Category Archives: traveling

First family trip to Germany

After an almost 18 month hiatus from European trips, we managed to celebrate Johan’s 20th birthday in Germany -a tradition we broke last year due to COVID. From the moment he joined FSV Zwickau for pre-season, the club has showed him plenty of love and we were there to witness it all. Caveat: this post contains many pictures for us “visual learners“.

The experience was superb. The 5260 mile trip (just to Frankfurt) from the Dallas Fort Worth airport was all worth it. It was a 9.25 hour flight plus a 4 hour drive from Frankfurt to Zwickau but anytime you go see your son, distance is never a factor. Upon our arrival, Johan had just returned from practice and welcomed us with open arms (and a spanking spotless clean apartment). Mom was proud.

Johan welcoming Joana upon arrival, Zwickau, Germany (07.23.21)

Frankfurt Airport

Renting a car was extremely easy from Enterprise; it’s normally very expensive but we found an excellent rate. We made a reservation for an automatic transmission and were given a VW Passat stick shift (which I loved). Driving in Germany is very fun other than getting used to driving in the autobahns. One needs to stay super alert especially while occupying the fast lane as there’s many no speed limit zones and there’s always a car going faster than you. That’s right, I was able to accelerate to 225 km/hr (150 miles/hour) effortless. Also, there’s no passing on the right lane. Absolutely none.

220 km/hr in the autobahn traveling to Berlin 07.26.21

Station wagons are extremely popular in Germany and that’s what we rented. We first rented a 2021 Volkswagen Passat until it gave up on us. After that, we got a 2021 Škoda Octavia which we loved because it had a lot of bells and whistles that you don’t typically find in American sold cars. Both did a great job taking us all over Germany and the Czech Republic.

Aldis

One of the first family activities we did was grocery shopping. Johan’s apartment is very close to an Aldi. We didn’t know that Aldi was a German company so these grocery stores are everywhere. Aldis got us out of trouble in a bind as their setup is very similar to what we have back home. Thus, even if you don’t speak German, it’s easier to locate items and navigate the store without needing to be fluent in German.

Having learned Portuguese the past couple of years has helped us learn other languages. Currently, we are learning some German but not at the same rate as Johan. He’s fully immersed in it day in and day out. Our first impression is that it’s not as difficult as people make it sound. Juan Carrera gave us some pretty good advice prior to our trip: the younger generation speaks English fluently due to their frequent social media interactions; however, the older generation doesn’t. It sets expectations when we were out and about. Some phrases that came in very handy:

  • Sprichst du English – Do you speak English?
  • Ich spreche kern Englisch – I don’t speak English
  • Nimmst du Euro – Do you take Euros?
  • Ich bin Amerikaner – I’m American
  • Wo kann ich ein nei taxi nehmen – Where can I take a taxi (they don’t have Uber service in a lot of cities in Germany)

Downtown Zwickau

Zwickau is the fourth largest city in the state of Saxony. Located in the mid-Southeast part of the country, it is surrounded by a lot of wind farms. Summers are beautiful, and the 60-70 degree Fahrenheit summer days are ideal for strolling through downtown which we often did.

Zwickau is one of the centers of the German automotive industry. While there, we were able to visit the renowned August Horch Museum.

August Horch Museum

The automobile museum covers the history of automobile making in the town of Zwickau. It takes us back in time when the company Audi was founded by August Horch. Note: The first part of the museum is described mostly in the German language while the more modern sections are in both German and English languages. There may be English speaking museum tours available but there weren’t any when we went. Allocate at least two hours to see it all.

The museum is a must see for automobile lovers (especially German automobiles). There are cars that date back to both World Wars just as seen in the movies. The museum is housed within the old factory where Engineer August Horch established Audi Automobilwerke GmbH in 1910. Audi was founded in 1909. The four rings of the Audi (now subsidiary of Volkswagen) logo each represent one of four car companies that banded together to create Audi’s predecessor company, Auto Union.

Stadium Pictures

Fortunately, we were there to accompany Johan for the obligatory club welcoming pictures. See Instagram post below. Good quality, wonder who took most of them.

Start of the season

First game

The first game was at home (GGZ Arena) against recently promoted Borussia Dortummund II. From the moment we entered the stadium, that experience requires its own post so we’ll leave it at that for now.

We are glad we got to see your pre-match European ritual and at the stadium were treated as VIPs. Thank you Johan.

Unfortunately, the outcome of the game was a 1-2 defeat but it was a great game to watch (Zwickau should have won it). It was his first official game as a professional in Germany in his new position, with the first team. Johan had a very solid game. Below are a couple of actions where he almost impacted the game directly.

Second game

For the second game, we drove to Köln. It was a five hour (481 Km) drive from Zwickau on a Saturday morning but the fan support was never lacking and the game against Viktoria Köln did not disappoint. It was Johan’s first game as a starter and the final result was a 1-1. We took the obligatory pictures at the end of the match and coach allowed him to drive back with us. We made some memories on the way back and even got lost…

Berlin

Mondays are normally off days for Johan and we always wanted to sight-see Berlin. The cosmopolitan city is not only Germany’s capital; it’s a must-see city with so much history. We decided to embark in the 300 kilometer trek in a one-day trip rolling down autobahn 4 from Zwickau. There’s so much to do and see, we’ll have to visit it again in the future.

Berlin Wall Memorial

We visited the Berlin Wall Memorial. It’s an incredible feeling when one is actually at the place where so much history took place. Quick trip but educational and meaningful for the “kids”. At a personal level, the Berlin Wall brings back so many -not so-pleasant memories.

Berlin Television Tower (aka Fernsehturm Berlin)

Erected at 368 meters in the midst of the East Germany superiority, the television tower is the main visible landmark in Berlin and the tallest in Europe. We now have visited towers throughout the world. Dallas, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Seattle, etc. They all offer a unique perspective and view of their respective city. Unfortunately, an due to COVID protocols, we were unable to have lunch at the top of the tower.

Prague

Prague is beautiful. One must reserve several days to see it and truly enjoy it. Driving into it from the north, makes it seem like the old communist Czech Republic with its old coal power plans. However, once one reaches Prague, one finds a very cosmopolitan city with a contrasting of old European architecture everywhere. As any big European city, there are designer stores everywhere. We had an opportunity to visit Saint Charles Bridge, Town Square, etc. It was too short but we know we’ll be back to see Johan very soon.

Return to Germany

If the delta variant continues to spread in the US at the current rapid rate, it’s possible entry to Germany may be limited to non-citizens (us). There were changes made yesterday already (they are revised every two weeks).

Thus, we will return to visit Johan before October to ensure we regain entry into the country and stay with him an adequate amount of time to provide him family support. For now, we left him with his super equipped apartment (nice view), his car setup and more importantly, in great hands with Coach Joe and staff. Enjoy the time in Germany son. #theGomezway

Family at Johan’s apartment

Chumchat

Give Chumchat’s new episode a listen. Johan talks about his move to Germany from Portugal and how that is going. For those of you thinking about playing in Portugal, he compares the Portuguese playing style to the German playing style and sets some expectations based on his experience. Playing for the first team now is a different responsibility (player experience-wise); one that still carries the weight of a promotion/relegation eco-system but one that he has welcomed with open arms. Go show Johan and the Chums some love.

