In March of 2012 the US Soccer Federation arranged an international coaching development workshop in Spain. In previous and years since they had run similar trips to Argentina, Germany, Italy and England – all with a similar format. The approach is to tour major soccer centers, tour facilities and listen to presentations from experts in order to gain a perspective on the direction coaching is taking in that country. 40 or so coaches travel, made up mostly of club directors, state directors and federation staff – all with the A license.
For the Spain trip the coaches traveled separately and met up in Madrid. For the first half of the week the group stayed in Las Rozas at the City of Football. From there they could watch visiting teams train (Almeria and the U20 Women’s National Team) and visit local teams (Real Madrid and San Sebastian) as well as receive presentations from visitors (Athletico Madrid staff and the National Staff). One night they also got to go to a Real Madrid league game. For the second half of the week the group traveled to Barcelona, where they watched FC Barcelona play at the Camp Nou, as well as academy training sessions from both Barcelona and Espanyol. On the last day they drove to Villa Real where they were able to watch the first team train and tour their facilities.
The access that we received would have been very difficult (if not impossible) to arrange without the links and relationships held by the USSF. Certainly, the trips are not cheap – costing upwards of $5000 when you include flights and meals, but what you get to see is pretty much priceless for coaching education and broadening your understanding of the game. Staying at the City of Football we slept in the rooms the Spanish National Team use when they are preparing for games, walked their training fields, dined in their restaurant and watched as random teams showed up to train. When teams go to Madrid to play they will often us the facilities of the National Federation to sleep and train, so every day someone else would show up and they were all fine with random American coaches watching them!
Next to the City of Football is the Federation museum, which at the time housed the World Cup and the Copa del Rey (which had recently been run over by the Real Madrid team bus) as well as comprehensive displays of the history of the Spanish game. We drove to Ciudad Real Madrid to see the club’s training facilities and receive presentations from their staff. This included the now common revelations about the importance of month of birth to your future success as a player and how they target smaller players who might grow still vs the taller one who is at the same technical level but is probably done growing. It was fascinating to see how they operate as a business.
Later we watched a lower league team (San Sebastian) play and saw the contrast between top division and lower division facilities. This was followed by a presentation from Athletico Madrid on how their teaching and academy structures work.
On the final Madrid day we were back at the City of Football, watching training sessions from the RFEF (Spanish Federation), including a great practice from their goalkeeper coach Miguel Angel Espaňa. There was plenty of free time to explore Madrid too, including time walking the tapas covered market and other bars and restaurants.
Taking a train to Barcelona we were this time in a regular hotel which was great for walking around downtown and taking the metro. We had a tour of La Masia – training ground and sleeping accommodation for FC Barcelona’s academy and training facilities for the first team. Of all the clubs we visited they were by far the least friendly, banning taking pictures and even saying they were only letting us in because the RFEF said they had to. Nice to feel welcome…! Still, it was interesting to watch their training sessions.
On other days we went to the far friendlier Espanyol – watching their academy youth and older teams train at their slightly more basic facility and watched a league game between FC Barcelona and Granada. Again there was time to see the tourist attractions including the classic Gaudi cathedral and Las Ramblas.
Finally, we drove down the coast to Villa Real, where we watched the first team train at their facility, talked to the players, toured the stadium and explored the surrounding area. They were easily the most friendly and open club from the whole trip and probably made some new fans that day! A highlight was watching American-born Giuseppe Rossi playing soccer tennis as part of his injury rehabilitation.
We were tasked with writing various reports during our trip and took great notes/videos to share with people when we got back. The point of the workshops is to get new information and spread it around the US, helping everyone develop, and we certainly did that. At a later date I will try to put all of my videos and presentations on this website so they can be watched (if there is demand for it!).
Were you on the trip? Have you taken other trips put on by the USSF? Comment below!