Fremont YSC Coaches attend Level 2 Barcelona Positional Play Coaching Course

Level 2 Barcelona Positional Play Coaching Course

Presented by Albert Puig

On January 13th and 14th of 2018, Fremont YSC Coaches Travis Cabral and Gavin Carvalho attended the Level 2 Barcelona Positional Play Coaching Course hosted at Las Positas College.

“The ball is ours and I act according to this, I want to dominate, and I always want to go out to win. I force myself to win the ball, keep it and not lose it. If it is lost, I have to recover it as quick as possible. I attack by defending” – Albert Puig

This statement is fundamental to the coaching philosophy that has helped Albert Puig and FC Barcelona to develop world class talents like Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets who are all graduates of FC Barcelona’s famed La Masia Youth Academy.

Teaching Methods

Puig establishes the blueprint for his system of positional play by introducing players to positional games i.e. structured possession play.

He emphasized that “Possession is the instrument, not the objective.” The objective is always to have the ball and create an opportunity to score in that possession. Each practice contains fundamental aspects that are relevant to the real game scenario, in this, Puig encourages players to dribble and take on defenders to create opportunities to score but if there is an opportunity to play a pass forward and beat defenders with the pass, this is strongly encouraged.

This bears a striking similarity to the philosophy that Fremont YSC has adopted in which players from the youngest age groups develop their technical abilities with an emphasis on being comfortable in 1v1 situations on both sides of the ball. This development pathway enables players at the older age groups to flourish in playing a very exciting, creative and attacking style with the same philosophy to have possession of the ball with the objective of creating a scoring opportunity but also to press the ball quickly when it is lost to regain it and attack quickly.

Key qualities in each positional game:

  • Direction
  • Spaces to attack
  • Spaces to protect and defend

The fundamental idea is to give superiority to the “Free man”, the player in space. Players were strongly encouraged to break lines, to play the pass to the supporting player in the space behind the defender in order to achieve the end goal, every pass must have a purpose and every pass is unique and unrepeatable.

To make this achievable, players are to be positioned at different heights in relation to the other supporting players, thus facilitating the creation of passing lanes.

Puig detailed the importance of establishing individual objectives and relating them to the collective objectives that the group is looking to accomplish.collective objectives that the group is looking to accomplish.


Each practice session is divided into 3 essential categories

  • Warm-up
  • SSP (Preferential Situation Simulation)
  • Match

The SSP is the transmission of the positional game to the system.

Situation: Creating real game situational scenarios

Simulator: Running through the situational scenarios to impact player ability

Preferential: Performing tasks so that the capacities that we want to optimize are maximized

One of the importance themes of Puig’s practice philosophy is to emphasize quality of practice over quantity. When the intensity of the practice is low, there will be little improvement to be found. If it is too high, we increase the risk of injury and lose quality. Therefore it is essential to find a balance of intensity and quality.

Periodization is key to enabling high quality of practice over a long period of time, at Fremont YSC, our training curriculum from U9 to U19 is organized into 3 sections: Pre-season, in-season and post-season. In the pre-season, we are preparing the players for the season of play ahead addressing the needs of the player by focusing on soccer specific fitness. In-season, each of the 3 weekly practices are sorted into technical sessions that teaches a specific technique relatable to the tactical and coaching in game (8v8 and 11v11) sessions to end the week. In the post-season, our younger age groups have free play which builds creativity and the ability to come up with unique ideas while developing motor planning skills and foster decision-making skills.

The SSP of medium or high loads are the ideal ones to achieve the optimization of the work. The load is not only measured from the conditional capacity, the mental structure has more importance.

Practice sessions must have the following variables:

  • Progression: When quality improves – allow for 3-4 repetitions – increase the intensity of the SSP
  • Continuity: There must be daily objectives that relate to medium term and eventually the long term objectives.
  • Reversibility: Creating positive habits through repetition
  • Variability: Sessions can be replicated over a period of time, coaches must find a way to vary the construct of the sessions to avoid monotony and boredom
  • Globality: Fitness, moving parts of the body work in unison. Must be specific work as SSP does not apply.
  • Individuality: Each player has different functions according to their position on the field. We must take into the account the specificity of the player to add individual instruction.

General Q and A

When asked about the landscape of US Soccer and their potential leading up to the next world cup, Puig replied by saying that the potential is there but we do not know where the talent is. The talent identification process needs to be improved.

In response to a question regarding the landscape of US youth soccer talent as compared to that coming in at Barcelona, he explained that it primarily a culture difference. The Talent is all around us in the United States with tremendous athletes all over the country but we lack the methodology, formation and tactics of the European clubs.

He also mentioned that it is essential for our professional league(s) to offer promotion and demotion in order to create a higher standard of play.

Continued Education, UEFA & FAW, C Certification

To continue with further education, Executive Director travelled back to Wales to participate in the UEFA/FAW C Certification. Having already gained USC Premier Diploma (formally NSCAA) it was time to explore another pathway.

A very technical course in the understanding of soccer action mechanics, the course covers the fundamental skills along with coaching through the use of life skills.

