In February, coach Tolya spent a few days in Barcelona visiting two Colorado families which have kids playing in Barcelona. Here are a few thoughts from coach Tolya from this trip.
First of all, it is an extreme joy to see the boys I know since they were 5-6 years old continuing to play soccer at the highest level. Both, Hudson and Adrian are now 16 years old and are extremely serious about their soccer career and working their butts off. The pressure is very high on so many levels so it is great to see them enjoying this great game.
What is even greater is that they are really good friends (I would say best friends) and hang out with each other all the time. At age 16, living in a foreign country for 6-7 years, they find a lot in each other and stay together. It might look like a small thing but as a foreigner myself I understand how important it is to have this relationship and how lucky they are to have each other, especially at this vulnerable age.
Their paths are different: Adrian has been very successful in FC Barcelona, while Hudson has grown quite tall and has switched positions and needed maximum playing time to learn what you can only learn by playing games. Playing time is so important at this age and seems like now Hudson enjoys gamedays much more, his confidence grows and so does his performance.
And I think this is one of the most important things I took away from this trip - it was unbelievable to me how confident these young boys are! In the game I watched (Damm) Hudson came from the sub when the score was 0:2, the game finished at 1:2 - Hudson's first words after the game? "I swear if I start we would have won that game!" A week or two after Adrian's team lost to Gerona 2:4 what I heard from him: "We destroyed them!" At first, I was shocked and actually argued (especially with Adrian) but then I thought that maybe this mindset is exactly what these boys need to overcome failures and difficulties and it is a good thing that they are so confident! And it is not only about the games - I've heard multiple times how they think they had great training, I don't know if this is true as I wasn't on these sessions but the amount of confidence that comes from them is definitely impressive. The fact that normally parents don't attend their training sessions probably also helps as they don't have these "rides home full of coaching". It is actually interesting that at La Masia parents are only allowed to attend one practice a week, usually Friday, the day before the game - maybe it has something to do with it too?
I already said multiple times that training in Barcelona is very intense. For example, I attended Friday training at La Masia at 7pm and they played Espanyol the next day at noon. I can tell you that even though it was focused on giving players short high-intensity work with breaks, still it was extremely intense and went for all 90min. Barca won the game against Espanyol 2:1 but the second half was not as good for sure as players didn't look fresh. Not sure if they care about it at this age group.
This kind of intensity brings laser focus during all training, warm-up, and game (even if you don't play - in one picture you can see Hudson is just warming up on a sideline to be ready to get on the field - look at his eyes). These young players are becoming professionals and while outside of the field they are still kids, when it comes to the game there are no jokes, no relaxed attitude - it is all about the game, the performance, and the result. Really different from what I see in the USA on the bench or during warm-up.
The same goes after the game, these guys are really intense and analyze their game and mistakes a lot (Adrian told me that social life helps him to stop thinking of what he did good and bad at training, let alone games), and yet they are super confident and know they are going to play Pro at the highest level.
When I was on the flight back to the USA I thought that regardless of what you do - soccer or any other passion you have - in order to have a chance to be successful you must have these components in you:
- work ethic and taking everything you do in the specific field extremely seriously. Anything that can help you to get better you need to do well. Anything that takes you away from it should not exist or take a very small part of your life.
- 100% truly believe in yourself, even when everyone else has doubts.
- be very strong psychologically as life will not be easy
- have parents/friends/relatives that will support you no matter what
- have a way out from this intensity once in a while to stay healthy emotionally
Of course, I can't finish this without congratulating Adrian on signing his first professional contract with FC Barcelona. It is a big deal and should be a big deal in Colorado - the kid who played at Colorado Storm till 11, who attended all SIQ camps (his dad actually helped to create SIQ) now signed a pro contract with one of the best clubs in the World! Obviously, it is just a beginning and there are no guarantees but it is a big step toward his dreams! And I'm sure Hudson will be there very soon - he needs a little bit more patience and time but he is developing in the right way.
P.S. I know at least two more Colorado kids (boy and girl) who currently play in Barcelona and also doing very well. I didn't have time to meet them during this trip but maybe next time I will write about them too!