Organized to be the best, not the biggest.
We are different than all the other clubs - by design. You see, we have specific objectives and desires for developing players and that means we must organize our club in a unique way. We want our players to learn and play a Spanish-style that features dominating possession, tenacious defending, smart positioning and individual creativity. This means all of our coaches, at every age level, must be on the same page, teaching the same program.
It starts with coaching. Unlike other clubs, our Curriculum, training Methodology and style of play are mandated. Eagleclaw coaches are not freelancers, as coaches are at virtually every other youth soccer club in Seattle. Unlike other clubs, our goal is not to have hundreds of teams with coaches who teach whatever they want. That approach is just about being bigger. We want to be the best club for developing talented players. This means Eagleclaw is necessarily focused on developing coaches as well as players. Our coaches learn and teach our Positional Play style. They also have opportunities to observe and collaborate with coaches from the Valencia CF Academy in Spain to deepen their knowledge of our style of play and how best to teach youth players.
To promote learning, we monitor coach-to-player ratios and this means enrollment in our Primary Academy is limited to 150 players. Our coaches are teachers and each coach knows the annual learning objectives for their players and teams. These age-based learning objectives are developed in conjunction with the technical directors at the Valencia CF youth academy and customized to fit Eagleclaw's unique context and training environment. As players progress from season to season, the learning objectives intensify and become more complex. As players become older, increasingly higher levels of mastery are expected.
We strive daily to provide the highest quality training and provide each player the best environment for developing to their maximum potential. That's why we require coaches to train players according to our style. That's why all of our players and teams are trained the same way.
Eagleclaw's organized game model, system of play and the Training Methodology that flows from it is another reason we are different than just about every other youth soccer club in Washington state. At other clubs, there is no unifying system of play or methodology that is consistent from team to team. Instead, coaches at other clubs are free to adopt any system of play they choose and train their players as they choose to do so. That is why player development varies so wildly from team to team, all within the same club. That is not the Eagleclaw way.
“Without a methodology, clubs are really a shopping mall of loosely affiliated teams, mutually branded and organized around a common location, but independently run based on whatever set of myths, beliefs and philosophies each independent coach ascribes to.” Doug Lemov
Curriculum & Methodology
If we say it, we mean it and we back it up! At Eagleclaw, every one of our coaches must teach and train our players according to our published Curriculum and Methodology. These are two separate concepts and two separate documents. Our Curriculum is WHAT we teach. Our Methodology is HOW we teach it. These critical documents are available to our coaches via an online, password protected portal and are updated regularly. They don't just sit on a shelf in an office. Every coach at every age must teach based our Curriculum and train the players according to our Methodology. This is something that is strictly enforced at Eagleclaw. It is core to our club's identity. Think about it. Are teachers at your child's school allowed to deviate from the prescribed curriculum and teach whatever they want? Of course not. And why not? Simple! Because the school wants to ensure that every student learn what they are supposed to learn. Each students' future and the school's reputation for high quality education depends on it. Why should it be any different at your child's soccer club?
If you are at another club, do you know what your coaches are teaching? What is the club's identity, playing philosophy or game model? Is there a prescribed method for teaching? Can the club's President, Technical Director and Director of Coaching actually show you the curriculum and training methodology? Can they even explain it? Or are they all just winging it with every coach free to do whatever they want? Think about it. You bring your player to a club for a real soccer education. You deserve transparency and honesty about whether there is any actual educational content and enforcement of what your player will learn and how it will be taught to them.
Developing Players for The "First Team"
At Eagleclaw, we believe that true player development happens in an environment that has a specific identity, culture, values, system of play and model for player formation. The entire program must also have a pathway forward and upward. We do not have a "First Team" because we are not a professional club like Valencia CF, but we train and develop our players as if we do. Players need to know that their training has a direction and is in service of achieving a higher level of skill, ability and game intelligence. In professional club academies, the goal of a youth academy is always to develop players for the first team. That is our goal as well. We strive to develop players so that they will have success at the next stage of the Eagleclaw pathway. In our Primary Academy program, our goal is to prepare players for their tryouts with the Advanced Academy teams by age 13. Our Valencia Discovery Program looks to develop and identify players with the potential to join Valencia CF's youth academy in Spain. Throughout their Eagleclaw training, players will be trained with that goal uppermost in mind - developing players means preparing them for the next stage.
Identity and Culture
Eagleclaw draws inspiration and direction from Spain. We've studied the "Total Football" methodology developed by AFC Ajax in the 1970's that revolutionized soccer. We know how "Total Football" was taken to Spain by Dutch coaches, including Rinus Michels and Johann Cruyff, and was refined and extended at FC Barcelona into a philosophy of "Positional Play". "Positional Play" permeated the Spanish national team and the academies of virtually every Spanish professional club. Through a combination of highly technical players and a possession-oriented system of play, Spain has dominated the soccer world for nearly two decades. Our Positional Play game model is based on and influenced by the successful possession-based tactics of Spanish football clubs. Whether our teams play 11v11, 9v9 or 7v7, we have a defined game model we expect our coaches to follow.