Young footballers need to get a passport ASAP

By definition, a passport is a document purchased from the government primarily to allow its holder to travel internationally. In our case, MLS football and futsal provided our boys opportunities to travel abroad several times but none of those trips could have ever been possible without first acquiring an American passport.

As an American citizen and prior to joining a competitive football setup, it is of utmost importance to obtain an American passport especially if your child is under 18 years of age. So parents, do your footballers a favor and start the process for them ASAP.

In reality, access to just one passport could have additional benefits that transcend football. Furthermore, if your player has mixed ancestry and you can process multiple passports, having access to them can magnify those benefits. With the global characteristic of football, the parents of the player, should try to expedite getting a passport from each of the eligible ancestral countries. Before you know it, football or not, opportunities will necessitate access to one, or more, passports. Below are some advantages:

Advantages:

Multiple Nationalities:

If the country of ancestry recognizes multiple nationalities, the player could potentially be a dual (or multiple) nationality citizen. Also, the player could gain access to additional non-football benefits such as voting, free medical care, social-security-like retirement, etc. as a minor or as a potential adult living in that country in the future.

Furthermore, having access to multiple passports offers an opportunity to: enrich one’s cultural IQ, learn and empathize (with) new (different) customs/habits, master a second/third language, support another country in important world events (ex. the Olympics/World Cup) or simply put, visit that country with fewer restrictions.

Mom and Johan at AT&T stadium (Arlington, TX)
Learn new customs:

Locating the player’s ancestral country in a world globe, naming its capital, or even identifying the respective flag are great geography skills to posses but having a secondary passport goes beyond that bragging benefit. The player could learn a thing or two about their ancestors’ customs and traditions by visiting the country. The passport is not, by itself, going to force a behavioral change on the player (or family) but organically grow the player’s cultural IQ, perhaps remove some American biases, and who knows? maybe incentivize the player to start learning another language.

Master/learn another language:

Having access to multiple passports isn’t necessarily the main reason to learn a second (third or fourth) language but it helps. In fact, some multi-cultural families already speak a second language at home; however, the youngest generation may not know how to read or write the second language and thus passing on that skill onto the next generation could be very valuable to parents/grandparents.

The passport could be the vehicle to incentivize the player to polish reading/writing skills of the spoken language at home -especially if that country is one geographically close to the US (ex. México). Ownership of that legal document may also spark interest in learning a new national anthem, watching movies or listen to music in another language, etc. There’s some pride that goes along with being fluent in another language which is definitely magnified by ancestry (ex. pleasing the elders). As an additional benefit of learning a different language, the player/person is better prepared for an ever-increasing need of a global workforce.

COVID-19:

Recently, when countries shut their borders down due to the pandemic, only citizens of that country (with their proper passports) could travel back and forth from that country to the US and vice versa. We struggled a lot with that conundrum for over 18 months in Portugal.

Will borders close again with the delta variant or in the future? We don’t know, but as we attempt to reach normalcy, having a passport can even be of greater value just for visiting a country for vacation.

Traveling/tourism:

Upon arrival to some countries (ex. US, México, European Union countries), entry to those countries is expedited to citizens (or passport holders) of those countries right at the airport. That in itself is a benefit, albeit an ephemeral one. In some cases, ownership of a single passport can facilitate entry to many other colony-related countries (ex. a passport from Ivory Coast can allow entry into France). Thus, another great benefit of having multiple passports is the ability to visit (and stay) countries at will without a visa or without being questioned as to the duration or the frequency. This can be extended beyond leisure and for professional (football) reasons.

Professional reasons:

If an individual has access to multiple passports, professional possibilities grow naturally. Similarly, if a young player (prospect) has a EU passport, the parents could leverage that nugget of information to diversify opportunities and then negotiate a better professional domestic football contract. See Twitter thread below.

It’s a good card to have and one that cannot be taken lightly. For example, there are MLS clubs which require disclosure of this information on the player profile upon joining their academy ranks. Future professional path projection within a club could be influenced accordingly.

That card can be leveraged by football agents even at more senior levels. As an example, Tecatito Corona recently acquired his Portuguese passport which will facilitate him the opportunity to play in a top 5 European league without having to take up an international spot (now or in January). As a result, his player market value is more elevated than a player without such document.

Cost:

The cost associated to reap any (or all) of the benefits named above is relatively low if you do it yourself. As an example, if one has the appropriate heritage and corresponding documentation, for $165, one can process a Mexican passport in a matter of hours at the Mexican Consulate in Texas. A Spanish passport can cost a little more if you hire an attorney and a is a bit more complicated to process but it can be done easily as well.

Disadvantages:

There aren’t really any disadvantages other than the time consumed gathering the proper documentation, hiring an attorney (if you have to for guidance) and following through with the necessary appointments at consulates, etc. to monitor the progress from inception through conclusion (especially during COVID times). The process is very simple. We have now done it multiple times.

Multiple Nationalities:

Domestically, some people may perceive the pursuit of multiple nationalities as opportunistic. In Mexico, naturalized citizens who happen to be football players are questioned tremendously when pursuing the multi-passport route. In the US, accepting a second citizenship can be perceived as anti-patriotic, or even as a dent to their true American identity. For a young football prospect, access to multiple passport could sometimes attract an undesired type of attention.

Attention:

As a dual (or multi) national player, the attention drawn to your player is immediately magnified by different people from the corresponding ancestral countries. In some cases, people (fans maybe) will feel more identified with your player (not a bad thing); yet in others, player agents or coaches will be more direct in the recruitment or communication with your player to grow his spectrum of options.

Jogo posing with some fans. Credit: LouCity

In extreme cases, national team coaches may suddenly reach out to the parents. It’s situational. We are not advocating a higher attention towards the player being the reason for obtaining a passport. Quite the opposite. Be aware that the battle for dual-national players (in any discipline) has recently intensified and perhaps, to a non so-cool degree and cannot be ignored. The added attention/pressure could be viewed as a disadvantage or unnecessary distraction which ultimately could force a young player to have to justify their final country selection for representation. Something to think about as a parent. It’s not easy.

We hope you have found this information useful; minus the personal experiences, it’s information that is all online. As with other posts, we just centralize it, and tailor it to our own experiences. Recently, we have been approached frequently by different families about this same topic. Hope you enjoyed it. If there’s anything you want us to talk about, please reach out at: info@thegomezway.com.

PS. As always, thanks for the support for the children. We continue growing the sport in this country together. #theGomezway

We moved to Louisville…

…Ok, not quite yet; however, one of the silver linings of COVID has been our family’s ability to work from practically anywhere in the world. Within the appropriate restrictions and guidelines, we have been very fortunate to be able to safely (and semi-permanently) visit some family members during uncertain times. See, since late January of this year, we have made Louisville our second home.

