The San Diego Football Center Attends Iniesta Methodology Training in Barcelona
The San Diego Football Center Youth Leadership Academy (SDFC) traveled to Barcelona recently for the opportunity to train at Andrés Iniesta’s new training academy.
The newly coined “AI8 Iniesta Methodology Academy” teachings are based on the personal experience of Iniesta and developed by a team of professional instructors, some of whom have been working closely with San Diego’s own SDFC since its inception last year. Players and parents had a chance to meet with the Spanish legend and gain some tips from him on how to take their talents to the next level.
Youth Soccer News: It’s incredibly unusual to have the opportunity to train with the amazing professional player — Andres Iniesta — who is the star central midfielder for FC Barcelona. The Spanish legend shared his talents and insights with the Southern California youth soccer training academy, San Diego Football Center Youth Leadership Academy (SDFC).
SDFC takes soccer and leadership seriously, thus the trek overseas to spend more time with their technical directors, and to meet the player that inspires their work. The talented youth players were 2004 and a few 2005 boys and one girl who trained with the infantile age group which represented six different youth soccer clubs.
SDFC is a local San Diego group of professionals that offers supplemental training for motivated players to complement their club work, combined with a leadership curriculum.
The San Diego Football Center Academy traveled to Barcelona for a once in a lifetime experience to train with Andrés Iniesta’s new training program – Iniesta’s Methodology (AI8).
The AI8 program aims to provide youth players around the world with an opportunity to train from a similar technical, tactical and physical point of view as the FC Barcelona midfielder.
“It’s a dream having my academies all over the world and spread my experiences to all the boys and girls,” said Iniesta. “The U.S. is a country with promising future. I hope to have my first academy there soon.”
SDFC players worked with Iniesta and trained on the premises of Junior FC just outside of Barcelona in Sant Cugat del Vallès. The players also competed in four friendlies against local clubs Junior FC, Mirasol FC, Espanyol, and the highlight was a match versus FC Barcelona’s own true Academy on the famed grounds of La Masia.
“The SDFC Barcelona Experience allowed my son to experience what the world has to offer. Not only did he develop as a soccer player, he developed as a young man needing to be accountable and responsible in representing himself, the United States, and SDFC,” said a parent.
“The SDFC Barcelona Experience has been one of the BEST soccer experiences in my son’s soccer career. The responsibility that was placed on each player was equivalent to a professional player expectation. The training was so well organized, high intensity, technical and progressive. The friendlies were perfect for the boys. They were also progressive in level challenged them every match. The cultural experience was also fantastic. They had enough time off to enjoy the beauty of Spain,” said another parent.
Attending SDFC coaches, many of whom coach locally for So Cal clubs, had an opportunity to attend coaching sessions led by AI8 staff during their stay.
“My SDFC Barcelona Experience made me grow as a coach and getting to train with with topnotch coaches was a privilege,” said SDFC coach Joao Brantuas. “The coach’s sessions daily were detailed and informative and gave many ideas that I have already implemented as a coach.Watching players have such passion for the game, made me want to become a better coach for them. What an experience! I look forward to doing it again soon.”
GoalNation spoke with program directors Emili Ricart and Javi Perez on the goals and objectives of the AI8 training clinics.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the AI8 method. Which is his objective. Can you explain it and the goals that pursue?
Emili Ricart: The AI8 Method is a training model based in the game and the professional experiences of Andrés Iniesta, a reference as a player, an perfect example of how to transmit VALUES in a collective sport.
Our formative program has the goal to develop all the potential of each player, giving emphasis in their innate qualities but also acquiring new resources meanwhile the learning. Also we want the player internalize habits and healthy behaviors that can be useful for the young people in all walks of life — that’s why we consider the AI8 method an Integral Education Program.
Diane Scavuzzo: Why you decide to start the AI8 with SDFC Academy? Is in your mind to introduce the AI8 Method in US?
Emili Ricart: We started with SDFC because Hans Schönhöfer is at the same time involved in our Camps and also is the Technical Director of SDFC Academy. We want him to be our Technical Director in USA. Thanks to him it was possible to start the AI8 Method with SDFC Academy last November.
We are open to work with AI8 Method all over the world after but always under a previous quality control performed by our Director of Methodology Javi Perez.
Diane Scavuzzo: What was your impression about the players and coaches of SDFC at professionalism, respect and collective and individual behavior level?
Javi Perez: The players are excellent. This was a homogeneous work group and the players had an enormous capacity for learning — even in a short space of time.
Diane Scavuzzo: How would you evaluate these youth soccer players?
Javi Perez: Some of the players have the necessary attitudes and skills to progress to a good level in soccer. Is difficult to predict, but there are undoubtedly players who with a strict training program could compete at a high level.”
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you think is required for success in the game of soccer?
Javi Perez: First of all, ENJOY the game and live it with passion.
Secondly, to persevere in that, from AI8 Method which reflects a constant attitude of improvement and to face the challenges that arise in the field of sport recurrently.
Finally, to grow in soccer in a way that allows the progressive achievement of the different objectives, considering the stage to which the player belongs, his or her level of maturity and his level of play.”
“The most impactful moment came when the FC Barcelona coaching staff said we are welcome to return for a friendly anytime in the future. The SDFC players impressed them with their dedication to attempt to play the game as Barcelona plays it. At no point did our players resort to playing direct, kicking the ball out, or sitting back inside the penalty box. We attempted to take the game to them and we gained their respect for that. The footballing purpose behind this trip was to show that US players are hungry to learn and are capable of playing the game in an intelligent way. Meritocracy is one of our academy’s core values, and these kids lived this: to earn a spot on the traveling squad and properly prepare the kids trained together outside of their regular club training for 1 year. The coaches and players come from 6 different area clubs and have never formally competed together, so what they accomplished as they pulled together that week was admirable.” said Dr. Shervin Erfani, Co-Founder and Chairman.
“Our coaches and players trained with AI8 for 4 hours each day between our friendlies. After these sessions, our coaches spent even more time learning. It was as important to us to allow for their professional development as well as development for the players. The group also enjoyed guest speakers that included the USMNT U18 head coach, and a current FC Barcelona professional who is the 2nd longest lasting player at La Masia, training there since the age of 9. The insights they had for aspiring players and their parents were invaluable,” said Antonio Alvarez, Co-Founder.
“The players were immersed in the game and the Catalan culture all week, and we are confident they came away with some life-long memories, and a new found enthusiasm to work hard and try to get to that higher level. They saw first-hand on the pitch what level they must strive for. SDFC cannot thank AI8 and Andres Iniesta enough for the spark that they have lit in these American players’ hearts. It truly was incredible, and we are very grateful,” said Michael Orosco, Co-Founder.
SDFC is a non profit youth leadership program with the mission to develop leaders on and off the field. Their vision is to use soccer as a common ground to create a sustainable youth leadership ecosystem that will drive powerful community service and personal success.
See more of SDFC’s story on their Instagram page.