Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spreading the gospel of the Beautiful Game: Chelsea Soccer School’s Steve Winnett

Chelsea Soccer School's Steve Winnett is to the right of Phil Younghusband in the back.
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Spreading the gospel of the Beautiful Game: 
Chelsea Soccer School’s Steve Winnett
by rick olivares

The four-day Chelsea FC Special Camp that took place from August 5-9 was over. The certificates had been handed out, photo ops between the children and the coaches were being taken, and the beaming parents were packing up their gear.

Steven Allan Winnett, head coach of the Chelsea FC Boys College Academy, took a knee to pick up some papers that had scattered across the Gatorade Blue Pitch, when a couple of kids came over. “That was fun,” said one youngster who gave the Englishman a high-five. “Maybe we can do that again.”

“And we will,” affirmed Winnett.

If one were looking to learn the latest trends in world football or tactics on breaking down a 4-2-3-1 formation, then this isn’t the right place to go.

Winnett chuckled. “We’re not teaching kids those kinds of tactics…. yet. I believe that people forget that we are teaching kids. And one of the worst things you can teach them at a very impressionable age is that it’s all about winning. When you’re a kid, it’s important to develop that love for the game. When you love the game you will play it without anyone pushing you to put on your boots and have a go. Love for the game means hours learning skills by yourself or watching others.”

During the morning session of the last day, a four-year old kid bawled out after he got tackled and his side lost the match. Winnett felt that the incident spoke volumes, “The young lad is obviously very young and beginning to learn life’s lessons. Mark my words, there will be much to learn from that loss that will spur him to get better. It was also important for the others to rally around him because some people take losses in different ways.”

One of the hallmarks of the Chelsea Soccer School is impressing upon their students that learning the game can be fun and a means to a healthy lifestyle. “The philosophy of the first team,” differentiated Winnett who was a former Chelsea Youth player (before James and Phil Younghusband joined the club), “Is winning. It’s highly advanced tactics and strategies. Internationally, we want kids to learn in a safe and enjoyable environment. We drum into our coaches that teaching them the proper attitudes is just as vital as learning skills.”

“I would say technically, Filipino kids are fine. Obviously there are things that they need to work on over time but that goes for everyone else. However, I’d like to stress that at an early age too, kids have to understand and make the most out of space.”

“If you don’t use it, you miss opportunities to advance the ball or even score,” expounded Winnett. “If a player doesn’t recognize a teammate is open then that an opportunity lost. If he passes a second later then a defender can close down that space. There’s lot. And it boils down to the speed of thought. And for kids, it isn’t all just mindless running about.”  

“Right now, it’s about repetition and dedication,” summed up the London-based Winnett who does a fair amount of traveling spreading the gospel of Chelsea football. “It needs to be second nature to them. And when we come back in a few months time, we move on to the next set of skills. But we will still have fun learning.”

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