The San Francisco Elite Academy sent 7 teams to this year's premier national showcase, the Surf College Cup Showcase, and several made a statement about the quality of their team, players and coaches with terrific performances.
Leading the way was the 2001 Boys, which recently qualified for the spring NPL Champions League. The 2001 Boys won two matches and tied one at Surf, meaning they finished first in their group of six teams. During the showcase, seven different players claimed goals and the 2001 boys scored 9 goals over their three matches. Also, doing well in San Diego were the 99/00 Boys and 2002 Girls. Both teams finished third in their groups. The 99/00 boys went 1-1-1 to finish third among six teams, and the 2002 Girls went 2-1 to finish third among eight teams.
Best of all, each of SFEA's seven participating teams (99/00, 01, and 02 Boys, and 01, 02, 03, 04 Girls) got to play in a pristine playing setting that included over 500 participating college coaches. College coaches were regular fixtures along the sidelines of SFEA games and were introduced to SFEA players with team rosters with player information. Congratulations to all our SFEA teams for what was yet another good year at Surf College Cup.
What do you feel makes a great soccer coach?
The best coaches possess a clear vision and understand their values, and they work tirelessly, through consistent and clear communication, to make sure their players understand them as well. Top coaches should also be students of the game. If coaches are not demanding of themselves to always get better, how can they ask the same from their players?
How would you describe your soccer and/or player development philosophy?
I put a premium on developing soccer awareness through training activities that favor learning through what is often described as “open” or “random” activities. This means learning by playing the game itself with all its ever-changing variables. And then I supplement that play with specific, carefully considered conditions that bring out the needed technique and tactics to support discovery among the players. In this regard, I’m a bit of a soccer session junkie; I’m always studying, dreaming up, or constructing activities to deliver the kind of soccer game moments I want my players to experience over and over and learn from in their own unique way.
Yet there’s more to development and a piece that is often overlooked: Coaches need to demand that their players be accountable for part of the development equation, too. The idea that a player can turn up two or three times a week for training and become a top player is ridiculous. Players must be passionate students of the game, spending off days getting touches however possible or training for strength and conditioning or watching a match or video to understand (and visualize) how the best players and teams operate on the field.
Why are you excited to work with players at the SF Elite Academy?
In my professional life, I’ve always emphasized surrounding myself with people that I felt were better than me in terms of experience and know how. I want to be pushed, and I love learning and getting better. Working at the SF Elite Academy has allowed me to do just that as I’m on staff with some of the finest soccer coaches around. It’s literally a dream come true.
Who was/is your favorite soccer player and why?
Zinedine Zidane. He had it all--mastery of technique, power, and gall--and he won it all and did so when the lights were brightest, whether it was for club or country. I was fortunate enough to have been in Paris when France won the World Cup in 1998, and after the final I will never forget the projected, laser image of Zidane on the Arc di Triomphe or the surreal street celebrations that ensued. In 2006, I happened to see Zidane’s quarterfinal performance against Brazil on an airplane headrest TV while on a flight to the east coast. I don’t think I moved an inch for two hours; I knew I was watching perfection and one of the greatest soccer performances of all time. If Zidane took a bad touch in the whole game I don’t remember it, and he carried his whole French team to a win against some of the most talented soccer players and one of the best teams in the world.
Who is your favorite soccer coach and why?
Over the years, this has changed with styles and systems that go in and out of vogue but it would probably be Carlo Ancelotti, regardless of his recent abrupt dismissal from Bayern Munich. This is a coach who has won the Champions League with three different teams, and the pedigrees of the clubs he’s led--AC Milan, Juventus, PSG, Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich--are incredible and the titans of the game. He’s won Ligue 1, the EPL, the Bundesliga and Serie A. Beyond the many deserved accolades, Ancelotti is also recognized for his tactical versatility and working his ideas about systems of play around the strengths of his players while giving them room to operate creatively, too. And, importantly, Carlo Ancelotti is one of the true gentlemen of the game in an era where these type of managers are harder to come by.
What's been your favorite moment as a soccer coach?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been around special moments and memorable wins. While I was coaching with Evolution FC in the 2014-15 State Cup, State Division semifinal, my U12 team played in a horrible rainstorm up in Napa but beat our rival from the Barcelona Academy (now DeAnza South) 2-0 with timely goals and a reserve keeper to earn a trip to the final. That same tournament we also beat a Mill Valley team in the quarterfinal that had outplayed us even though we held an early 1-0 lead. When they finally equalized with minutes left and were still relishing their chances in extra time, we immediately answered when a guest player from a younger team somehow beat two defenders and the keeper to get a winner in the final seconds. He told me later his younger team had lost their State Cup run on penalties, and there was “no way he was going to let that happen again.” That player is now a freshman at UHS where I'm the assistant varsity coach and I really look forward to working with him again. You can do anything with determination like that.
But, honestly, it’s not the big matches I recall the most; it’s those where my team simply takes it to another level and earn a glimpse of their collective potential. There's plenty of examples but I’d probably just pick a tournament game from what I think was the year before the State Cup mentioned above. It wasn’t for a trophy but just one of those games when everything came together. The boys were playing a very good San Juan Lightning team that hadn’t lost more than one game in over a year and we'd just completed a sort of lousy, low-energy warm-up. And then the boys went out and won 7-0. Nothing could go wrong. Players were combining and ripping through their opponent like they were not even there. Every shot seemed to bend ridiculously and rifle into the net. I recall turning to the guys on the bench and apologizing about not knowing when I could get them into the match because, as I put it, we were watching “pure magic” on the field. As a coach, those are exactly the moments you’re always chasing after.
