Ambition. There are still some people who see that as a dirty word, particularly for coaches involved in youth football. These should be content with the age category they are assigned to look after and not aim to achieve anything more than that.
For some that works and there are indeed coaches who feel most comfortable coaching particular age groups and whose effectiveness would suffer were they to be moved to a different group. Many others aren’t like that, however, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Just as any player should have a target to work towards, so too should coaches. Unless they have an ambition that drives them forward they cannot progress. And, for some, that ambition might be of working at a higher level than the one they’re currently in.
Pedro Mendonca is one such coach. At the moment he is working with the Real Madrid foundation but he is aiming to achieve much, much more than that. Here’s a look at his blueprint…
Let's start with the basics: what got you into coaching and how long was that?
Since a young age – around 8 years - I played football for FC Porto first and then SC Salgueiros. Then, when I enrolled in the Physical Education and Sports University, I specialized in football whilst becoming a Physical Education Teacher as well. In 2007 I got the opportunity to be coach of FC Avintes a woman’s team in the he 2nd Division of the Portuguese league. That was a very good experience especially as it allowed me to realise that I liked coaching and had the ability to coach.
After that I’ve trained boys from U13 to senior teams at a number of clubs like CD Candal; Lusitano FC; Algarve United and the Real Madrid Foundation.
Have you had any mentors in your career?
I have had the good fortune of working with some excellent persons and very good coaches. However, the people who have most influenced me were Professor Vitor Frade and Professor Juan Jose Gonzalez Badillo.
Professor Vitor Frade is the creator of the Tactical Periodization, a training methodology for football concerned with the tactical aspects of the game and the creation of a Game Idea that fits the Players and the Club. In one word: Specificity. This is a methodology that is actually utilized by José Mourinho.
The other main influence is Juan Jose Gonzalez Badillo, my professor in Master of Physical and Sport Performance, at the Pablo de Olavide University in Seville because he opened my eyes as to how Sports Science could be applied to football and the physical needs to play football.
I think this contrast of Ideas is very important for my coaching philosophy.
What is your coaching philosophy?
At a senior level I believe that we have to work on the tactical aspects of the game. Everything has to be done in relation with the game that we want to play. However, it is a game that the players like to play and fans likes to watch.
As for the physical aspects, this would be more centred around injury prevention and recovery. With respect to playing style I believe in an offensive team, capable of scoring many goals and gives a good time to the spectators.
Is winning important for you?
At a senior level it is very important but playing good, attractive football is very important as well.
In young age groups it is not as important. Indeed, at an early age it is more important to develop the players.
That said, in the most of clubs, the importance is on winning. For me that is an error because this way the coaches will be more concerned with the results than with the process of developing players for the future. To do so, they end up privileging the physical players and not the intelligent ones.
What are the most important attributes of players in your teams?
That the players like to play and enjoy training is important at a senior level. Then it is important that they are good teammates, capable of creating a rich environment to develop a team.
One of the most important things for players is their intelligence; the ability to make good decisions in the game. They must know the game and its principles of play. Finally, it is very important that the players have an excellent relationship with the ball which is acquired in early ages.
You're currently at the Real Madrid Foundation in Portugal. What is it that you do exactly?
At the Real Madrid Foundation I’m the coach of the football team in the Portuguese School in Algarve. Here we work with kids from 6 to 12 years who have some problems like behavior problems, learning difficulties, obesity, integration issues, bad economic conditions which means that they don’t have money to play for other club and so on.
We try to use their love for the game and for Real Madrid to improve the lives of these kids. Our slogan is: “They Play, We Educate”.
Beyond the Tactical, Technical, Physical and Mental aspects of football adapted to the age of the kids, we incorporate in every training sessions the Real Madrid Foundation Values: Respect, Autonomy, Motivation, Equality, Self-Esteem, Health and Fellowship.
In what way does football help children with behavioral problems?
Football is very much important for these children. Usually all the children love football so when these children with behavioral problems are playing they have to adapt to the rules of the game and to the principles of living in a society (group of players) to can play.
This way they have to demonstrate self-control and have ability to resist to frustration for when they concede a goal or when an opponent takes the ball from them. These capacities trained in the football game will then become adopted in everyday life.
Is there added pressure given that you are representing Real Madrid?
I’m representing Real Madrid Foundation. When we are in Real Madrid Foundation we have always to respect the Principles that we teach to children. It can be difficult for some people to live with this responsibility. However for me it’s easy because I believe in these Principles of Real Madrid Foundation and apply in them both in the teaching sessions and in my daily life.
In Portugal as well as in Spain there is a very good history for producing very technical players. Is there anything special that is done that result in such players?
In Portugal we love good football and we’re always seeking players with ability to dribble past others. Since a young age, kids are encouraged to go into 1v1 situations and develop the ability to control the ball.
Another important aspect in Portugal is that all persons are fans from one of the three great clubs (FC Porto, SL Benfica and Sporting CP), which means that every person like an attacking and attractive style of play. This aspect has influenced the type of football we like and this way the kids are molded for the future.
What do you want to achieve to be satisfied with what you have done in your coaching career?
My goal is to be capable to work exclusively in football. At the moment I have the UEFA Basic Coaching Course and in January I’ve begun the UEFA Advanced Coaching Course in Spain.
In the next years I want to be assistant manager for one of the great coaches who can teach me more things about this fantastic game. Then I want to be a manager in the English Premier League, win a UEFA Champions League and also win a FIFA World Cup.
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