fbpx

Q&A with Heidelberg United Technical Director Daniel Girardi

Daniel Girardi is the current technical director at Heidelberg United FC. He has previously worked at various clubs across Australian football, including Adelaide United, where he was a scout and an assistant to then head coach of the youth team Michael Valkanis.

Girardi has transferred the wealth of knowledge he has picked up over the course of his coaching career to spearhead the current youth development program at Heidelberg.

Girardi, alongside other coaches and staff, have implemented a philosophy at the club that focuses on critical areas to develop young footballers.

For example, it’s not enough to just develop a footballer, but rather a ‘total footballer’ that is a good person, friend and member of the community. Alongside having the technical, tactical and physical skills, Girardi believes it is necessary to exhibit good behaviours on a consistent basis.

Training programs are based around emphasising individual development within a team context, whilst coaches working with their different squads are encouraged to collaborate together as a unit to focus on the long-term development of players.

In a wide-ranging interview with Soccerscene, Girardi further explains why the youth development setup at Heidelberg has been successful, his career progression, the importance of a national second division, his own views on coaching standards in Australia and more.

First of all, tell me a little bit about your personal career in football and how you ended up in coaching?

I started playing in Adelaide. Like any junior you go through the ranks of a club, I went through Adelaide Blue Eagles. I went on to play with the senior team, from there I had coaching opportunities but I was very naïve and I didn’t want to take them. My senior coach at the time, Zoran Karadzic, said to me ‘Daniel, to be an even better player you need to understand the little intricate things, things that you don’t see that we need to see as coaches’. So at an early age of 17, he asked me to coach a junior team (under 8’s) so I did that while I was still playing. Then from there I went into further coaching, I became a junior technical director and coached all the way through from juniors to eventually senior head coach.

From there I moved to Adelaide United, Michael Valkanis asked me to come and join the team there. I joined United as a scout, as well as an assistant to the youth team, and that’s where my football mindset and career met as one. I honestly thought to myself ‘you can do this as a full-time job’. In Australia it’s very difficult, but at the same time you can put a program together to make it work. I tried to make it work now in my daily life, but again it’s very difficult. You have to coach early mornings and late at night, but it’s a passion that’s why you do it.

At Adelaide, I got to work with Josep Gombau, Michael Valkanis, Angelo Costanzo, Guillermo Amor and Pau Martí. Between all of them, my acceleration as a coach grew exponentially. Just the understanding, the little things that they can teach you about what to look for in a player, how to run, when they should pass the ball, timing, things like that, where in Australia we are not there yet. It was good for me to understand that the game is very simple but it’s the hardest thing to do. People talk about playing simple, but what does that mean?

There are 6 basic style rules that govern football throughout the world. If I see you, you see me, there’s a line of pass, we pass that ball. If there’s no line of pass, I need to run with the ball in order to find the next line. After that, the third rule being if you can’t find a line of pass and you can’t run with the ball, you need to protect the ball. We never player square – that allows counter attacks. Receiving always with your furthest foot so that you can face forward and no two players should be in the same line.

Would you say that standards and methods in local coaching have improved over the period of time since you began coaching?

That’s a hard question. I think the general understanding has improved. People are watching a lot more football, they understand they need to keep the ball and not give it away. But actually understanding the way you keep the ball is very different. In Europe, from a very young age, positionally, kids know where they are on the pitch. Kids know where they shouldn’t be, they know who they should pass to and when they shouldn’t pass to those players.

In Australia, people just see a pass and they just pass the ball. They are not understanding that if I pass the ball the wrong way to my teammate, not to his furthest foot, I’ve put them under pressure straightaway. If I don’t pass that ball with the right ball speed, I’ve put them under pressure straightway. When a player runs with the ball, does he or she use the furthest foot so their body is between the opposition player and the ball? What is the player’s orientation to the player with the ball and without? What’s their orientation to the defender? So, there’s the little things, I don’t think the level of detail is there in Australia yet.

Tell me a little bit about your current role at Heidelberg and your overall involvement in the current youth set up at the club. How did it come about?

