Coaches Corner: Our Partners on the Benefits of International Travel and Competition
There is no doubt that soccer is developing quickly throughout the world, with larger cash investments in youth development than ever before. However, Europe continues to be the leader in terms of structure and competitiveness. The biggest and strongest leagues are still European leagues, and though some of the world’s best talent doesn’t come from Europe, great players often make their move to European academies or lower division teams at a young age. The importance of exposure to international styles of play, competition, culture and overall attitude is extremely beneficial to youth players abroad. We sat down with coaches from our Partner clubs to further delve into the benefits of getting youth international exposure, on and off the field.
GAI: You’ve brought a number of teams from Japan to the Valencia Cup in Spain. What do you think are the greatest benefits for your Players?
Takeshi Inawaka (CEO of Wakatake – Japan): “It’s a good experience for our kids to come to Europe, because European soccer is distinct. There are big differences between how Japanese soccer is played. In Japan, the players always give 100%, but there are things that they are missing. Through the course of this tournament and in these matches, players will feel and think about how to win. This is an experience the kids can learn from and make their own.
Participating in a tournament serves to show them how European soccer is played, for them to study how winning teams play and how to face those types of rivals in competition.”
GAI: How does the club view the benefit to its players of international travel programs?
Kevin Flanagan (Boys DOC, Carolina Rapids SC – USA): “A lot of players that go on these trips maybe haven’t left the country before, so they get to enjoy the game of soccer in a different environment. But I think the culture piece to it is almost as important or more valuable, because they get to experience different cultures. They’re traveling to a country like Spain, where people are speaking a different language, that’s taking them outside of their comfort zone – I don’t believe that our players get taken out of their comfort zone enough, so for me whether it’s team travel or the Select program, taking players out of their comfort zone and exposing them to different environments, and stretching them – whether it’s a psychological standpoint within the game or physical standpoint within the game – is very important.”
GAI: What do you think changes in the kids’ mindsets when they go home after these international training experiences?
Ralphie Lundy (Coach, Mount Pleasant – USA): “[The players] see what it takes to become a professional – where the sport is completely involved in their thinking, in terms of what they’re eating, their schoolwork, their afternoons, their rest time. They get to see an atmosphere where it’s really calculated instead of just going to training to be with your coach. Where you see kids are playing soccer without a coach on the field and that sparks their interest a little bit – it makes them realize when they come back, ‘OK I need to train harder and go play pick up with my friends. I need to go to something other than just structured soccer.'”
Learn about our team travel programs here