Bordering the state of Indiana, Louisville is a gorgeous city with a wealth of history to offer to all of its visitors. Strolling through the 85 acres of Waterfront park has become customary and prolonging our daily runs/walks through downtown Louisville is now a routine for the family. We have loved every minute of it. Here are some of the highlights of our time here so far.

Airport

We don’t always arrive to Louisville by plane but one thing is for sure; both the skies and the roads always welcome us with open arms. Every time we arrive at the Mohammad Ali airport, there’s a sense of calmness and hospitality. COVID indeed plays a role in that solitude; however, you all should see how crowded the DFW airport was when the below picture was taken (especially during Spring Break).

Mohammad Ali’s airport always welcomes us with “open arms”

Louisville Waterfront park

This public park is the closest green area near our new residence. Running parallel to the Ohio River, there’s something in it for all ages. There are spacious lawns, playgrounds for the youngsters, picnic areas for the families, boat docks for water lovers, Lincoln Memorial for history lovers, and possibly the most scenic attraction is the Big Four Bridge.

Our daily runs normally make us navigate through every part of it. When Chuy, our dog, accompanies us, we can’t take him across the Big Four Bridge due to the rules but otherwise, we navigate the entire park every outing. A part of the park runs underneath Interstate-64 which can get a little loud (our pet abhors walking under it) at times. Other than that, we have seen the entire park AND in every season of the year.

Back in January, we saw the park inundated with snow for the first time; it looked majestically white. As the snow melted and more precipitation fell, the vegetation started turning green and the Ohio River overflowed blocking parts of the park. Right at the heart of the park is Lincoln Memorial…

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial at Waterfront park is a must-see. A hidden cultural gem that centers around the 16th president’s Kentucky roots. In our walks/runs through the park, the memorial always drew our attention until we finally stopped by to admire it.

The memorial features a 12-foot statue of Lincoln seated on a rock (see below), looking out over the river. Four bas-reliefs (three pictured below) illustrate Lincoln’s ties to Kentucky. The memorial site features an amphitheater facing the river with granite seating that includes engravings of four famous Lincoln quotes. The canopy of trees that lead to the amphitheater includes several species that that were favorites of Lincoln.

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better”

– Abraham Lincoln

Adjacent to the memorial is one of the main attractions in Louisville: the Big Four Bridge.

Big Four Bridge:

Every time we go back “home” to Texas, we miss going on our interstate (Kentucky to Indiana) runs/walks across the Big Four Bridge. It is a metallic structure with so much history. Navigating through it, one can see a spectrum of folks exercising (walkers, runners, cyclists, etc.) or photographing. It’s so motivational and inspirational. Sunsets here are also very eye-opening. See below.

On the Indiana side (Jeffersonville), one can stop for a delicious meal at Parlour Pizza where the live music, the multiple tv screens with different sporting events make the atmosphere unique. We highly recommend it in between walks or after a run. The ample outdoor space is very welcoming.

LouCity Football Academy

Strolling farther down River Road, one will come across the new LouCity football training facility. It’s 6 fields with state of the art lighting, and configuration (love the L shape concept). During our first couple of month in town, we witnessed a couple of U18s/U19s scrimmages against MLS Next academies: Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati academies. Without revealing the final score, it suffices to say that the LouCity Academy is well positioned to compete against any MLS Next academy. Mario Sanchez and coaching staff are working hard to build a reputation and indeed made a statement in those two games. Outliers? Time will tell.

Kimmie was the best player on the FC Cincinnati U18s/U19s MLS next academy team…by far

If one stops by the training facility any weekday, one can witness practices for any of the two Louisville professional teams. In fact, if you wait long enough, one may get to take a picture with a Champions League and world cup winner…a legend in women’s soccer.

Joana and Yūki Nagasato (Louisville, KY) 03.17.21

Thurman Hutchins Park

Further down from the new LouCity football training facility, one finds Thurman Hutchins Park. Go there on Wednesdays and you will find a group of cosmopolitan football players of decent quality. Good pickup football being played from 4-6 PM. Music is good, level is better and weather is even more so. Players are friendly and skilled. We will miss them once we move back to Texas. The main reason we discovered them was because we went to watch a LouCity scrimmage against Central College. Jogo looked good.

KFC Yum Center

This place gets packed during college basketball season; unfortunately, we have not been able to be present for any of the Cardinal games or social events. Our time will come but it would have been great to see the #2 Louisville Lady Cards play against the #1 NC State. For now, it suffices to jog around it on the beautiful 65 degree afternoons.

Louisville extreme park

Growing up, what I would have done to have access to an extreme park like this. Extreme sports have been evolving at a rapid rate for many years and we are glad that the city of Louisville recognizes that growth and offers a venue for the practice of such modality. I am envious but happy that so many extreme sports enthusiasts get to use this park on a daily basis. Lighting is great and it’s open 24 hours a day. A must-experience for extreme sports enthusiasts. Growing up, my extreme sport was bicycle freestyling.

Lynn Family Stadium

And how can we forget the “cathedral”? For football fans, it’s a must-see. The behind the scenes tour is spectacular. We can’t wait for the day when the cathedral is able to entertain at full capacity. The Coopers in one end of the field and the Morados in the other.

Starting today, we will be attending several games watching both Racing Louiville FC and in a couple of weeks LouCity kick off their respective 2021 seasons. We are so looking forward to those events and of course continue exploring this beautiful city. Until next time…#theGomezway

BTW, listen to the latest episode of Chumchat when you get a chance. USMNT U20 MNT player Cameron Harper explains his return to MLS. He talks about his time in Scotland, the playing style in that league, his upcoming competition at NYRB and of course his own definition of success. As always, thank your for your support to the Chums and the USMNT program through exploring the different player pool personalities.

3v3: valuable football development tool

Last week we were observing Joana’s final football practice of the year. Since most players were already out for the holidays, the session consisted mostly of 3v3 play with players from other teams participating. The girls seemingly had a blast and it brought back so many memories. It then became tempting to write about 3v3 as a football development tool like we did with futsal.

Just like other tools which include indoor soccer, private training (i.e. Coerver), Olympic Development Program (ODP), “the wall”, street football, beach football, football tennis, etc. they all have their unique usefulness. In the future, we may also write about those. Today, we will be writing about 3v3 and its advantages and disadvantages as used extensively by our boys.

For those unfamiliar with 3v3. It’s a small-sided variation of football where 3 players take on the opponent’s 3 with no goalkeeper. For a better definition including its rules, check 3v3 Wikipedia’s page. It’s the fastest growing form of the sport in the United States. Our boys played small-sided A LOT (concurrently with “outdoor” football, futsal, etc.) for several years; it not only aided in their football development in a fun environment, but also provided a platform to compete at a high level at an early age. For parents with young kids interested in football, you may find this post useful. BTW, thank you Quickfoot, Kick it 3v3, Live 3v3, and many other organizations. We had a blast and the memories are countless.