I was speaking with George Katsakis a couple of years ago and he asked me if I was interested to join the club as technical director. At the time, I said yes I’d definitely be interested. Heidelberg is a big club. Heidelberg in the last five-six years is one of the best clubs in the country, because of the guidance from the board, Steve (president) and George as senior coach. So, I joined knowing that we are trying to develop players for that senior team. That’s what the goal always is.

However, we focus on how we can accelerate their growth in order to get them to the first team quicker, but at the same time make sure they are our juniors. We don’t want to go and continuously buy players, we don’t want to continuously bring players in from other clubs, we want to bring through our own. We want to have a long-term culture of developing Heidelberg boys and girls. Boys and girls that live in the area, that live and breathe wanting to be a part of Heidelberg, of Alexandros, it means something. To have players who start with our MiniRoos and give them every opportunity to progress into the junior setup and then to the seniors. That’s the main goal.

Heidelberg have strong teams at a junior and senior level across men’s and women’s competitions, what do you think is the formula behind this success in developing young talent at the club?

For me, 100%, having the facility continuously upgraded is so important. You need to have pitches, equipment and the club has always been willing to buy all these things. They’ve bought us new goals, new mini-goals, the smart goal system now, trackers, VEO and we’ve established a new collaboration with Oxidate – we are always cutting edge. So, we are trying to build that DNA and at the same time use technology effectively.

Importantly, we have really good coaches. Brian Vanega (U21s) who unfortunately had to leave due to family commitments, Jeff Olver who has come back to help the club, Renato Liberto (U19s), Adrian Mazzarella (U17s), Sinisha Ristevski (U16s), Jim Daglaras (U15s), Kai Maxfield (U14s); these are all coaches who have either got A licenses or B licenses. They all understand that we are trying not just to look at one team, the U17’s or U19’s or whatever. It’s a culture of looking more at the overall picture, the 200 boys and the 200 girls at the club and saying ‘how can we develop them as a group rather than individually?’ Anyone can go and kick a ball but you can’t play football by yourself, there’s 10 other people on the pitch. So, we focus on how we can get all of them up to the level we want them to be at.

What type of programs, initiatives have you introduced in regards to learning opportunities for other coaches at Heidelberg United? What do you provide coaches at the club with?

We provide them with an innovative online session planning and player management system called SoccerPLAY. It’s got hundreds of different sessions and drills that they can use for ideas to create and implement our methodology. Additionally, at any time, we are able to provide feedback to help improve the sessions and the coaches. At the same time, we also do coach to coach sessions and are always looking to improve the program.

We have a new athlete development and high-performance collaboration with Oxidate, headed by Jacob Falla, which is specifically designed to educate the players about football development, physical performance (strength, conditioning, recovery, nutrition) and overall wellbeing. We have a club philosophy which connects all players via the ‘three wheels’, the Skills Phase for our MiniRoos, Growth Phase for our junior NPL teams and Elite Phase involving our seniors. You are trying to build across these wheels to get them into to the top teams at the club. We continually reassess what we are doing across all the different pathways to make the necessary improvements daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.

A snippet of Heidelberg United’s philosophy.

How crucial do you think a national second division is for the progression of youth development in Australian football?

It’s imperative. I’ve actually spoken with James Johnson and his team about it a few times. I think you need more than just a second division; you need a third division. I think that the NPL should be that you go from that league to a third division and so on. The more levels there are, you give more opportunities to the kids in order to develop at the level that they’re at. At the end of the day, we’re not just trying to develop a footballer. We’re trying to develop good boys, good girls, good sons, good daughters, it’s the overall person we are trying to develop…a total footballer.

The women’s side of the game is seeing huge increases in participation numbers and a home Women’s World Cup is on the way in 2023 which will lead to even more playing the game. How important is it capitalise on this and build female youth development standards and produce the next generation of Matildas?

Again, it’s imperative. The girls’ game has gone from A to Z in the last couple of years and it’s only going to continue to grow. The standard of the girls is phenomenal and improving all the time. It’s so important that the football community and country get behind the Women’s World Cup. I’ve coached girls’ teams and their enthusiasm for the game and desire to improve is brilliant. We need to capture that and harness it for both the girls’ and boys’ games to make a better competition for Australian footballers going forward.

