Craig Foster takes a close look at how juniors are trained at Barcelona and passes on some of his key findings.
Spending a week at FC Barcelona is a profound pleasure for anyone who loves football, particularly those interested in the training of kids to excel in the game.
Coming from Australia, where the culture is only developing and information is both hard to come by and often lost in the din of politics and commercially driven agendas, the opportunity to see first-hand the culture, environment, methodology and excellence being achieved at Barca is important to clear the mind, refocus and sustain motivation for change.
It’s also a chance to be with great people. Not just great football people because while there are many, the game is also blighted by plenty of the opposite kind, but just lovely people to spend time with.
The Catalans have a 'simpatico" with Australians and Barcelona is, as one of my great friends and coaches for FCB always says, the brother city to Sydney. He feels at home here, and we there.
In the end, football is about people, and having great ones involved only enhances the depth of experience and memories taken away.
There have been different reasons for each visit, however this time it was to see an Australian youth team spend a week at the Ciutat Esportiva to be trained by FCB coaches. An incredible experience, I’m sure you’ll agree.
A former team-mate of mine from Marconi, Nick Bozevski, sought a learning experience for his team and was prepared to work hard to raise money to alleviate the financial load, which I strongly support and was therefore prepared to facilitate.
Our kids need international exposure as early as possible, but the cost only further burdens parents and we have to find a way to contribute for the kids.
It was a vast challenge for the Aussie boys, who applied themselves beautifully and thoroughly enjoyed the life and football experience. They learned new concepts and will come away with a different view of the game.
And being able to watch both Barcelona's matches against Spartak Moscow and Granada live was incredible.
Two games at Nou Camp in a week, now that’s what I call a week in football. Sitting up high in the media section gives an extraordinary opportunity to see the tactical game unfold and I took some photos of Barca’s play, which I will explain in my next blog.
Last weekend I spent the day at the FCB escola, the academy alongside the club itself, to see the organization, culture, behaviour and management by the coaches, as well as the football by age group and level.
Here, the children play in-house football 7s, what we call 'small sided" games.
I've included a few brief videos that may give you a little further insight into the standards that we need to achieve in our own game.
Before we get to the football, let’s look at the conduct of those around the game, since without appropriate standards here it is impossible to achieve the learning outcomes for the children, both in training and of course matches, which are only for learning.
As I wrote about at length in my book of two years ago, at Barca, parents are allowed to encourage but not correct.
This means not to correct the players by shouting instructions, the referee for whom the children are learning respect, the coaches or the opposing team.
The reason is simple: because they are parents, not football experts, and the football educators must have complete control of the children to instill the necessary lessons on and off the field.
Each age group has a coordinator and this is the point of contact for any parent, not the child’s football teacher. I love this approach because it removes all of the negative influences of parents complaining about a particular child from the educator.
In this video, don’t just watch, but listen.
The purpose for shooting it was to demonstrate how parents and bystanders behave when the kids are playing. You will hear almost total quiet, only clapping when a shot is taken.
No screaming. No abuse of the referee. No fighting on the sideline. No yelling instructions to the kids. Nothing.
Why do you think this is?
Because the match is only about the children, not the parents, and the kids are there to learn how to apply their learning in a match situation.
At no time does anyone question a free-kick, throw-in or call for a card. Nothing. (I also love how the keeper puts the ball down for the goalkick and plays a short pass).
Everyone is intent on watching the kids to see how they are developing, which is a wonderful environment to be in as a football lover.
It was noticeable how the noise escalated slightly throughout the day the youngest kids, six and seven year olds, came to play, because these were first-time parents and this was the first game of the new season.
Again, this only reinforces the standards required at Barca and in a very short time, these new parents will understand the expectations.