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From Barcelona to Blaine, the Catalan Secret comes to Schwans’ USA CUP

07/16/2013, 12:30pm CDT
By Ryan Lund

More than 4,500 miles separate Blaine, Minnesota from the towering spires and flowing architecture of Barcelona, Spain, the famed epicenter of Catalonian soccer.

But as the lights dimmed Tuesday morning in the NSC classroom, the distance didn’t seem quite so great.

Barcelona's Catalan Secrets coaches put on a clinic Tuesday morning, teaching kids and coaches the principles of Barcelona soccer.

“We have a secret for you,” Pere Bascu, leader of the Catalan Secret soccer clinic, intones before a rapt audience.  “Our secret is to create smart players.”

Bascu, the leader of the Barcelona-based squad, aims to bring some of the region’s unique soccer stylings to Schwan’s USA CUP this year.

The Spanish soccer veteran spent 30 minutes with several tournament teams in a classroom setting, teaching the aspiring soccer stars and their coaches about the fundamentals of what he dubs “The Catalan Secret.”

“We hope that they understand the secret, which is to have initiative in the game,” he said.  “To understand how the game is played and where do we have the advantages on the field.”

The well-spoken Spaniard is a student of the secret, having spent his life in and around the game.

“I started playing soccer when I was five years old and I quit when I was 22,” he recalls. “When I realized that I couldn’t make it in a semi-professional or professional way.”

Since then Bascu has dedicated his soccer life to coaching and sports sciences.

“Soccer for me is like another part of my life,” he said. “It’s my life and I always move towards that direction. We all have UEFA A and B coaching licenses and right now we have three coaches out of five that have a B.A. in athletics and sports sciences.”

Bascu and his staff of five coaches began their work in the United States at Big Sky High School in Missoula, Montana, where “The Secret” has been employed to great effect.

Bascu is quick to emphasize the use of variety when controlling the ball, something that he has seen develop first hand while working in Montana.

“We’ve been doing theoretical sessions with them and practical sessions, and through the days I’ve noticed some improvements in the way that they understand where to speed up the ball, and give a different rhythm to the ball instead of just controlling it,” he said.

That control, he notes, the notion of being unpredictable, is a major component of the Catalan Secret.

“You have to be unpredictable in soccer, and it’s a complex game, so you don’t want to be predictable in your behavior, in your game style,” he said.

Bascu however, would rather show than tell.

Following the classroom session, the players hit the field for a workout with the coaches, who, through a group of translators, attempted to bring the fundamentals of Catalan soccer to players from the United States and Canada.

Kevin Mceonnell, an assistant coach with the Yukon Strikers soccer program, saw a noticeable surge in the intensity of his squad once the Barcelona coaches hit the field.

“I think they really brought up the intensity, it’s nice to have different coaches for them,” he said.  “They pick it up when they have the FC Barcelona coaches here; they were really working hard at it.  It was good, they were all sweating and working hard.”

Sergio Nieto, the clinic’s resident goaltending coach, aims to use his limited time with these players to impart the essentials of The Secret.

“My main goal is to adapt myself and these new players to a new methodology of goaltending,” he said through a translator. “My greatest success today was in my teaching method.  A lot of instructors just stand to the side and tell you to do this or do that, but I really try to get in with the players and get close to them and they’ll follow what I’m doing.”

For their part, the players seemed to respond well to the translated strategies being passed along to them.

“I heard a tremendous amount of things that they took away from it,” said Mceonnel.  “The goalies really enjoyed the goalie portion of it, the different drills that they got to do.  And I think just listening to someone else’s theory, that was interesting for them.”

And while Bascu’s young charges may not be ready to suit up in La Liga quite yet, soccer’s fundamentals, he explains, remain universal.

“How many of you know Xavi?” he asks, referencing the famed Spanish midfielder to a sea of nodding heads.  “Even Xavi can improve.”

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Tag(s): July 16, 2013