Avatar
Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

Rangers Coaches Convention to give unique access

Rangers Football Club have announced a week-long online Coaches Convention with unique access, set to begin on May 24, 2021.

Rangers Football Club have announced a week-long online Coaches Convention, set to begin on May 24, 2021.

The recently crowned Scottish Premiership title winners for 2020-21 will hold the convention that’s led by the renowned Rangers Soccer Academies team, as well as keynote speakers – Rangers manager and assistant manager Steven Gerrard and Gary McAllister respectively, first-team coach Michael Beale, and Sporting Director Ross Wilson.

This unique offering provides greater access to Rangers, bringing together the expertise of coaches and senior members of staff from across the club.

Taking place every evening from Monday to Friday, from 17:00 to 21:00 (BST/UTC+1), attendees are recognised with a 12-month premium subscription to the Rangers Online Academy. The first 500 registered will receive an exclusive welcome pack in the post.

The convention will contribute towards the Scottish FA and Irish FA CPD hours, with early bird offers on sale for £120 ($215) per individual.

An outline on speakers and subjects are below:

  • Ross Wilson – Football Department Strategy
  • Craig Mulholland – Academy Overview
  • Graeme Murty – Game Model and Curriculum
  • David McCallum – Professional Development Phase
  • Mark Spalding – Youth Development Phase
  • Alan Boyd – Foundation Phase
  • Graeme Smith – Academy Goalkeeping
  • Creag Robertson and Arlene Sinclair – Player Care Provision
  • Jamie Ramsden – The Academy Performance Strategy
  • Chris Milne & Olivier Materne – Academy Medical Provision
  • David Stevenson & Andy Scoulding – Scouting and Recruitment
  • Amy McDonald – Women’s and Girl’s Department Overview
  • Malcolm Thomson and Kevin Murphy – Women’s First Team and Girls’ Academy
  • Dr Victoria Campbell, Olivier Materne & Emma Traynor – ‘The Female Athlete’
  • Michael Beale
  • George Brown – Performance Analysis
  • Guest Session with former Rangers player(s)
  • Live panel discussion with members of Academy Management Team
  • Steven Gerrard & Gary McAllister – Three Year Journey and 55 Title Win.

“We are thrilled to announce the inaugural Rangers Coaches Convention on the back of the club winning our 55th title and as we enter into our 150th anniversary year,” Head of Soccer Academies and International Relations, Gary Gibson said.

“As we continue to expand our partnerships across the globe, the Coaches Convention will become part of our international strategy to give coaches and fans an opportunity to access the inner workings and showcase the work within the football department.

“For the first time ever, you will be able to interact with senior staff from the men’s first team, women’s team, academy and club legends and we will cover specific areas such as goalkeeping, sports science, medicine, match analysis, scouting and recruitment, and educational programmes through the player care team. It is a truly unique opportunity!

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming coaches from all over the world which will include our official partner clubs Bengaluru FC (India), Orange County Soccer Club (United States) and Hamburg SV (Germany).

“I would like to thank all the staff across the commercial and football departments which has allowed us to create the Coaches Convention, further highlighting the one-club ethos that has now been implemented.”

Details on how to register can be found here.

Football Coaches Australia announces partnership with Football NSW

FCA College

Football Coaches Australia is pleased to announce that Football NSW has joined as a partner to support the professional development of their Metropolitan and Regional Association Head Technical Directors and Coach Educators.

In partnership with FCA, Football NSW will work with Association Head Technical Directors, Coach Education personnel and Course Instructors to subsidise their participation in and completion of the FCA XV Essential Skills Full Program.

FCA CEO Glenn Warry stated: “FCA welcomes the support of Football NSW in recognising the importance of the essential ‘soft skills’ for their leading state coach educators. The global pandemic has taught us to be more innovative and supportive for our coaches than ever before. Coaches are leaders, mentors and role models to male and female youth footballers and adults within their football communities and the Essential Skills program provides highly relevant PD to support and enhance their expertise within those roles.”Football Coaches Australia Logo

“FCA, in partnership with XVenture, has taken innovation to heights never seen before in order to make professional development accessible to Australian football coaches. These programs allow FCA and Football NSW to continue to develop ‘community and connection’ throughout the NSW football coach cohorts.