He’s been “Jogo” for over a decade -la bola siempre al diez- 01.19.13 (Orlando, FL)

The start

The year was 2010 and we knew that one (sometimes two) practices a week at Solar for Johan were not enough to quench his football thirst. His desire to knock the ball around was just too frequent. We had played, coached and officiated the game all our lives; ironically, we had never coached 3v3 competitively (only rec.). It seemed fun so we said, “what’s the worst that could happen?”. And on we went to participate in Quickfoot’s 3v3 at Keller High School. We coached both Johan’s 4v4 and Jogo’s 3v3 with very little preparation and picking players from their current club teams. The outcome? Johan’s team won while Jogo’s earned second…the seed was planted from then on.

Orlando

The tournaments in Texas became frequent and the competition was excellent. It gave us an adequate amount of preparation, and confidence to want to take our teams to higher level competitions. We participated at the national level in Orlando three times. Jogo’s team (MOB) went on to win the 3v3 national championship in 2013, our team (La Banda) won third place in 2014 and (MOB) reached the quarter finals in 2015 playing up. Johan’s team only participated once and took 3rd place in 2014. We had the pleasure of meeting many future YNT players at these 3v3 competitions.

Oftentimes, positive results build confidence and perpetuate a love for the game and that’s what we achieved with that group of boys. As of now, every single one of them will be playing college soccer or playing football professionally. We will always be very proud of this group of players and grateful to their parents for allowing us to coach them. We built something special together which has transcended the football field. That said, here are few things we learned along the way…

Advantages

More touches on the ball

Smaller rosters naturally translate into more touches on the ball. We typically carried 5 or the maximum-allowed of 6 players to maximize time on the ball. All players had about the same technical and tactical level and played an equal amount of time.

Technical aptitude and tactical awareness

Technical aptitude is enhanced by the amount of repetitions generated by smaller rosters. Specifically, muscle memory in a competitive environment is gradually developed to the point of normalcy; it ultimately leads to higher confidence and creativity on the ball. For example, if you have a player who likes to dribble, 3v3 has a ton of space for them to hone that technical skill, become proficient at it, and try out new skills.

Even though it’s a small sided competition, players are tasked to cover a lot of ground which teaches them accountability: play offense and defense simultaneously. The game requires constant decision making by the use of imaginary geometric triangles on the field to figure out ways to outnumber the opponent in order to create scoring opportunities. Players not only learn tactical (positional) awareness but also movement off the ball which can be extrapolated naturally to a normal size football field.

Cost

Of all the football development tools, 3v3 is probably the least expensive and the one that requires the least time commitment. It’s typically half of a day worth of short-duration games (normally in the offseason and a Saturday) which is also very fun-packed for players and parents. Sometimes the out of town tournaments could last two to three days but those would normally take place over a holiday weekend and the cost is not significantly higher.

In Texas, there is plenty of strong competition; thus traveling is not necessary and costs can be kept to a minimum. However, if there is a strong desire to compete elsewhere or the “harshness” of the winter prevents outdoor play, there’s always 3v3 indoors.

Year-round competition

The game is versatile and can be played indoors too. Most of our competitions were outdoors but we certainly enjoyed playing indoors as well. The indoor 3v3 tournaments were sometimes played in basketball gyms, indoor soccer fields, or futsal courts (3v3s led us to discover futsal at City Futsal). The tournament experience with family and friends was unparalleled; those football bonds are still strong to this day.

Collin Smith and Jogo playing against each other in an indoor 3v3

Friends/Family

We loved having the opportunity to play with players from other clubs. We now reminisce about those times via pictures and clips.

Not only were the tournaments good opportunities to socialize with other families but great bonding times where we created a lot of our own family memories.

Memories

More than the football aspect of the entire experience, the boys will always cherish memories with friends, family, teammates, opponents and most of all, the fact that we got to coach them. Those 3v3 memories will live in our hearts forever.

MOB WC 3v3 Champions , Orlando, FL(01.19.13)

Style and drip

Just like the players wanted to express themselves on the field via their football, they loved selecting their “drip” (and team name) regularly. We mostly stuck to two uniforms per tournament. All were replicas of the original jerseys and purchased via a Chinese supplier for less than 25 dollars for the entire kit. They were very affordable and allowed us to wear different kits like the professionals. That was another cool reason for playing 3v3. The kids could emulate their idols and personalize their jerseys. Jogo became well known as Jogo via his jerseys but let’s not forget that the original Jogo was Johan.

Disadvantages:

Ignorance/Fear

Johan’s first coach at Solar was completely against 3v3s. We always assumed he felt threatened by the possibility of losing players at these events as 3v3 teammates normally belonged to different clubs and inevitably parents socialize. It became difficult to request permission to participate in 3v3s even during off weekends as Johan’s Solar coach frowned upon it. He was an older coach too but we felt this truncated his 3v3 development to a degree.

Similarly, there are parents who think that football development tools such as 3v3s and futsal are NOT adequate for goalkeepers. That couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Jogo played futsal with what would have been one of the U17 MNT goalkeepers (U17 MNT WC was recently cancelled): Jeff Dewnsup whose footwork was phenomenal for his age. This was probably one of the characteristics that gave him national team visibility. Both Johan and Jogo played 3v3 with numerous goalkeepers whose footwork improved as a result of the competitions. Truth be told 3v3 can become addictive.

Addiction

3v3s are very addictive. They are high scoring ordeals which could be decided in the last second of the game. They cannot get any more American than that.

There are parents who want to compete in them all the time and there’s nothing wrong with that level of involvement. However, at some point it could create a conflict with club football and other life activities. As long as your family knows how to manage the experience and you have a club coach who supports it, go for it. The 3v3 coach may want to define a style of play and shuffling players due to their unavailability makes it challenging to gel as a team. We were fortunate to have 6 very committed families for several years who were as crazy as we were about it.

There are many tools to build and improve a player’s football development. Each one serves a unique purpose. There’s no silver bullet to develop a footballer; there are however, many ways to nurture the love of the game by “making it fun”. As you reflect on your achievements for 2020 and plan for your kids activities for next year, consider incorporating 3v3s into their pool of available activities. You won’t regret it.

On a personal note, we will conclude this post wishing everyone a better year than 2020. For the Gómez’s, it’s was a challenging year in many regards but a blessing in others. We’ll be re-capping the year in a future post. For now, let’s be hopeful, patient, positive and most of all, safe. As always, reach out to info@thegomezway.com for comments, questions, etc. Thanks for reading us and happy 2021. #theGomezway.

What are the Jogos up to? and scuffed podcast #149 with Caden Clark

I will preface our family status by addressing the elephant in the room. It’s been a shocking past couple of days for the football world since Maradona’s passing. There’s nothing we can say that hasn’t been said already. He was a polarizing figure off the field but he earned the respect of most of us on the pitch.

From a football perspective, his legacy will live with us forever and we are grateful our eyes witnessed his God-given talent. Living in Mexico City in 1986, his impact on me was exponentially magnified; however, I first laid eyes on him in 1982 with Brazil robbing my attention most of that WC.