Life Skills


‘Not all human beings are players, but all players are human being’


The emphasis here, just like the Dutch and German clubs, is the importance of being a good person, and developing the individual’s life skills. Yes, players will improve their soccer ability, but very few will make the elite level, so there must be more in youth soccer than dreams of a professional career.

  • 0017% chance of playing in EPL
  • 100% chance of being a better person
  • Develop the person as well as the player

Life skills developed through youth sports participation can include-

  • Respect: other people, yourself, the practice environment
  • Confidence: self-belief while being humble
  • Open Mindset: appreciation of failure, learning from set backs to further develop, work ethic
  • Communication: working with others, listening, leading
  • Discipline: attitude towards others, bad language, reaction to referees

Players and coaches shouting at referees ultimately teaches kids to challenge authority, a lack of respect towards the rules and other people’s decisions/opinions. In life the police are authority, the life lesson hear is to no longer respect authority of law.

Life skills are broken down in to categories of skill sets:

Behavioral: verbal and non-verbal

Cognitive: decision making

Interpersonal: dealing with others

Interpersonal: self-driven by setting goals

Reflective Practice

Coaching players is the main job role of being a youth soccer coach, but players can only develop based upon the knowledge and understanding of the coach. Players are not empty vessels arriving to practice with no knowledge of the game, but all players are filled to a certain amount. The coach must bring out that knowledge and additionally increase the players knowledge and understanding. Coaches must continue their education, and can do through many means –

  • Coach education courses
  • Literature, around the sport and through additional disciplines (psychology/nutrition)
  • Learning from other coaches/organizations
  • Learn through doing, advancing on mistakes
  • eLearning, podcasts, videos

Coaches should ask themselves 2 key questions and hold themselves accountable to the reflective practice process.

  1. What will you take away from this session?
  2. Are you committed to reflective practice to develop as a coach?

Evaluation and Reflection Sheet

Schalke 04 – A Club Visit


German clubs remain bound to the fans of the club, the members, with most clubs having 51% ownership by the fans, there are a few small exceptions. It is the members who vote for the club’s advisory board, and it is the advisers who in turn vote for the executive board. Money is what corrupts so many clubs, decaying the integrity and values of what clubs represent, distorting the value of the player market, and this can be the biggest challenge to clubs like Schalke who rely on their youth programs to support the senior team.

Schalke proudly boasted 7 players from its youth system in World Cup 2014, including Ozil, Neuer, Kolasinac, Draxler, Matip, and Howedes.

Secret of Success of German Football

There is no secret hen it comes to understanding the success of German football, and there are no secrets being held back. German clubs are very open with communication, and between clubs and associations the communication channels are open to encourage everyone to continue learning. The negative experience of Euro 2000 was a turning point for German football, with the focus then being put on Formation Centers (centers of excellence), with each center being awarded certification for its elite standard. There are qualities that are evident in achieving success through the academies –

  • Fighting Spirit
  • Nurturing of Talent
  • Long Term Vision
  • Patience

The vision held by German football, and Schalke, is in the pursuit of the ultimate goal.

Principles of Schalke

Football is getting quicker, there is no time for a thought process, it’s now important for intuition. To improve the decision making you need a high repetition of soccer situations, U9 to U23 follow all of the same principles, the Schalke way of playing –

  • Always look forward, in WE, and They to WE
  • Awareness in the moment of WE to THEY
  • 1st touch in movement, always with a direction (towards free space)
  • Attack the ball, awareness of speed of action, no touch allowing the ball across hips to speed up play
  • Passes and ball movement played at angles
  • Defend the space around you, zonal defending, pass players on and take players in to your space.

The principles of Schalke will prepare the player for any system or team. This allows for youth players to fit in to the system and style of any new head coach influencing the senior team.

Learn through experience, play the game so you are in the game situation, learn through doing. Players do not need to understand the knowledge, they need to be able to do it.

The Academy

Development and winning work hand in hand, where players must desire the want to win while the club develops the individual. The club can develop an individual’s personality and technique, but the player must have a winning mentality. It makes sense in Schalke for there to be an investment in the academies, as an efficient youth department will held navigate the club away from sending big on transfers and inflated player salaries. The investment in the player will in turn have the player invest in the club through loyalty.

Conceptions and Philosophy of Knappenschmiede

Schalke believes in the following for a successful youth program.

How to teach football – Game Understanding – Sense of the game – Path from junior to senior – Style of play.

Football has become far more brain focused, requiring more awareness, players have become the tacticians on the field during games. Through coaching, players are now expected to create space on the field, evaluate the dangers, and anticipate the development of the game. The quality of the youth academy is vital when producing these players, and even though results are always perceived to be the critical factor in success, the development of the individual is what’s most valuable at the youth level, there must be a re-balance where development is more important than winning. There is a pathway to achieve success, working on game related practice, using repetition for technical development, and appreciating the many side roads that can be part of the development pathway.

