this is the coaches problem”.
Our focus in Catalan Elite Football is to develop tactical qualities of the players as individuals. The company’s founder, Colm Barron, studied the different football methodologies around Europe and specifically in Futbol Salou and the Tecnifutbol Academy. After meeting with Albert Vinas and studying the smartfootball methodology he decided with the support of Albert to reproduce the methodology in Ireland in the Catalan academy. In one of the last travels he visited Complex Esportiu Futbol Salou where I was working and spoke to both Albert Viñas (Complex boss) and Colm, they decided to give me the chance to help the academy to introduce the Catalan methodology. Our work started there….
Trainings And Matches
I’m gonna talk about the general level which we could see in our academy, in different pitches around Dublin and clubs where Catalan Elite Football started to work in (Knocklyon United, St. James Athletic and Park Celtic).
“When I came to Ireland I imagined strong players with really good physical qualities, showing aggressively to the ball, but they do not! They aren’t aggressive to the ball, it’s hard to see two players fighting powerful for the ball”.
Like I mentioned above the players do not recognise the training as a training, it is more like going to enjoy time with their friends. They don’t think to improve as a players and as a team in every training, it appears this is the coaches problem. Many of them are parents that find the players enjoyment to be more important, not the learning sense. Of course for us it’s really important that the players enjoy in the sessions, but they have to enjoy learning about the game with the games the coaches purpose. Our thinking is to help the players to develop their qualities within the trainings and out of it, as a player but as a person first. We understand the youth football as a person formation to develop useful skills for their life, trying to instil our passion for the game and the attitude to fight for your dreams and improve every day.
The training mentality is to play all versus all running behind the ball without thinking anything more. I was surprised because I used small sided games (2v2/3v3…) as a real match in a different pitch size and they don’t understand this game as a match. We are trying to explain to the players that by using these types of games they can reproduce a similar competition game in unreal spaces, but they are going to touch the ball more which will allow them to improve as players.
To review what I have seen in trainings, players don’t show passion and attitude for the game, and the tactical content is not introduced in the majority of the sessions. These things are some of what make the process harder, the process to understand the game. In order to create smart players, they must make mistakes within the sessions, they have to experience different game situations that they can find in the competition. Trying to reproduce the competition in the training where the players have to use the brain to beat opposite team.
Related with the previous problem, they don’t have collective sense, team sense, because they play as an individuals inside the squad. If you think as an individual you just want to run closer to the goal to score but will never think as a team, and with this mentality it’s impossible to develop the cognitive element. For this reason there’s a lot of transitions in the games that I watch in Ireland and this seems to be the same in the national teams. The coaches want the ball far from their goal and if the striker is lucky he will get options to score. If not, the other team will try to clear again, for this reason it is rare that any team will control the game.
What’s the problem if there’s a lot of transitions?
The problem is that the players lose their positions and nobody is organised. Everybody want a to run with ball and they don’t think where the defenders are, where their mates are, and where is the best space to play. The collective options disappear.
For the last part in this point I want to talk about the biggest surprise that I received. When I came to Ireland I imagined strong players with really good physical qualities, showing aggressively to the ball, but they do not! They aren’t aggressive to the ball, it’s hard to see two players fighting powerful for the ball. I think they have really good physical qualities which they have to transfer to the game and be aggressive to compete every ball, after that start to introduce technical and tactical elements to become better players.
More from Miguel in the coming weeks…
The competition has to be a part of the formation process for players. This competition needs to a part of both trainings and the games. I find it difficult to understand when parents struggle to accept the opinion on the levels of the players. All around the world in football and life, people are categorised by their current level. The best work with the best to become better, and other who are below that level at the time work harder to become a part of that group. This is soccer all over the world. It does not mean that the player of lesser ability at that time cannot improve past the others, it may just take more time.
“Of course everybody always wants to win, but it doesn’t have to be the most important. If you lose you have to learn about your mistakes and if you win you should keep working in the elements that you made good”.
The match day formation has a part of player learning. Practice in the match should be focussed on the work realized during the week. It’s a chance for checking if the players are improving and develop the competitive sense. Competition is a part of sport and players must learn to compete, not just compete to win because this thinking I feel is wrong. They have to use the competition to experience everything that is involved. The opposite pressure, the fans clapping, sharing your passion with the team members, sharing a dressing room, developing the cognitive and creative elements into the game because it’s reproduced in the game as a maximum expression.
“We have competitive leagues from u8 in Spain. Again this is the real game, there is no problem with competitive leagues from the earliest age, the problem is the environment that surrounds this”.
In this moment what appears to be the biggest problem is that everybody wants to win without focus in the players formative process. It’s a world problem, but the problem is in the adults not the kids, because the adults alter the kids mind. Of course everybody always wants to win, but it doesn’t have to be the most important. If you lose you have to learn about your mistakes and if you win you should keep working in the elements that you made good.
The competition in Ireland is difficult to understand, the governing bodies doesn’t have the elements structured and the rules which they play are not really established. For example the youngest kids don’t have league qualification, this is not really important, but it can be used in the right way as feedback for the players and you can introduce different targets in their learnings.
We have competitive leagues from u8 in Spain. Again this is the real game, there is no problem with competitive leagues from the earliest age, the problem is the environment that surrounds this. If the environment is professional and the parents are educated then there is no problem with this competition, in fact I think it is quite important for young players.
In Ireland they split the players in four categories, 5, 7, 9 & 11 a –side. I think it’s a good idea for the players development to play in progressive players numbers, but sometimes they play 6v6, 6v5, 11v14 because the difference in the score is huge. The rules in the federation doesn’t seem really clear! Do you think it’s a good decision to create 9-a-side game just for one year (under 12’s)? I think no, because you have to set up one different size pitch just for one year??!! I’m not sure how this fits into the development model for players!
I have never thought about the offside rule before, now I am thinking about it everyday. I think it’s an essential part of the game because the players must think in the game, if not they just can wait closer to the goal line. Offside is a rule from the earliest age in Catalonia, It’s a nice rule to learn to move into the space, work the defensive line as a team, make the passes in the right tempo with the right weight,… I have heard people say that the youngest players will “not understand” the offside rule. In our Catalan Academy we work with players from aged 6-15 and we introduce the offside rule in any tactical game related sessions of which there are many, and we incorporate offside. Now we have 7 year olds asking “can we play offside”, and they enforce the rule themselves. This is the real game and prepares the players for the real 11-v-11 game.
The last element I’m going to talk about are the referees. It’s a controversial role in the football world but really important at the same time because the referee has to make decisions about the game. In Ireland, the coaches or parents are the referees in the 5-a-side, other categories have the referee but they don’t exit the sidelines in the youth football. I consider that the referee federation has to be connected with the football federation, to create a competitive and air environment like the structure we have in Spain or around different European countries.
Catalan Elite Football & Complex Esportiu Futbol Salou
Cambrils (Barcelona), Spain.
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