His life becomes more remarkable when you read his autobiography. I first read it 20 years ago when it came out. I’m giving it a second read now and truly recommend it if you have some spare time over the holidays. You will understand a lot of his decisions and learn some about his preferences:

  1. Maradona started off as a defender. He appreciated the ability to see the whole field and the additional time to make decisions. (soccer IQ)
  2. He had 7 siblings living in Fiorito. He had a very humble upbringing but always surrounded by a close-knit circle of friends and family (failure was not an option)
  3. He acknowledges his comfort with the ball stems from spending 4-5 hours daily from a very, very young age (unstructured repetitions and muscle memory)
  4. The worst day of his life…the day he learned he was not part of Argentina’s 1978 WC squad to be played at home. This was the reason he “only” played 4 WCs (setbacks fueled him)
  5. The “Hand of God” goal was not the first one of its kind he ever scored (gamesmanship)
  6. Why did he often wear two watches when he traveled? (loyalty)
Great book. Get it if you can.

I could go on and on about him but onto family matters…as the show must go on…

Joana:

Solid crescendo performance helping your team win another tournament. You improved on technical and tactical aspects of the game that you had been honing.

Joana honing skills during the break (11.25.20). Look up!!!

To us, the progress was the real win as we know game results are circumstantial. We loved the total control you displayed of effort and attitude. So proud of you mamita!!!

Johan:

Due to the international break, Johan had the past two weekends off but participated in training with the first team. Good stuff on both of the scrimmages. Continue seizing the opportunities and getting all the available playing time. Baby steps. We now move on to actual games.

Jogo:

Successfully and safely left Denmark and has finished a new quarantine. He continues to train with/against top competition and most importantly, staying healthy, and in shape during the long off-season. The objectives of the trip are being met.

Thanksgiving:

Yesterday was the first of its kind where we didn’t have the boys with us. Considering we spent the last one in Portugal, it was somewhat expected. We are grateful for what God has given us. Can it be better? Sure. It can also be worse so we are extremely lucky to have health especially in uncertain times.

2019 Thanksgiving 10.24.19 (Oporto, Portugal). Jogo with a football at his feet even during dinner…

Scuffed podcast:

We don’t listen to Adam (and Greg) weekly but we listen regularly. They have excellent football material for US football fans; however, it’s not always geared towards player parents. This episode has a good bit of educational material as it relates specifically to Caden Clark’s journey. Jogo is great friends with Caden and it’s good to go full-circle on a lot of stuff. Furthermore, it’s validation that we are doing some things well, and perhaps others, not so much. Give it a listen if you want to learn more about:

  1. Additional training: mental speed, hip mobility, ball control, center of gravity
  2. Playing for a non-MLS club
  3. Developing the love for the game
  4. Encouraging decision making, mistakes, and losing the ball
  5. Opinion on strength coaches
  6. etc.

Note that all journeys are different but it’s always good to know what other families are doing in the pursuit of the dream and HOW they are doing it. After all, this is what this blog is about.

Jogo is back from Loucity…but gone again to Europe

As the LouCity season started to wind down, we were blessed to have Jogo back home earlier than anticipated. It was great to spend unexpected (albeit limited) time together as his next endeavor was looming over the horizon. In fact, the rapid proliferation of Coronavirus accelerated a few of our planned activities with him.

Training:

As flattered as I always feel that Jogo still wants to train with me, it’s probably best for him to stay active in a team environment especially with the rumors of the USL-C season delaying its 2021 start. Don’t get me wrong, I love training with him. He makes me a better teacher and I hope I can still make him a better person and specifically a better player. One thing is for sure, when Jogo is around, Joana feels extra motivated to practice football and improve.

Joana practicing with me

Luckily, we did manage to get some sessions in and work on some technical and tactical stuff we have been wanting to polish for a few months.

Jogo practicing with me at home

Halloween

He spent just an adequate amount of time with us to celebrate an improvised version of Halloween. It was a fun one.

Golfing:

As most of you have watched via one of the Chumchat episodes, we are not a Golf family; however, that is slowly changing. While Jogo was in town, we managed to go play at Topgolf with the family for the first time. If I’m being honest, I was dead last but the highlight of the day was spending quality time with the extended family. It brings the boy so much joy to do that…in the end, football is only a small part of our lives.

Working on that form

Airport good-byes:

By now, one would think that we are farewell experts but truth be told, these never get any easier especially during uncertain times. We love seeing Jogo pursue new opportunities but the sacrifice is significant.

Jogo at the airport ready for his next adventure

We miss you A LOT but we know that you are doing important things for yourself and your future. Keep at it son. We are cheering you on from afar. Be humble, stay healthy, and we will see you when we see you. Coronavirus is unforgiving. Also be careful son. #theGomezway

Chumchat:

Last week’s guest was former U20 MNT co-captain Paxton Pomykal. Learn about his reasons for playing ‘the beautiful game’ and whom he praises from youth national team camps. You’d never guess. He also updates the audience on how his rehab is coming along and he picks 5 players whom he would select to play along in a small sided pickup game. Hope you enjoy it.

Jogo regresa de Loucity…pero se nos va a Europa de nuex

En la medida en la que la temporada de LouCity llegaba a su final, nosotros teníamos la fortuna de tener a Jogo en casa antes de lo anticipado. Fué muy placentero convivir con él (aunque de forma muy limitada) efímeramente ya que su siguiente aventura no podía demorar. De hecho, la rápida proliferación del Coronavirus aceleró algunas de las actividades que teníamos planeadas con él.

Empacar a veces es un poco estresante pero ya lo hacemos tan bien…

Entrenamientos:

Es recomfortante saber que Jogo todavía tiene deseos de entrenar conmigo. Sin embargo, era mejor que se mantuviera activo en un ambiente grupal especialmente si los rumores de que la temporada de USL-C demoraría su reanudación en el 2021 llegasen a ser ciertos. No me malinterpreten, me fascina entrenar con Jogo. Hacerlo inmediatamente me transforma en un mejor mentor y espero que él todavía se beneficie de mis enseñanzas. De hecho, una cosa es muy cierta, cuando Jogo entrena conmigo, Joana tiene una motivación extra para la práctica del fútbol y así continuar su ascenso.

Afortunadamente logramos entrenar por algunas sesiones y trabajar en unos pequeños detalles técnicos y tácticos los cuales habíamos querido pulir desde hace rato. ¡Quedaste listo hijo!

Halloween:

Jogo pasó la cantidad adecuada de tiempo con nosotros para celebrar un año más de Halloween. La verdad estuvo bastante divertido ya que fué algo muy espontáneo.

Golfeando:

Como muchos ya han observado en uno de los episodios de Chumchat, no somos una familia “Golfista”; pero eso va cambiando poco a poco. Mientras Jogo estuvo con nosotros, nos escapamos a jugar a Topgolf con la familia. De hecho, debo confesar de que quedé en último lugar pero vale la pena resaltar que lo mejor fué haber convivido con TODA la familia. Le da tanto gusto al chamacón involucrar a Kammie.

Despedidas:

Estas son lozas pesadas pero paulatinamente hemos desarrollado entereza . En realidad, Joana nunca se acostumbrará pero sabiendo que regresarás a casa nos consuela.