Our Training & Playing Style - Positional Play
Eagleclaw Football Club's game model is Positional Play, referred to in Spanish as Juego de Posicion. At its core, Positional Play is the constant search for superiorities in the area where we have ball: numerical superiority ("there are more of us") , positional superiority ("we are better positioned"), technical superiority ("we are faster and/or more skilled") and the most elusive one - socio-affective superiority ("we understand each other better"). We teach our players to keep the ball and counter press quickly when we lose it. This style of play focuses heavily on possession and position - knowing where to be based on the location of the ball, teammates, the opposing players and the open space on the field. This means Eagleclaw players must be technically sound and spatially aware. Developing these traits in our players is at the heart of our weekly training program and drives the way our coaches conduct their training sessions.
The search for superiorities is a dynamic and variable process. If we have numerical superiority in a particular area of the field, then we necessarily have a player or two who are free, or can quickly be free. The objective is to find the free player by moving the ball, positioning, or player movement. The free player is in the best position to help us advance our attack. Eagleclaw's training methods focusing on rondos and positional games not only develop intelligence, but also technical skills. As a result, we often find our opponents are technically weaker than our players. Recognizing this and creating mismatches allows us to achieve qualitative superiorities as well.
But there is something else involved - patience. Technical superiority allows players to keep the ball and patiently wait for the right time to advance. It's all about tempo. Short, crisp, accurate passes to nearby players, tak, tak, tak. Then a longer pass to a player who has moved unnoticed into open space. Passing the ball to move the defenders and create spaces we can exploit for our attack.
On the field our style of play is best described as "coiled possession." Instead of possession for the sake of possession, we work to keep the ball until the we find the break-through or the killer pass that allows us to attack quickly. We want to keep the ball with quick, sharp passing, probing defenses for openings, coiling like a snake just before it strikes! If we lose the ball, we counter press and work hard to quickly recover it, and then immediately resume our attack. This is our ambition and our ideal.
Above all else. Respect for coaches, teammates, opponents and referees. This value transcends soccer, but through the game we hope to inspire our players to carry a sense of respect with them wherever their path leads them.
Hard work is a reward unto itself. In sport, and in any pursuit, what you achieve is directly related to the effort you've put in. Luck and the instant reward it brings can sometimes delude us into thinking hard work is not necessary. We believe luck is simply the intersection between hard work and opportunity. Our most successful players come to training regularly, show up on time, give 100% and look forward to the next session. This kind of workmanlike attitude will serve players well not only in soccer, but in school and their entire working life.
There is nothing more powerful than a human being driven by the desire to achieve something and willing to put in all the work and effort necessary to realize their goals. At Eagleclaw, players supply their ambition, but we view it as our responsibility to provide a pathway for players to follow and a learning environment that keeps players in the game and does not unduly pressure them or burn them out. Keeping the flame of ambition alive is not a solo effort. Coaches and parents must collaborate to provide support and encouragement, but in the end the player must be the source of their ambition. The ambitious player must learn and exhibit other related values as well, including determination (grit), discipline, patience, the ability to defer gratification, self-motivation and personal responsibility.
Although Eagleclaw focuses on individual player development, the end result is a team of highly skilled and intelligent individuals who must be able to work together to achieve a common goal. We believe that by focusing on each individual, we can make stronger teams. This will happen only if players are able to see how their individual contributions can combine with those of other teammates to achieve something none of them could achieve on their own.
GRACEFUL ACCEPTANCE OF OUTCOMES.
Win or lose, the way in which we acknowledge a result tells much about who we really are. In victory, we expect our players to show compassion and understanding for the disappointment felt by our opponents In defeat, we expect our players not to lash out at opponents or teammates, but instead to reflect on what they as individuals and as a team can do to improve, and then resolve to train harder and smarter for the next encounter. In soccer, as in life, we will win and we will lose. What matters is what we learn from each result and how we take advantage of the learning opportunity.
Soccer is fun. It should always be fun. Players should understand that soccer is a game and an enjoyable form of physical activity. It is the responsibility of coaches and parents to keep the game fun for the children and encourage them to see all the ways in which soccer enriches their lives. Friendships made in training and in games can last a lifetime. The camaraderie that comes from working and fighting together will create lasting memories. We are reminded of Johann Cruyff who, when he was head coach of FC Barcelona, guided his players to the finals of the European Cup in 1992 and before sending his players onto the field said, "Go out there and enjoy yourselves." Surely when the stakes are far lower, we can remind and encourage our children to have fun and enjoy this amazing game.