In the final installment of a series of interviews with Alejandro Berthé -- the senior program director with a program in Washington, D.C., that acts to tutor and mentor inner-city boys to boost their academic performance while developing their character -- Alejandro sums up why FC Barcelona teaches human values to their youth players and why coaches need to place importance on passing on values to their players, as well. "To be virtuous is to be fully human," he said.
In part two of my interview with Alejandro Berthé, he talks about the ways that coaches can build human values in a player. Berthé, the senior program director of the Tenley Achievement Program in Washington, D.C., which operates a tutoring and mentoring program for inner-city boys that aims to boost their academic performance while developing their character, suggests that teaching youths how to be humble, how to be truthful, how to be "other-centered," and having self control are all important ways for them to build their character. Berthé also suggests that it is important that coaches serve as good role models too. He also talks about the kinds of virtues that can be exhibited by players as part of their training mindset or in games, such as building grit (training hard), building sound judgment (to better read the game), and doing your best. For more, check out the video below.
FC Barcelona was featured on the CBS show "60 Minutes" last night. (Click here to see the segment.) Bob Simon interviewed several people from the club, including Leo Messi and Cesc Fabregas. One of the things I found fascinating was the following exchange between the reporter and Fabregas, who is talking about the education he received at La Masia, the club's youth academy:
Bob Simon: What was it like to be a 10 year old in this place?
Cesc Fabregas: I was very lucky, and I’m not just talking about the football. I’m talking about manners, values, education at school. The only thing is you have to study a lot.
Bob Simon: Pretty strict, huh?
Cesc Fabregas: They are very strict, but it’s worth it.
Bob Simon: What if you really like to have a good time, go out in downtown and..
Cesc Fabregas: You will be out very very quickly.
As I've mentioned in this blog, the importance of character and human values are of prime importance to FC Barcelona, especially when it comes to developing young players. So I decided to talk to someone who knows about teaching values to others.
I interviewed Alejandro Berthé, the senior program director at the Tenley Achievement Program in Washington, D.C., which operates a tutoring and mentoring program for inner-city boys that aims to boost their academic performance while developing their character. He played club soccer as a youth and on the varsity team for his college, Columbia University. In part one of an interview with him, he outlines some of the character virtues that should, ideally, be emphasized by coaches, along with telling about his background as a player. He also talks about what are the ways that soccer can build someone's character.
There are always lessons in life. And one that I've learned is that one day you are healthy -- and the next day you're not. I learned that when my
eldest sister was diagnosed with cancer more than 10 years ago. She was fine one day... The next day she wasn't. At least that how it seemed to me, although the cancer was in her body for months before she discovered it.
One of the lessons I learned from seeing my sister battle cancer -- she later died from it -- was not to take anything for granted. And right now, I have no
doubt Tito Vilanova, FC Barcelona's coach, is not taking anything for granted because he's been disagnosed with a relapse of the same kind of cancer that he had last year.
He is supposed to have surgery soon and then chemotheraphy and radiation. If there is one thing sports teaches you, it is never to give up. That mindset will come in handy for Vilanova as he deals with the physical and mental aspects of battling cancer.
Several months ago, Barca invited Kyle Maynard, a congenital amputee who is also an athlete and motivational speaker, to talk to youths training at La Masia. In an interview, he talked about how "sports is a big metaphor for life. It teaches us about who we are. .. When we are challenged and we're put into an uncomfortable position and we have to come up with the fortitude inside ourselves to stand back up and continue to fight, then it makes us into who we are. It's not when things are easy and things come natural and things are good, that we learn. It's when we are tested, when we go through something, otherwise we never grow."
(To listen to the complete interview, click here:
To listen to his complete speech at La Masia, click here:
Obviously, Vilanova has a big challenge ahead of him. But, in the end, soccer
is just a game. The lessons Vilanova has learned on the field and as a coach
will help him. It will help him to fight. To not lose hope. To never give up. As
long as there is time left on the clock, there is always hope.
In many of the interviews of players and coaches who talk about Andrés Iniesta, there is a constant reference to his humility. In the video below, this quality really shines. In one sound bite, Pep Guardiola, Barca's former coach, talks about Iniesta as a shining example for younger players. "Andrés not only plays well," Guardiola said, "(but) I always set him as an example for our younger players."