Te extrañamos como no tienes una idea pero sabemos que estás tratando de forjar un futuro. Nunca te des por vencido que desde acá te estamos apoyando. Se humilde, manténte sano y nos vemos cuando nos toque volver a vernos. Recuerda que el virus no discrimina. Ten mucho cuidado hijo. #theGomezway

Chumchat:

El invitado de honor de la semana pasada fue nada más ni nada menos que Paxton Pomykal. Entérense de sus razones por las que juega “el deporte de las masas“. También nos comparte el progreso de su rehabilitacion y al final del episodio selecciona a 5 de sus cuates pamboleros para una cáscara imaginaria.

Moving away (domestically) from home as a teenager to play football (Part 1)

When an opportunity arises for a teenager to play football away from home, there are very few parents who can afford to drop everything and accompany the player in such pursuit. We continuously hear that young footballers and their families sacrifice core family experiences to “chase the football dream” away from home. The narrative behind those sacrifices typically involves generic terms/phrases such as family, friends, finances, education, and an overall support system normally provided by a place called “home”.

But what does that mean? Well, it’s all relative; see, moving within the United States beats having to relocate to another country and that will be part 2 of this post. Similarly, moving within the same state beats moving across time zones. For now, let’s talk about the Gómez’s most recent experience.

Earlier this year, we embarked on a new football adventure and as prepared as we thought we were thanks to Johan living in Portugal and after having both boys live an hour away in Frisco for years, Louisville threw a few curve balls at us.

School:

Jogo has always been a solid student (what can we say as his family right?). Well, he regularly takes AP classes, is learning a new language and overall holds himself to a high standard academically. In his first move to Frisco, he went from a Christian learning setup to a secular one. As expected, the quality of instruction at the FC Dallas mandated schools was significantly lower but ultimately free of charge. On the bright side, those schools were more diverse in many aspects and we loved that. Jogo made the best of his time there and to be honest, he suddenly had access to other extracurricular activities that his small faith-based school didn’t have. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to participate in any of those due to football training restrictions.

Back in February of this year, he moved to Louisville, Kentucky which forced him onto an online high school setup due to practice times. Remote learning as a sophomore wasn’t ideal but it’s what the circumstances necessitated. While we are very satisfied with the online setup our family found for Jogo; it’s less effective than onsite learning which is what empirically works best. However, COVID ultimately changed a lot of learning platforms this year for everyone. In hindsight, one could argue that Jogo had a head start with remote learning when it came to self-paced education.

As most of you know by now, most online learning setups involve a ton of work for parents. In our case, we have an adequate amount of time to devote to that activity but not every parent does and thus, consider that time commitment if going this route. Jogo is thriving at school with an online setup but the motivation to do academically well isn’t ever going to stem from the team staff and much less from his classmates like it was at the FCD’s brick and mortar schools. Sometimes Jogo has to dig deep and be extra resourceful to stay on top of his academics whose activities don’t always align with LouCity football activities. Consider the player’s self-motivation (grit) aspect carefully when choosing an online setup. Similarly, the high school social aspect is lacking in a remote-learning environment as important events such as PROM, and a regular graduation will never take place for Jogo…other more banal activities he’s missing out on are attending football games or simple stuff such as just sitting down to eat with his non-football friends in the school cafeteria on a daily basis…

Food:

Jogo has to cook everyday. While it’s a very useful life skill; it could be very time consuming and of course something to factor into a decision by the family. We are fortunate enough that Jogo has enjoyed the culinary arts from an early age. Mom enjoys cooking and teaches him remotely (makes videos) so it has never been a chore for Jogo. He finds cooking very therapeutic. However, as a teenager, eating three (or more) daily meals could be a financial blow for the parents of a young player who doesn’t find cooking appealing, has a limited desire to learn or for a player who dislikes grocery shopping as eating out gets expensive quick.

Jogo grocery shops about twice a month and it has proven to be logistically challenging where he lives in Louisville. We thank his roommate, LouCity’s Chaplain, and Uber as without them, it would be extremely difficult to purchase food (hot or cold). Be aware of transportation needs as you embark on a new football adventure for your teenager. Will a car be needed? Is there public transportation? Louisville has public electric scooters (Lime) which are fun and practical rides for short distances but just like eating out, using them gets extremely pricey quick.

Transportation:

When Jogo moved to Louisville (and up until now), he didn’t take a car with him. We made that calculated decision because the apartment where he stays is near the training facilities and Lynn family stadium. Both are within a walking/biking distance from his residence but sometimes the weather inclemency make it difficult to do either. As a result, he rides with his roommate or other teammates for football related activities. This however, poses a challenge as there are times when he has to be at the training facilities or stadium earlier/later than his roommate/teammates so he must hike. The additional exercise is great for a young athlete given Louisville beautiful weather; however, 2020 has brought some unique social-political nuances to several US cities, among them Louisville, which make walking a questionable choice and living so close to downtown Louisville hasn’t exactly been a blessing.

We need to find Johan’s car some use; it’s been literally parked for 18 months collecting dust

Socio-political environment:

As most of you know, Louisville has been severely impacted by socio-political events in 2020. At times, it was worrisome to have our then 16-year old son be within walking distance from all the daily protests (which sometimes turned violent), police presence (blaring helicopters, curfew enforcing activities, etc.), and everything that came with those events. As a family, we prayed and hoped for the best especially when Jogo had to walk through some of it on his way to/from football activities. We learned a lot from the past few months.

One would think that common sense can keep somebody safe but that’s not always true. Jogo’s inexperience and “look” sometimes kept us up at night as he navigated through a new city. We understand socio-political protests and demonstrations are somewhat random but there are cities (even countries) that are historically more prone to those events than others. Do your homework and make a holistic decision for your player. The player’s safety -on and off the field- when making a decision to go play away from home should be paramount.

Health:

Other safety uncertainties (not unique to Louisville) that 2020 brought with it were health concerns. As if having your teenager a thousand miles away wasn’t enough, COVID happened. To be fair, we are somewhat thankful for it as it kept people off the streets in downtown Louisville (well, to an extent). Jogo started undergoing frequent COVID tests, and LouCity’s medical staff did what it could to keep everyone safe. Jogo did an excellent job at staying in his “bubble” and not having a car helped a lot. All of a sudden, other medical aspects of his health turned secondary but they shouldn’t be neglected.

It’s never ideal having your teenager miss doctor’s checkups. I mean, going to see the family doctor, dentist, chiropractor, optometrist isn’t really the same when one is a thousand miles away from home with no car and limited support from the people around you. Make sure you do your research and locate medical staff for your player near the location where he’s staying. Jogo’s location in Louisville proved to be a bit too difficult to locate nearby medical staff (outside the team’s) for our insurance carriers so when he returned home recently, we immediately took him to every possible doctor since he needed to embark on his next opportunity.

Jogo at the Newark airport

In summary, there will be many sacrifices that a family and player will have to endure to pursue any dream with professional aspirations…professional sports just happen to start at an earlier age. In the end, any life decision will involve some level of risk; however, make it a calculated risk by trying to remove as much uncertainty as possible AND more importantly remove it from the player’s already full plate. The players need to focus on “on the field” stuff as much as possible.