The San Francisco Elite Academy is proud to announce that the 99/00 Boys NPL, 01 Boys NPL, 02 Boys NPL, and the 01 Girls NPL, 02 Girls NPL, 03 Girls NPL, and 04 Girls NPL all have been selected to attend one of the nation's most coveted soccer showcases--the 2017 Surf College Cup Showcase. This marks the second year running that SFEA has sent multiple teams to compete against some of the best players in the nation. Held over Thanksgiving weekend at two premier field facilities in San Diego, the Surf College Showcase is considered one of the two premier national showcases for youth soccer players and only accepts approximately 1 in 3 teams that apply. Typically, over 500 college coaches attend the event to scout youth soccer talent who play three games over a three-day period against some of the top soccer clubs in the country (see the graphic below). Congratulations to these seven teams and we hope they both enjoy and take advantage of this unique opportunity to compete against the "Best of the Best," which is a cornerstone of what makes the San Francisco Elite Academy unique in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Elite Academy 99-00 Boys NPL team claimed the title of the Premier Division of the 2017 Davis Legacy Premier Cup this past Sunday. The team won the title by defeating San Jose Earthquakes 2000 Boys PDA 2-1 after two first half goals--one from a back post header by center back Chris Miglo and the other from eventual team player of the tournament, Theo Malliaras, on a clever back heel at the near post almost immediately after being introduced late in the first half. After the Quakes got a goal back the game took on an end-to-end style and goalkeeper Armando Malton and his defenders made several key stops to preserve the win and the cup title.
The match capped a successful weekend for team that saw them win against fellow NPL 1 west division rival AFC Academy 2-1 (goals by Nico Petry-Mitchel, PK/unassisted, and Theo Malliaras assisted by Jack Benninger) and defeat Butte United Red 99 by the same 2-1 score (goals by Kol Van Giesen and Alex Bailey, assisted by Chris Miglio and Nicky Brown, respectively).
In the team's only other match of the weekend, on Sunday morning, they were held scoreless and fell 1-0 to the team they wold again face in the final, San jose Earthquakes 2000 Boys PDA, who did not concede a goal in the three games that led them into the final. The Sunday morning match was a hard-fought one that featured multiple chances for both teams as well as long breaks in play from free kicks and referees cautioning or speaking with players. By the end of the stop-and-start match, both coaches were already becoming aware that the morning game would be but a precursor to the afternoon final based on the tournament format and standings.
"We learned a little about ourselves this weekend and got important contributions from everyone," said '99/'00 boys head coach Chris Flanagan. "Our goal was to play in the final and get everyone involved in the games, which is a luxury that we don't always have in NPL 1 league play. I was delighted for Theo, who came off the bench to get two game winning goals, as well as for a number of other guys who played extra minutes or in positions they were less accustomed to. By the end of the weekend we were short on numbers for a variety of reasons but the team dug in and got the victory against a good CV Quakes team that hadn't conceded a goal in the tournament and had to feel confident after beating us in the morning. Before the final I told the guys you don't often get second chances in soccer or life, so go out there and take advantage of every moment."
This fall the San Francisco Elite Academy unveiled several new programs to support the soccer and overall development of its youth athletes. SAQ+ and Peak Performance are two such programs and they are already in full swing and having a positive impact on SFEA players.
SAQ+ stands for strength, agility, quickness plus injury prevention. It’s a program that SFEA developed in partnership with Pro Performance Sports, a San Francisco-based strength and conditioning company that works with top athletes and was founded by Barry McCabe. Barry has joined SFEA’s coaching staff as lead coach for athletic development and injury prevention, and can already be seen working with SFEA teams out on the fields across the city.
"Our SAQ+ program is unique on a number of levels," said Chris Flanagan, SFEA Director of Soccer Operations. "Fundamentally it's about strength, speed and injury prevention. But the way the curriculum has been developed makes it also about improving performance at just the right time during the playing season.
Through SAQ+, SFEA teams work with Coach McCabe several times a season with customized exercises focussed on specific results and tailored to generate a varied workload. The goal is to help players become more fit while making them less susceptible to injury and more likely to be working with high energy levels at the end of the season for showcases and cup finals.
“In addition, we avoided a silo approach with this program where a specialized trainer just takes over for a couple of sessions here and there and the ideas all disappear in between. Coach McCabe is not only leading our players but he's leading our coaches, teaching them core exercises that they will run with their team on their own. And best of all we're testing players so that we can see the results and so our players can both push themselves and have important data points to share with college coaches and recruiters."
The other major program SFEA developed for this season is Peak Performance, a unique program that helps SFEA players develop the mental fortitude required to be a top athlete. Led by Yvonne Gomez, a former Olympic athlete and recognized leader in sports psychology, this program helps SFEA athletes develop confidence, game routines, focussing techniques an effective goal setting. Players meet as a team in private sessions with Coach Gomez, who beyond working with SFEA is also the mental performance coach for the University of San Francisco. Several SFEA teams have already had their first sessions with "Gogo" (as Yvonne is affectionately called) and all SFEA players have come away from their sessions with tools on how to better mentally prepare themselves for the long playing year ahead.
“The benefits of a program like Peak Performance are part of what separates great athletes from top athletes, said, Tom Atencio, SFEA Director of Coaching and Player Development. “The mental aspect of soccer becomes more and more important as players progress. And the best part is that the lessons they are receiving with this program carry over to all aspects of their lives. We are helping our players become more focussed, resilient, and goal-oriented.”
Both the SAQ+ and Peak Performance programs support SFEA's commitment to offering San Francisco's top youth soccer players a development pathway to next level soccer––whether college or professional play. To learn more about the San Francisco Elite Academy or these programs please feel free to call the office or send email to email@example.com
The SF Elite Academy
Our mission is to provide an elite level program for soccer players in San Francisco.