Schalke has principles which reflect the philosophy of the game

  • Communicate and have fun when playing
  • Enjoy the game
  • Innovation and liberty are unremitting for this, and should be embraced by players and coaches

Key areas of focus of the conception and philosophy include –

  1. Act instead of react
    1. Impose actions always and everywhere upon opponents. Set the trend of the game with and without the ball.
    2. Excellent pressing, self-confident, determined and strong. Practice every exercise with the ball, practice as serious than games.
  1. Train like you play
    1. Respect the principle of differentiated training. Everything a player will do in a game is practiced during training sessions with differences in intensity.
  1. Do what you are able to do – but this at 100%
    1. Training sessions must bring potential to the max.
    2. Not looking for magicians, want self-aware and authentic players
  1. Train according to methodical principles
    1. From easy to difficult
    2. From slow to fast
    3. From simple to complex

Tactical Guidelines

With Possession of Ball

  • Play in depth instead of width, stretch the field
  • Limit contact with the ball, let the ball run to increase speed of the game, the ball is quicker than any player
  • Attention to the second ball when teams play in a defensive manner
  • Transition to attack quickly, good organization behind the ball must be guaranteed

Without Possession of Ball

  • Pressing in the midfield third
  • In compact way, all together in common action to achieve success
    • One player acting alone is lost, no chance of success
    • Everyone must contribute to the team’s success
  • Always be highly focused and involved
  • Transition to defense quickly, regain the ball ASAP


  • Is not an end, but a means to score goals in the offensive, and to avoid them in defense
    • Every player must grasp a technical basis, all players develop technical ability for specific positions
    • Positions require different technical strengths to others

Physical Condition

  • Players should be in peak conditioning
    • Always move with high intensity
    • All squad players must be in top form for duration of the season

Personality Development

  • Developing well rounded individuals on and off the field, not interested in creating machines
    • Importance of education, nurturing the intellect, spirit, and mind of each player
    • Training the brain is integral to development
  • Character of an individual is important
    • Think positively and act co-operatively
    • Players must be honest, respectful, intelligent, forward thinking, and willing to take responsibility on and off the pitch

Style of Play

  • Offensive, aggressive, dominant
  • No dependence on system
  • Team spirit, Strong passion and a winning mentality

Where there’s a will there’s a way

  • The starting point of all ideas is always performance and achievement orientated, not success orientated


“Respect people on the way to the top, you may meet them again on the way down”

Scouting Uwe Vester

Structure and Recognition of Talent

Throughout Germany there are boundaries in which players can be scouted by teams, throughout the age groups the district boundaries change, these boundaries prevent players from needing to travel excessively to their club. This creates great competition amongst the clubs in the area, and specifically around Schalke with it being one of the densest areas of professional clubs. The Ruhrgebiet is the heartland of the German rustbelt, occupying European giants, Schalke, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Koln, and Borussia Monchengladbach. While considered as lower level senior teams within the Bundesliga, these clubs have the highest functioning academies in the country.

These academies do not start team play until the age of U9, everything below this is practice only. The purpose of scouting at the youngest ages regionally is reduce the danger of making poor signings at the senior level. To be a successful scout takes due diligence, experience, and an ability to nextwork with local clubs. The earliest contracts in Germany are at U16, with a maximum of 3 years but allowing for a 2 year extension.


  • Scout matches and practices of Schalke teams
  • Regular contact and discussions with coaches
  • Half year assessment of own players
  • Organize and observe trials
  • Record results of scouting in to database


Long Term Observation

Forecasting a player’s development, and future playing ability must be completed with precision, working from trends in player development. The selection is completed with greatest possible perspective, enhancing the optimal composition of the squad.

Short Term Target – creation of performance optimizing environment within the team

Long Term Target – highest possible takeover rate (transfer fee)


Recognition of Talent

Ozil is one of many players that have developed and graduated from Schalke. Considered small and weak, but could do anything with a ball, this is recognition of elite talent. It’s important to be able to play football, not work at football.

  • Special qualities –

Speed of action under pressure – recognition of tight positions, and avoids them – technical ability, special skills, both footed, speed, 1v1 competent, crucial passes, can score

  • Behavior in Match Situations

WE: creates options for themselves and others – understands the game

THEY: accountable, willing to do the ‘dirty work’

TRANSITION: recognizes the situation and acts accordingly

  • Physical Condition

Speed (although trainable) – height (keepers and defenders) – physical force, presence on the field – resistance to injuries, trainable

  • Personality

Resilient in social and private life – stress resistance against overloading and negative experiences, stability in match (crowd and referee) – straightness, makes decisions and pushes through without hesitation

Where scouts are looking? They observe the warm up behavior, and parent behavior, along with the interaction between players and parents/coaches/scouts.

Outstanding talents can influence a match, only those who can control all areas of life achieve their goals


A holistic approach to psychology including all 3 of the important factors in long term development, the player, coaches, and parents. Psychology is used as a preventative tool, starting as early as U9. A preventative method is more successful and efficient than being used as a tool to repair damage done.

Each factor in the long-term development undergo the same levels of receiving individual, and group sessions, utilizing diagnostic questionnaires.