See What Others Don’t…

Marc Sagal

More than just a clever slogan, these words represent what makes APFC so special.
I suspect by now you realize that there are those who think they understand soccer and those who really understand it. What’s so amazing about APFC, about Albert and Bernat and their staff is that they want to, and are able to, teach the concepts, principles, and ideas that provide a clearer and more powerful way of seeing (and playing) the game that we love so much.
It’s somewhat ‘cheesy’ to say, but getting such a gift is pretty damn special. I say this because I’ve benefitted tremendously from being exposed to the APFC curriculum.
As a Sports Psychologist, I spend a great deal of my time helping players identify and connect with what makes them special. Knowing this helps players to be more confident, resilient and reliable. Players who embrace and grab hold of the APFC concepts are gaining access to superpowers that can and should transform both their playing quality and their appreciation for the game.
But it’s one thing to be taught and another to learn. While the ideas may be simple, their mastery is anything but. My hope is that as you (and your son or daughter) join us on this journey, you will focus on the two things that you can control in order to maximize the value of this opportunity: Effort and Attitude. Come with the commitment, drive, and determination that will allow you to soak up as much as you can, as quickly as you can. And, come with an attitude of positivity and spirited competitiveness so that the environment matches the coaching wisdom.
I’m excited to be part of the journey and happy to help how I can.

Marc Sagal
Managing Partner
Winning Mind, LLC

Is a Messi born or made?

This is one of the most debated and exciting questions around sports training and formation, and specifically pursuant to soccer. Are you born with talent, or is talent forged? Is talent in the world of soccer a result of good methodology, or is it good recruitment that results in a pool of talent in a team? Let’s dissect these two ideas.  

Without optimal genetic conditions, achieving athletic success at an elite level is highly improbable. But, keep in mind, I’m not only talking about physical aspects, but also coordinative, sensory, emotional and behavioral conditions. 

Without proper methodological work, the level of improvement can be hampered and be out of tune with the evolution in the quality of a given player. 

So are natural talent and methodology complementary? Absolutely, within the scope of the maximum elite level, yes they are. But from this premise, we need to touch upon some key aspects. 

The search and incorporation of young talent is paramount and basic for a club that wants its youth teams to be the cornerstone of its present and future strategy. If there isn’t continuous recruitment,  obsessed with finding quality, and clear in the desired profile, there is no successful future. 

The search isn’t done from a desk, in front of a computer. It’s done as is said in Catalan soccer slang, by “patejar els camps”. Which means to constantly be observing in situ to find raw, sometimes hidden talent; at the same time this will help and improve the scout’s experience. You can’t make a decision as important as scouting and recruiting a player without the knowledge that is forged from constantly analyzing players. Delegating tasks should not serve as an excuse and neither should an organization’s hierarchical structure. Whoever makes the final call has to be equipped with extensive experience in scouting young players at a grassroots level as well as adults at pro levels. With his fieldwork experience, not in an office, he will improve the technical structure of scouting and analysis. 

The fanatics of methodology, in its more academic and almost scientific version, believe that with the doctrine they can create talent. In my opinion, this is a mistake. Good methodology improves talent, and can potentially aid in achieving success. But you can never forget that improvement and growth come from playing. The methodology can never be above talent. All methodology must be based on the principle of playing. Not in infinite exercises and drills, each more beautiful than the next or the countless slides with many colored arrows going in all directions. 

Everything must be based around the game and in supporting the potential of the talented young player. 

So in conclusion, we can say that one is born and made. You are born with certain qualities. Talent is forged at an early age with play and more play at its purest and freest state. And this is improved and boosted with proper methodology. 

And in the end, the human and behavioral qualities when facing life’s challenges will make each one reach his/her goals; or not.

All goals are important, because they are our dreams, what keeps us going each day. 

Youth Team … Yes …reasons…

Is it important to develop the youth divisions at an elite soccer club? Is there an economic as well as sporting return? Is it an investment or an expense? Is it an image or a concept? Principal or complementary? 

An elite soccer club measures it all in athletic, social and consequently financial success. The objective is clear. To be a reference in the world of sports through success, which in turn increases the club’s brand, and in turn means financial returns. 

To achieve sporting accomplishments a soccer team needs to have the best players available in the market. You also need a great orchestra director, called a coach, that knows how to adequately combine the individualities. Being the best player means that the signing must yield a return quickly. Hence, the price of acquisition is high. 

On the other hand, a youth team player, with a low acquisition cost, needs time to mature, a time which in football is very short. It seems as if it’s impossible to combine both concepts. 

I believe that the above is the problem, or the most frequently used excuse that coaches and club executives give. 

The youth teams is a concept that goes beyond having a grassroots player debut at pro level after 10 plus years going up the ranks. It’s a strategic development and at the same time a conceptual development of the club’s identity, which is shared between the fans, shareholders, employees, manager, coach, president etc. 

The success of a club’s youth program can’t be measured by the debut of a player in the first team. Nor can scoring a goal define the success, or a magnificent dribble which comes as a splash of magic (it isn’t magic, it’s the hard work of the player, professionals surrounding him who have a lot of passion and many times are short in resources). 

Is the youth program athletically and financially profitable in an elite club? Yes. Unequivocally, yes. It’s an investment and concept. It’s use and development. It’s implication and future. It is transcending and success. 

But to have, one must first start. And so few soccer clubs have or have started. Mine has. 

Dad, I want to be a soccer player

How many times have we heard our children express this dream? Hundreds of times? Thousands? I believe too many to keep track of. I don’t think that nowadays there’s a career, socially, and in many cases economically, that is so well recognized. I also believe that there isn’t a profession with so many side effects in the present and the future. A correct classification would be a high-risk profession. 

Currently, a rollercoaster by the mix of three factors: fame, money, and youth. That is to say, the three elements in an eternal dream that many historical figures have reached, throughout history. The holy grail of happiness but with no possibility of handling remotely or at cruise control or pausing in time. High speeds will cause the train to derail at the first curve. A continuous pause will burn the frame, and the opportunity of a future will go up in smoke. 

A profession in the future that has an expiration date. With an end, but no end to the journey. In the best of cases, a change in direction, like the exodus of the people of Israel, who crossed the desert for 40 years. A journey which the whole of society has been prepared for. And sadly, the glorious tattooed gladiators of the Roman arena (tattoo laser removal machines will be such a lucrative business), are not prepared for. 

Dad, I want to be a football player … yes son/daughter, yes. Fight for it and enjoy every single moment of this beautiful career, You will be one of the privileged few. Unique memories. Unparalleled experiences. But don’t forget to be prudent in the present and foresighted in the future. Enjoy youth with humility and arm yourself with education for your next career, the career that will provide sustenance for your family. 

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