Guardiola continues talking about Iniesta's humble qualities, which I hope you get to hear, because it is important for young players to try to emulate and for coaches to try to teach in their young players. The video also showcases what a brilliant player Iniesta is. Check it out below...
ITV did a documentary on Leo Messi earlier in the year. In it, we see footage of Messi as a tiny youth, a pint-sized dribbling demon; we see him in matches when he was part of La Masia; we see current and former players talk about his extraordinary skills; we see him compared to other past greats; we see how important he is to FC Barcelona; we see how humble he is; in short, the documentary traces the path of the world's greatest soccer player.
But, ultimately, what we see is what all youths who play soccer should remember as they get older: that football is a game that should be played with the joy of a child. Picasso, the great artist, said it best: "Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” I believe Messi has certainly done that. Click on the video below, and you will see what I mean.
Craig Foster is a former Australian soccer player who is now a sports commentator. He is someone who has not been shy about the need for Australian soccer to improve, and he is a big supporter of how FC Barcelona plays and trains its youths. In perusing through the internet, I came across a couple of articles he wrote several months ago. The articles talk about a team from Australia who raised money and traveled to Barcelona to observe how Barca teaches its young players. He includes several short videos from training sessions.
Some of the things I loved about what he wrote were the way parents on the sidelines are taught to be encouraging and the videos show this: parents are relatively quiet, with none of the screaming that you see at many youth games from parents. Foster’s point was that Barca realizes that the training is for the benefit of the children – and not for the parents to heap abuse on a ref or to yell about something happening on the pitch.
In part two of his series, he illustrates through his videos how the young players use the width of the pitch and create space and use the goalkeeper and how calm the players are under pressure and how high their soccer-playing I.Q’s are – all because of how Barca teaches their players.
Check out the links to parts one and two of his articles here:
Part 1: http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/craig-foster/blog/1122269/Junior-lessons-from-Barca-Part-1
Part 2: http://theworldgame.sbs.com.au/craig-foster/blog/1122271/Junior-lessons-from-Barca-Part-2
I just started reading a biography on Pep Guardiola by Guillem Balague called "Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning." I haven't finished yet, but so far it is absolutely a must read for those who love Barca -- and especially those who love its former coach.
I will write a review of the book later this week when I am done. But in the meantime, I want to relay a quote that Pep said regarding the kind of desire needed for a young player to be successful later on. His words should be inspirational for those who aspto be great players:
"Occasionally, when I am asked to do a talk on La Masia, I use the following example: each night when you are going to sleep, ask yourselves if you like football or not; ask yourselves if right then, you'd get up, grab a ball and play for a bit. If ever the answer is 'no,' then that is the day to start looking for something else to do."
Leo Messi scored two goals today in Barca's game against Real Betis, leading him to break Gerd Muller's record of goals scored in a calendar year. The only way to understand how great he is to watch him, so just click on the video below and enjoy.
Johan Cruyff's impact on FC Barcelona was huge. To really understand, watch the following documentary. But be prepared to carve out some time. The documentary is about an hour-and-a-half long. You will see what an impact he made on Catalans and on the fans of the club, and you will see parts of his farewell match in 1999, which was made up of members of his dream team against contemporary Barca players. There are many magical moments in the film, but one of them was something said by Emilio Butragueño, a former player for Real Madrid, who admitted that Cruyff was his idol.
He mentions a move made by Cruyff during the 1974 World Cup, which occurred
during the opening moments of the match. Cruyff slow and speeds up twice over 45
meters, culminating with him being tripped in the penalty box, leading to the
only goal of the game for the Netherlands.
The sequence gave Butragueño an insight into what soccer really is. Here's
how he described it:
"I was 11 when I saw that game, and I've never forgotten that play. Football is an expresion of what you have in you. You go out into the field to show who you are, to display your personality. And in some way or another, art is able to uplift the viewer's soul. A painting, a play, a poem can create this experience. Suddenly, you feel lifted up by a great feeling of joy. Soccer creates a comparable feeling. It makes your imagination work. A feeling that goes deeper than just admiration -- and that's comparable to an artistic experience. Soccer is an expression of beauty."
He captured how I feel about watching Barca play. Their movements, their running into space, their intricate passing all makes my imagination work, and seeing it all makes me appreciate the fact that soccer truly is a beautiful game.