Ask questions, talk to current/former players, young player’s parents and definitely team staff. Know that in the end, there’s no unique way to “chase the dream” and everyone’s path is unique. Understand that each person will give you their version of their truth and you as a family will have to consume, process, and make a decision based on that information. We hope that blogs like this one continue helping football decisions for the betterment of the sport.

Please reach out to us if you ever want to know more about any of our experiences and the paths we are pursuing for our kids. We don’t write every detail of our experiences for obvious reasons and there’s more that meets the eye. We are always happy to help: info@thegomezway.com. Until next time. #theGomezway

Chumchat

The chums continue producing quality content for the football community. This week’s guest is QPR’s Charlie Kelman. He’s not only a clinical U20 MNT pool striker but also a very humble teenager. Although he never played for the FCD touted academy, he has a great relationship with FCD current and former players. In the podcast, he was asked about “the game” where he scored 4 goals against the FCD’s pre-academy team after being turned down by FCD staff to join the academy. He also talks about his aspirations, dream club and as every other guest on the podcast defines success in a very family-oriented type of way.

Going to trials, training stint?…checklist of what you may need…part #2

International trials

International trials require far better preparation than domestic ones. It’s important to not just know and comply with the checklist for the domestic trials but also be intimately familiar with some of the specifics described below for traveling abroad. Some (if any) football agencies may provide some sort of checklist to trialists/families before departure, if so, great. Otherwise, we hope you find the information below useful.

Documentation

  1. Passport: Without this document, traveling is not possible which negates everything else. If you don’t have a passport, obtain one before you actually need it. Better yet, if your ancestry allows access to multiple passports, acquire them ASAP. You will not be able to travel out or into your own country without one. Once you have it and prior to traveling, take a picture of the important parts of the passport(s) and store them in your phone as back up. This will also prevent the need to carry it around everywhere and thus minimize the risk of misplacing/losing it. If you can, make a hard copy of it and carry that for ID purposes unofficially.
  2. US consulate/embassy: In case of an emergency in the visiting country (ex. misplacing the passport, medical); it’s good to know how to get a hold of the US consulate/embassy. Have this information (phone number, address, etc.) both printed and stored in your phone.
  3. Scrimmage documentation: Some German clubs may require a signed “waiver” from the current club to allow participation in scrimmages. Ask if this is the case, you don’t want to travel 5000 miles, spend thousands of dollars to not be allowed to participate in a scrimmage which is the entire purpose of your trip.
  4. Club invitation letter: If such letter exists, it’s a good idea to have it readily available (printed is better). In COVID times, the letter may serve as an entry artifact to a foreign country. Have a folder or two with most of the documentation needed.

Demographics and related items

  1. City: Become familiar with the country, city and more specifically the area where you will be staying. This is more important when doing multiple trials/training opportunities in one trip (highly recommended)
  2. Language: If the club where you are traveling is a non-English speaking country, make an effort to learn a few general words: “thank you”, “please” and some phrases: “My name is <fill in the blank>”, “good morning”, “good night”, “where is the airport”, “how do I get from ‘point A’ to ‘point B’, “I don’t speak <fill in the blank>”? and of course some football phrases: “pass”, “I’m open”, “left”, “right”, “shoot”, “quick”, “man on”, etc. There are translation apps but it’s not always convenient to use them (ex. on the pitch)
  3. Accommodations/Room: Will the host club provide housing (this is customary); otherwise, arrange for accommodations as close to the training facility as possible. Learn the physical address of the place where you will be staying in case a package needs to be sent out to you.
  4. Meals/board: If the host club will be providing any food, how many meals will they provide? Can you buy additional meals if necessary? Either way, take some healthy snacks for the duration of your trip as well as some money to buy meals which may not be provided. Are there convenience stores/pharmacies nearby?
  5. Transportation: How will you get from the airport to the training facility upon arrival? How about the opposite upon departure? Is Uber an option? Set up an account if you don’t have one. Note: Exchange rates can be significant.
  6. Currency: Once at the host club, exchanging currency can be difficult. Ensure you have enough cash (in the correct currency) for emergencies. Go to the local bank and exchange money prior to departure, if this is not possible, do it at the airport.
  7. Family: If the player is 16 years of age or older, it’s probably best for the player to travel alone (if possible). This allows the player to better integrate with players from the host club.
  8. Means of communication: Will WiFi be available? Will your cellular provider work?

Hardware

SIM Card vending machines are common in some airports: Newark
  1. SIM Card: If your own SIM card cannot be used in the visiting country, can one be acquired and swapped out? Do you need to purchase an additional/temporary plan for data? Talk to your cellular provider before departing. Sometimes, SIM Card vending machines are located at airports.
  2. Travel adapter/power converter: Is a different voltage used in the visiting country? If so, get a plug needed to charge your electronics. Are your electronics dual voltage? Most are but be sure. This is important!!! You don’t want to fry your electronics while traveling.
  3. Power bank: You will run out of juice at some point. Have a power supply back up and make it a habit to charge it every night. Leave it charging during practices.
  4. USB cables: Have multiple cables to either charge multiple devices at night and/or in case you misplace one. In some foreign countries, it’s not as easy to acquire/buy USB cables like it is in the US.
  5. Book/Magazine: If technology (WiFi, charger, phone dies/lost) is not available, a good book journal is a great way to pass time. If you enjoy writing, bring a journal and make it a habit to write about your experiences every day. Another idea is to download Netflix movies/shows prior to your departure, you can watch them even when WiFi is unavailable.

If you read this far, you are better prepared than most. Good luck in your trials/international training opportunity. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please reach out to info@thegomezway.com

Going to football trials, training stint?…checklist of what you may need…Part #1

Gone are the days when all that was needed for a tryout/trial/training opportunity with another club was a ball, shin guards, cleats, water bottle, and a great attitude. The overall objective remains the same: to impress the host club enough to pique current/future interest in you or better yet immediately open up a door.

Check out the lettering on the football. We lost that ball right after this picture was taken on 08.22.20

The key to increasing the chances of success is good planning and nowadays that’s more probable with the proliferation of online information -like this blog. Keep in mind that as the player age increases, the importance of a successful tryout/trial/training opportunity magnifies and the room for error decreases. When it comes to tryouts/trials/training opportunities, second chances are rare (Chris Richards was very fortunate in the FC Dallas setup).

  1. Note: For the sake of this post the terms trial and tryout will be used interchangeably.
  2. Note II: This publication does not detail the technical, tactical criteria a hosting club will be looking for. There are websites who can help with that information.
  3. Note III: The underlying assumption of this post is that the current club is aware (permission needed or not) of your intentions to pursue the trial/training opportunity with a new club. Thus, we are not addressing that process in this post. We could write several pages about our (and others’) experience but we will spare you the details for now.

