The 5th edition of the “Aspire Academy Global Summit” on Football Performance and Science concluded yesterday at Aspire Academy with panel discussions, workshops, applied sessions and presentations of sponsors.
Furthermore, two football coaches that are currently working in Qatar, Heimir Hallgrimsson and Slavisa Jokanovic, shared their approaches on managing a team. Heimir Hallgrimsson, who took over QSL club Al Arabi in 2018 after successfully working as head coach of the Iceland team, believes that in today’s football there is probably too much emphasis on the technical abilities of players over their character and attitude.
“What l look for and seek to instill in players are certain values, like discipline, hard work and focused mind. Unfortunately, by focusing on a player’s technical ability foremost, what is lost are vital answers to questions like, what is the player’s background and how does it play a part in their attitude and personality. These are key questions which a coach needs answered before and as he deals with players.”
He went on to say, “I believe a coach shouldn’t go with a fixed style of playing football. I am not a fan of coaches who seek to play the Guardiola tiki taka or Klopp’s high pressing style instead of coming up with a style that best suits the players they have. I think in the end what you want is to find and define your own philosophy which helps you answer the key question in football which is how to win games,” said Hallgrimsson.
Slavisa Jokanovic, who coaches Al Gharafa believes that today’s coaches need to be confident and able to be good observers. “In the end, the players are the key to success. My job as a coach is to improve them by using different tools and encourage them, so they start to trust in themselves and to trust in their teammates. From time to time you have to be a father, a teacher, a brother or a doctor to them. But that’s part of the job. If players could do everything by themselves, they would not need coaches.”
The third day panel discussion on “Understanding the game: Key to developing our players” featured many interesting insights of experts from all over the world. Pedro Dias Marques, Technical Director at SL Benfica, stressed the importance that coaches focus on their players, since coaches are not there to coach for themselves. “Many times we feel that coaches constrain players in a bad way and take away their freedom. We have to make sure to use our time in the most effective way and avoid exercises that don’t benefit our players. When kids joined clubs ten years ago they came with the experience of spending a lot of time playing football in the streets, but this has dramatically changed and the we have to take this into account.”
“I’ve worked on three continents, in Europe, South America and Asia and in each place I found different styles, different philosophies and different kinds of pressure for players,” said Aspire Academy’s Technical Director Edorta Murua. “Nonetheless, the goal always remains the same, which is to develop the children for the professional level. And when you come to a different place you have to come up with a methodology that fits the needs of the players. Players at this age are eager to learn and improve. So we have to be clever to come up with exercises that improve their weaknesses and at the same time we should never forget to deal with them as individuals.”
Looking at the development of youth football players as a process, is a thesis that Jose Tavares, Technical Director at FC Porto, fully supports. “We don’t want ten-year-old players to become professionals right away. At this age they have the time to make experiences. Like we said before, the ultimate goal for every player is to win and you win games by scoring goals. So how can we teach them to score goals? What about defenders and goalkeepers? Is it also their intention to score goals? So coaches need to be clever and they need to be able to apply their knowledge in practice. We need to create a pathway for kids to be ready to play the game. The tools we use all around the world may be different, but in the end it’s about players trying to score goals.”
“Coaches have to make understanding the game of football simple. I fear that as coaches we complicate this part of what we are trying to achieve by playing this game. For me understanding the game starts with working out the aim of the game, then get onto what you seek to accomplish and how you will go about it. When we break down the game to its core and make the players, especially young ones, understand that they are playing to enjoy and have fun first we lay the foundation of building on their development as footballers. We should constantly check our definition of understanding the game and how we are interpreting that in our programmes,” said Fred Lipka, Technical Director of the North American MLS.
“It is with much delight that l bring to a close what has been an intensive, but productive summit at which we chose to gather just the 50 full members of Aspire Fellows Community. We covered substantial ground on the three topics and its doesn’t stop here, but members will upload supporting presentations from their clubs on our platform, which currently boasts over 260 presentations. This means a continuation of the sharing and learning from each other goes on beyond the summit,” said Professor Valter Di Salvo, Aspire Academy’s Director of Football Performance and Science.
He concluded with what he called a personal wish for Aspire Fellows. “I would like us as a community to consider how we can give back to the less fortunate in our world and l think something in line and connection with education would be ideal. It’s something that l would like to propose for us as a community to think through as a possible building on from our successes over the years.” Ali Salem Afifa, Chairman of the Aspire Academy Global Summit, had the final words of the event in which he thanked all the people involved in this year’s event. “I hope all of you enjoyed this edition of the event the same way I did and I hope that all of you take home good memories from these three days in Doha.”
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