Interview with Romeo Jozak

Croatian technical director explains philosophy to San Clemente Surf, Director of Coaching Chris Murray

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You have coached some of the best players in the world. Can you share with us their attitude and training habits ?

Only the most dedicated players can “survive” in the tough competition of the modern game. Their overall individual intelligence, ability to adjust based on the demands and positive attitude are necessities for a player’s growth. At these levels, work ethic is implied and players that don’t have it eliminate themselves.

You preach a high tempo two touch, one touch game, can you explain the benefit and relevance in the modern game?

I “preach” it because that is what we observe is the necessity to keep up with the speed of the game, which is ever-increasing. If you look at what the best do, they do the same thing that the tier below them does, just faster and more accurate. Training with such demands is important, as you play how you train.

Your program revolves around functional technique, can you explain what this is and why it’s so important?

Functional technique is that technique which is usable in elements of the game and is done in function of playing efficiently (quickly and accurately). You can do fancy moves and tricks, which have their place on youtube highlights, but are actually very rare when playing at the height of your competition. These are fun, but they don’t make a soccer player of a top level, but a trickster

You stated the game is not always the best teacher. Can you explain why?

While playing, players get feedback from the game and if they succeed, their habits get reinforced. All players often play matches in which they get away with making a mistake without being punished by the opponent and those
things usually get masked under the disguise of a successful action. They hit the wall though, at the next level of competition and then they struggle to explain to themselves what happened. Games should be used by the coach as a base for teaching. If coaches don’t teach, what is our role then?

At what age should youth players move to 11 vs 11 and what should they be playing before U10?

That is a complex thing to discuss, so I will leave it for some later time, but approximately at U13/14 should be an 11v11 game and small sided before that (5v5, 7v7/8v8/9v9).

As players don’t play in the street over here as they do in Croatia what would you recommend to players who want to work on their own?

Futsal can be a good alternative considering your circumstances, or simply allowing a time for the players to play in such environment during/after training, incorporating it in your curriculum (which we do as well, with a
large chunk at younger ages being – free play).

What should our players look for when studying Croatia in the World Cup

Typically playing through the thirds and keeping the ball should be something that we successfully do on the world stage (maybe with the exception of Brasil) and I hope that our national team will be able to.