In Italy, soccer is much more than just a sport.
Short tap-passes, dribbling and trapping are just a fraction of the fundamentals studied by young Italians as they begin learning the style of soccer coached on the Mediterranean peninsula. Italy’s youth soccer coaches break the game down to the individual movements, train their players to hone these skills and then teach them how to focus on the mental aspects of the sport.
Now young soccer players in the Capital Region are getting a chance to learn this style of play, too.
Italian youth soccer coach Marco Ventura and three other youth coaches from Frosinone Calcio — a B-division soccer team on the southern outskirts of Rome — are in Rotterdam this month to help impart some of their savvy to young players in the region. Organizers from the Rotterdam Youth Soccer Club arranged for the Italians to visit the town this summer in an effort to start an exchange program with the team.
“The emphasis is on all the motor coordination skills of the individual,” explained coach Ventura, while speaking through a translator. “We try to extend [training] to the whole life, not just soccer.”
“It’s a different style and a different method of coaching,” said Angelo Caschera, one of the camp’s organizers, who is from an area of Italy near Frosinone.
At the conclusion of camp, the Frosinone Calcio coaches will select two players to join their team for two weeks of training in Italy sometime next winter or early spring. The selected players will be responsible for airfare but will be afforded lodging while in Italy, explained Cesare Maniccia, who helped organize the camp in Rotterdam.
“They have a good approach for teaching the kids,” he said Tuesday following the six-hour camp. “So we thought we’d try this as an experiment.”
About 110 boys and girls in total are enrolled in the camp, which runs through next week. Players range in age from 8 to 17 and are split into groups accordingly.
The younger players are tutored by Carlo Ferri, who helps them develop the basic motor coordination they need to play Italian-style soccer. Ventura is responsible for drilling mid-level players while Maurizio Penna teaches tactical skills to those who are more developed in their skill.
The Italian coaches approach the sport in a way that allows their players to solve problems themselves. They present a model to players and allow them to find their own methods for adhering to it.
“It’s important for them to sort it out themselves and find solutions to their own problems,” Maniccia said.
The theory is to provide the players with the tools they need to excel at the sport while giving them an experience that makes it enjoyable. They try to emphasize the style of play that developed through the bygone era when the game amounted to a ball, a couple of players and a narrow Italian street.
“[Modern players] don’t play street soccer like they used to,” Ventura said. “Now they’re in front of a computer playing games.”
But the camp is more than just learning soccer skills. The Italians aren’t fluent in English, so often their young understudies are coached in a second language — something that hasn’t hindered their ability to communicate.
“They pick it up,” said Daniella Caschera, a former Schalmont varsity soccer player who was helping with the camp Tuesday. “They’re learning Italian and they’re learning soccer.”
Players interested in attending the second week of camp should contact Angelo Caschera at 810-3066.