“Given the impact of COVID -19 on the coaching world in each State, FCA looks forward to the opportunity to work with other State Member Federations to provide similar support for their respective Football Association Technical Directors and Coach Education leaders.”

Peter Hugg Football NSW Head of Football added: “We have long supported the mantra of ‘better coaches, better football’ and have ourselves invested in many programs aimed at improving the professional development of coaches and technical directors, across both our NPL clubs and Associations.

“Our support to Associations and their key coaching staff, as well as our own Technical Unit staff and our Course Instructors, in subsidising this program is an extension of this philosophy. It is hoped that in time, the take up of this wonderful program, the skills developed and the benefits it offers, will filter down across the broader landscape to the benefit of the whole football community.Football NSW logo

“We recently met with Association Technical Directors and Coach Educators and already there is much excitement and interest in the rollout of this program.”

The program was created by XVenture Founder and CEO, Prof. Mike Conway, who is the emotional agility and mind coach for elite athletes and teams (including Olympians, the Socceroos and many A-League teams) and global corporations & organisations.

This series of modules will be delivered completely online, in a revolutionary virtual world environment aiming to develop the ‘essential skills’ of coaching across 5 modules –

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Leadership
  • Resilience
  • Culture
  • Communication Skills

A new way of learning for our new World:

  • State-of-the-art online learning platform
  • 30 CPD points for each individual module from Football Australia
  • Recognition for prior learning from a major Australian University
  • Each module is approximately twelve hours of self-paced study
  • Fully integrated multi-media style materials in the form of videos, articles, activities, podcasts and assessments with a football theme
  • Multiple-choice test to demonstrate understanding of the materials
  • Real cases and examples from football coaching – from grassroots to elite
  • Receipt of certification on completion of modules

Phil Moss, President of FCA, will welcome enrolled coaches as they make their way through the virtual world of the FCA XV College foyer. Whilst XVenture Founder, Professor Mike Conway will introduce the Essential Skills Program.

REGISTRATION IS NOW AVAILABLE for Module 1: Emotional Intelligence & Module 2: Leadership or for ALL modules at the special launch price.

Football Queensland reveals 2021 SAP Program Guide

Football Queensland (FQ) has unveiled the 2021 SAP Program Guide which provides guidance and assistance to players, parents and coaches.

Football Queensland (FQ) has today unveiled the 2021 SAP Program Guide which provides guidance and assistance to players, parents and coaches on how to improve their understanding on how the Skill Acquisition Phase (SAP) operates throughout Queensland.

This SAP Program Guide will assist players, parents and coaches to understand how the Skill Acquisition Phase (SAP) operates throughout Queensland.

The FQ Club Development Unit has consulted with community and advanced clubs, bringing together experienced personnel from various sectors of the game to build a more player-centred approach to SAP, to in turn help to produce better footballers in Queensland.

“The SAP Program Guide is another example of FQ’s commitment to providing clear, useful information about the player pathway to parents and coaches,” FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci said.

“The Guide offers practical advice about the age-specific playing formats and rules for boys and girls, recommendations for SAP coaches on how to manage players on match day, information on SAP State Carnivals and much, much more.

“FQ recognises that SAP is important for young players to develop game-related skills, which is why we have made unprecedented investments in the program over the past 18 months through our Club Development Unit.

“The release of the SAP Program Guide follows on from the launch of our SAPCC initiative, which makes available coaching resources and collateral to community clubs across the state, and our ongoing SAP Club Assessment process, which reviews program delivery for licensed SAP clubs.

“FQ also reformed the SAP structure for 2021 to provide more games and reduce travel time for young Queensland footballers. This Guide outlines all these initiatives and more and is essential reading for anyone involved in SAP in this state.”

FQ issued Advanced SAP Licences to clubs in South East Queensland and runs regional Advanced SAP training centres in Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns, with a club partnership in Mackay.

In addition to the SAP Program Guide, FQ has also released the Advanced SAP Club Manual which provides specific information about technical matters such as the players age policy and the recommended structure of the club-based MiniSeries events.

To see the guide in full, you can view it here.

© 2020 Soccerscene Industry News. All Rights reserved. Reproduction is prohibited.

Most Popular Topics

Editor Picks