Although last, big success of Spain national team on the biggest football event (European Championship 2012) was 5 years ago, so the fact is that when we analize results of Spanish youth national teams in 2017:
- World Cup U17 second place
- European Championship U17 first place
- European Championship U21 second place
- European Women’s Championship U19 first place
- European Women’s Championship U17 second place,
we can say with high probablity that nation from Iberian Peninsula wouldn’t have lack next, very well trained players generations. So it is still very attractive place to go and learn, draw patterns, look for inspirations and answers for some questions. First of all I will concentrate on these elements which caught my eyes the most.
- Physical preparation – I have impression that topics concerned physical preparation are all the time the most important at all in Poland. When I’m going to conference – in three quarters is physical preparation, course UEFA A – the same, sportesters, running, the gym, repetitions, loads, anareobic, aerobic and mixed endurance, intervals etc. And in Spain they just play football. Of course they take care of football mobility (I heard that professional players work on it with individual coaches) but they improve it only in warm-ups. Rest of training is spent on different games with opponent and a ball. I have never heard that coach from Spain starts talking about physical preparation. They don’t pay attention to this kind of preparation as much as we do in Poland.
- Coaches – I have met many Spanish coaches. Their level of football knowledge was quite high. Maybe it was coincidence but… They preferred spontaneous and impulsive training style. I could know their essential preparation thanks their openess. I didn’t have impression that they hide something from me or they didn’t want to answer my questions. If we are talking about acitivity on training, they looked like an orchestra conductor. They were moving, changing tone of their voice, they were focused in 100% on their job. They realized what they had planned before, concentrating on few details. I have impression that in Poland it’s completly different. We focus on every element which catch our eye. Bad pass, we react, unsuccessfull dribbling we correct, worse position, we adjust. And all these things only in one training. And players are confused on every moment because of coach’s tips.
- Training sessions – sessions are intensive, based on games, with small amount of dead time. They concentrate on concretes and details. Coaches exactly know what they want to do, that’s way they very often stop trainings. They talk with players, ask, give them instructions. This is the reason that session are valuable and at the end player is content because he feels that he learnt something. In our country kids stand in lines, session aren’t stopped unless player miss order of passing or touch a ball twice instead once. For Polish coaches essence of session is somewhere else.
- Games that create problems – players don’t get solution directly. Coach’s role is not to tell players what they have to do but to build games which create problems. Players are directed using questions and only at the end if they don’t discover answer themselves, a coach give them solution directly. Untill it happens, they have time to think independently, make decisions and mistakes, draw conlusions. There is a difference in Poland. We tell players what they have to do, games force closed, certain behaviors, from first repetition everything must be perfect so we react to every mistake. We don’t ask or we ask rhetoricaly.
- Warm-up – this is an element ih which Polish coaches feel strong. Sometimes first part of training grows to the most important one in whole session. We combine, analyze, add as many elements as it is possible to contain and that’s why we concentrate on side topics.We belief that only long and solid warm-up prepares body for physical demanding and prevents injuries. Meanwhile in Spain kid warm-up contnues 10-15 minutes and it’s directed on football mobility or coordination with a ball and sometimes (for instance in U12 category) it’s is limited to one running circle around half of the pitch and dynamic stretching. You say different climate. Mayby, I’m not going to argue with you. I only add, that my last trip in Barcelona was in February and I had freezed every evening looking at afternoon training sessions. I remember that I wonderd the most, why players’ parents didn’t freeze as much as me. After all, I was a person who came from colder country. And in addition to me no one had a hat on his head 😉 Of course, it weren’t minus 10 degrees and snowing but plus 5 and cold rain yes, so there were grounds to solid, polish warm-up.
- Prestige – football in Spain has much higher prestige than in Poland and I really felt it on each step, not neccesarily taken on the sports facility. It’s very hard to describe it, you have to go there, to feel it. Spanich coaches earn very similar to Polish ones. For many of them, football is occupation connected with high social status and not a source of income. Story tells (unfortunately I haven’t found confirmation on the internet) that only after Pep Guardiola coming to FC Barcelona, coaches from La Masia started work on full time and earn worthy money. Professional football in Spain is also higer money, fame, respect than in Poland and these arguments capture kids’, parents’ and coaches’ imagination. Everyone wants to be the best that’s why competition and motivation is huge. In Poland we follow our passion or earning few pennies but not high social status of this occupation. I’m sure that professional players like Robert Lewandowski, Łukasz Piszczek or Kuba Błaszczykowski slowly change an image of Polish football. We rebuild picture of this discipline with great effort after corruption scandals but we still have a lot ahead
- Dynamic – I wondered a lot why dynamic of polish football players on a field just from the youngest age categories is much higher and I realized that it starts most of all from prestige and contained in it motivation. Spaniard are ones of the best trained players in the world. Every kid form this country has real evidence at their fingertips. I don’t remember situalitons, that on level of average, unprofessional club someone didn’t want to run, someone went out a pitch because he was kicked and hurt a little, it’s raining or cold, there is too little place on the field. Most of players is fully motivated, in both flow and competiition state, focused on training, game, goal, 1v1 situation etc. While in our country, besides 3-4 well known on european level players, we don’t have patterns to follow. Of coures, there are local heros, but it’s not the same. As football nation we haven’t been existed in european cups for many years. There is no energy, which causes that the youngest would like very much from the beginning. All these things are related on single football actions which create dynamic of the game. And as we know, during competitions with foregin clubs everything is going too fast for us.