Before we start presenting additional information, let’s define some terms:

  1. Trial/tryout: An opportunity to train and showcase your talent with another (other than the current club). Let’s call the other club, the host club. Positive outcome from a trial/tryout could result in an immediate invitation to join the host club. Trials/tryouts have no cost to the player or the family (other than transportation to/from host club). A trial/tryout can be either openly promoted by the host club or solicited by the player/family/agent.
  2. Training opportunity: An opportunity to train and showcase your talent with a host club. Positive outcome from a training opportunity does NOT usually result in an immediate invitation to join the host club. Some think of training opportunities as resume builders. Although most training opportunities have no cost (other than transportation to/from hosting club), some could have a high price tag. Training opportunities are great ways to experience the host club culture and learn their methodologies. A training opportunity is normally solicited by the player/agent and can result in a future trial/tryout. Training opportunities are in general more relaxed than trials/tryouts.

There’s so much to share and thus this post will be broken into two parts. The first part will be geared exclusively to domestic trials/training opportunities. Similarly, the second post (coming out early next week) will be exclusively about international trials. The assumption will be that most (if not ALL) the information that is included in the domestic trials post will be applicable for international trials as well. Our boys have participated in both a few times so we have gained some valuable experience and we are hoping you can leverage it.

Domestic trials:

Domestic trials/training opportunities could take place literally across town or across states in the US. Either way, preparation is important. Find out specifics about the event, club, gear and any football unique information that could either give you an advantage or make up for a handicap you inherently have.

Event specifics:

  1. Purpose of the event: Is the trial/training opportunity solicited (initiated by you/agent) or unsolicited (invitation by the club)? As obvious as this may seem, oftentimes, these are setup by 3rd parties (ex. agents, scouts, clubs, etc.) and it’s important to understand the purpose. If unsolicited, is it a training stint only or a trial? The answer to this question is extremely important in your aspirations and expectations as positive outcome may also require a quick response from the family if a permanent invitation is extended. If it’s a trial, expect a a club decision to be made at the end of the duration of the trial.
  2. Duration of trial/training: How long will the event last? If a decision by the club is needed, how soon is one expected and how will that be communicated to you? Best case duration (if the host club likes you) or worst case scenario (if the host club doesn’t). It’s important to understand the duration as it may have an impact on other trials/training opportunities you have already lined up. At the very least, you should know the duration of the event to start planning an itinerary around it.
  3. Itinerary: Depending on the formality of the trial/training opportunity, you should expect some sort of itinerary from the host club. If none is provided, request one (from the club/agent) to have a minimum set of expectations. You will need some form of itinerary to at least plan for transportation to/from the event.
  4. Location: Once you receive an itinerary, create your own itinerary that is tailored around theirs. Allow some buffer as those itineraries are very flexible. Become familiar with the city, transportation, etc. especially if it requires an overnight stay in an area new to you. Also, prepare the necessary gear for the weather of the city where the trial/training opportunity will take place.

Gear/personal equipment information:

Find out what clothing/uniform/footwear you need to wear for the trial/training opportunity. The last thing you want is to stand out for the wrong reasons. Sometimes, the host club will facilitate some gear needed for training/scrimmages/etc. However, don’t assume this will be the case. Also, check the weather ahead of time for the entire duration of the event.

  1. Clothing: Depending on the weather, you may need extra layers. It is important for you to be comfortable. Also, find out the clothing brand the club uses, you don’t want to show up using a non-sponsored brand or the wrong colors (ex. you can’t show up wearing any FC Dallas gear at a Solar tryout -unforgivable-).
  2. Footwear: The host club will not supply cleats, runners or slides; bring two pairs of cleats: one for soft and another one for firm ground. Similarly, bring a pair of runners and a pair of slides to relax your feet.
  3. Other equipment: The host club will not provide shinguards, gloves, etc. In a bind, they may do so but you don’t want to look unprepared at any point.
  4. Recovery equipment: If you use a foam roller, pack a small one. Similarly, pack some strength bands.
  5. Water container: Bring a water container that you can fill up anywhere. Hydration is key but more so during these short, intense time windows. A water container also prevents the need to be buying disposable water bottles.
  6. First aid essentials: Band-aids, Neosporin, Bengay, etc. if allowed on the plane and of course any medication.
  7. Sunblock: Don’t assume anything will be provided or that you can just borrow it or go purchase it last minute.
  8. Hygiene: Bring wipes and/or hand sanitizer especially in these uncertain times
  9. Laundry services: Ask about laundry services or locate a laundry service near the place where you will be staying. Worst case, bring small detergent pockets and wash gear in hotel/dorm.
  10. Notebook: Take a little notebook to write a mini-diary. It will help you remember names, activities and at the very least, years from now, it will bring back memories. Don’t forget to bring a writing utensil too.

Football info:

As stated earlier, we are not going to suggest the technical or tactical concepts that are good to possess. Clubs look at different things based on age, position they are looking for, etc. However, assume that if the host club is willing to give you an opportunity, they have at least watched a clip of you and you have what it takes. The items below are less about the practical football side of the trial/training opportunity and more about the theoretical side of it.

  1. Club info: Do your research on the club: history, if in season, current table standing of the first team, training and playing facilities, coaching staff, youth development, etc. Knowing some club facts always makes for good conversation/ice breaker with other players, coaching staff and establishes your credibility/readiness.
  2. Facilities: If the host club has a stadium, find out its name. If they don’t have a stadium, find out as much as you can about their training facilities.
  3. Coaching staff: It’s recommended to do some research on the coaching staff as well. This will help you assimilate their learning methodology and their expectations of you. If you can reach out to a player who is already part of that host club, prior to your arrival, you will be better prepared.
  4. Players: It’s best to arrive knowing some professional and youth players names. It will expedite the integration and assimilation of the club culture and values. At the very least, it makes for a more comfortable conversation.
  5. Video clips: Watch game film of the host club teams which is readily available online. If you have an agent, request clips or just search YouTube.
  6. Youth development: Are there academy players promoted to the first team? In your age group? Are they playing regularly? Are they playing your natural position?
  7. Positions in need: Are there positions the club/team needs? What is the current depth chart including total roster size and expected signings for the same position? If you don’t get a spot in the position you want, is there a chance you can make it in another position?
  8. Formation: What formation does the current coach play? Is there a style of play/formation the club likes to play? How do you fit in that formation?

Intangibles:

  1. Confidence: Introduce yourself to the coaching staff and players as soon as you arrive. Be confident with a firm handshake, make eye contact, but be humble too.
  2. Humbleness: The goal is to impress in many areas but be humble if you have managed to impress. If you perform well, be a good winner but if you don’t, avoid sourness. Enjoy this unique time, smile at all times.
  3. Enjoyment: Be grateful for the opportunity but also display resilience at all times. Everyone appreciates the extra effort. Be a good listener above all.
  4. Active listener: Keep an open mind, it’s likely the host club will do some things differently than your current club. You will learn new ways to do things you thought you already knew how to do. Always be a great listener, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and more importantly keep an open mind.
  5. Punctuality: Be early to ALL team activities. Being early provides an invaluable chance to chat with staff or help out with setup. Volunteer as much as you can. Make sure they really get to know you and not just your jersey number.

We’ll be adding more items to this list. The window for domestic club transfers is mostly open during the summer but in practice trials/training opportunities can happen year round. On the other hand, the window for international transfers is still wide open and because of the pandemic, varies by country. I’ll be posting specific items for international trials/training opportunities later in the week. Stay tuned.