- Possesion games – in Spain wherever you look, we will see possesion games. I haven’t seen training session without them. This is basic training drill from the youngest age categories to profesionall football. With advantage, without it, in numerical balance, with direction and without it, on small or big fields, with more or less players, with outside players. Uncounable amount of posibilities set to training topic. And in Poland we generally use possesion games to learn… possesion.
- Sports infrastructure – there are a lot of football fields in Catalonia. For me it was looked like these objects were built as first and others elements of city landscape arised later, around them. Despite many places to play football Spain have infrastrucutral problems because there is an uncountable number of children who wants to play. So it is nothing special to see 2 different age categries (for example U11 and U12) training on one field which its dimensions are similar to polish orlik field (56×26 meters). Spaniard learnt how to manage perfectly small training spaces and sessions on them have good quality. We complain on few number of sports facilities in Poland, we need half of full size pitch for one team and when someone would propose us training of two teams on one orlik filed, we would tap in our forehad. By the way, every full size pitch in Spain is customized to 7aside football. Besides lines in different colors, they have clever system of openinng and closing goals thanks that even a small kid can prepare a field to play in very easy way. I haven’t seen neither lines (besides maybe one or two exception) or similar systems of goals anywhere in Poland so far.
- Analitical drills – if we don’t talk in Poland about physical preparation, another our main topic is analitical drills which means excercises with cones and without opponents. We spend on them most of the time of training sessions and after them we throw our players a ball to play free for few last minutes. You know – happy moment for them. On Iberian Peninsula of course they use these kinds of drills but in shorter time than in our country, very ofen in warm-up and in main part of session they forget about them yet. przechodzimy do ćwiczeń analitycznych czyli na sucho, bez przeciwnika, z użyciem pachołków. Poświęcamy na nie większość zajęć, aby na koniec rzucić ochłap w postaci piłki. A niech mają chwilę radości… Na półwyspie iberyjskim natomiast owszem, korzysta się z tego rodzaju środków treningowych, ale wykorzystuje się je w dużo mniejszym stopniu niż u nas, najczęściej w rozgrzewce, a w części głównej się o nich już zapomina.
- Training groups – there are a lot of kids playing football in Spain, but there are also a lot of coaches in clubs who help themselves and stay for others sessions if it’s needed. This is the reason that I hadn’t seen cases to U13 groups that there were more than 4-8 players for one coach. Thanks that kids don’t stand in lines, they are acitve all the time, touch a ball many times, have only short moment to rest and do next repetition. In our country many coaches compain about working with 20, 30 players.
- “Pause” – I won’t reinvent the wheel if I write that football becames faster and faster game. Enough to watch 20 years old matches to convince. However if the more developed in football country is, the better its players are in pause managing, Writing pause I mean moments on the field when they rest, catch breath, regenerate and set their opponent to attack. In Spain, from the youngest ages, they teach philosophy how to be patient and find the best moment to accelerate. Unfortunately in our country in most of cases a ball is in the air and we can’t talk about any pause. For confirmation my observations I can quote words of a coach who I have met recently. He is an asistant of a headcoach in one of club in Ekstraklasa, the highest football league in Poland. He said that Ekstraklasa is very difficult league just because of lack of pause. Fighting, running and a ball by the way. It couldn’t be at all, we don’t need it 😉
- Selection – knowing Polish mentality that we rather compete than cooperate with bigger and stronger club, I’m sure that Spaniard much better select kids to football. But these are only my feelings because during my trips I didn’t collect too much knowledge about this topic. That’s why thirteenth point was added but not recorded in the title (if someone thought that I made a mistake 😉 ).
From the one side this article hurts me because evertything what I presented on the Spanish side is nice and on polish is bad. Maybe I was to short in Spain and some of my proposals are stretched. Of course polish football improves and becames better. A lot of kids train, many of them have good motivation, we build infrastruture, we have strong national team with good players, prices for polish players rise, there are many people, who work hard on youth football to improve.
From the other side we have to admit that still differences are huge and they are a result of something. That’s way I shared with you my point of view believing that is mostly accurate.
Is there anyone from you, who was in Spain and have some experience about this topic, it would be great to share it in comments below. It would also be nice to read some Spainish coach opinion. Do you agree with me? Or maybe it’s different? Do you know any other significant differences? I will be grateful for every comment which input something new to this topic.
Thanks for reading this article. It is first time that I’ve written in English. If you think, that it’s valuable, please share or send it to your friends. I will be gratefull. I really care about that.