This is the story of Jordi Illa Solé, whose playing and coaching career took him from Catalonia to a town called Győr in Hungary. His passion for the game, and for spreading his love and knowledge of it, gives me the idea that he is only just beginning…
Choices, education, experiences, ambition and living in the moment. This is my meeting with Jordi in the town of Győr, Hungary.
As a player did you always have an interest in coaching, or just as a student of the game?
Yea, actually there were a couple of coaches that told me that I was going to be a coach when I finished my playing career, for sure. They saw my character, my leadership and always they told me I had a good profile to be a coach, and I liked it. While I was playing I was coaching kids because I loved it. I love kids and I love coaching. That’s something very common in futsal, that players in the first team help the club coaching little kids which makes a good connection between the club, first team and youth.
Now I’m starting, and its my first year as a head coach here at ETO and I worked in the [Hungarian] national team before as well. I’m enjoying, it, I’m working very hard, I try to do my best and I hope I can keep coaching for a long time.
So what are your philosophies as a coach regarding player development? How, on and off the court, do you want to develop them?
I try to be their coach I wanted my coach to be when I was a player. I try to be someone who is not a dictator, who promotes the creativity of the player, who promotes the freedom of play. I like when players play. Not when players move and repeat. I like when players do what they feel.
But, of course this is a team sport, and it has to be a structure, a system and we work for that system to be together. But I like that. I like players to learn from themselves. I like to develop intelligent players that can understand the situations and can anticipate what is going to happen. That is the approach.
Do you think a measure of this philosophy of producing intelligent decision makers rather than robots is to see what would happen if you were away and whether they would know what to do?
I don’t know, I mean I have had coaches for example that prefer the autocratic way. I didn’t like it as a player. I know there are players that are more comfortable with that, and that’s ok. Its just that not everybody fits in every system, and not everyone fits in every methodology. I like the opposite. I like when a player can decide by himself. Can understand why he is doing things. Now here in Hungary its something that needs to be worked out a lot.
So with this more progressive coaching style of yours, have you encountered some difficulties when some players might be used to a more old school autocratic coach?
In a professional team there are always problems. There are always very important players, with different points of view and used to playing different tactics and this is always a problem. When those really important players are so important, they have so much power inside the team and the club its really hard to make them work altogether. But this is ok its part of the job and we need to learn to deal with it and to learn from it. To do it the best way possible to give them the best chance to give the maximum performance every weekend or every day you train.
So you touched on those differences, of players and what they are used to. How much of your job do you think is relationship management at the individual level?
It is alot. Now when I think from a coach point of view, this really needs to be the most important thing.
Do you see for example differences in one on one time or individual encouragement that players need? Some need it every day, and others don’t play for you [but themselves, another reason, etc]?
Yes, this is the hardest part of the job. To learn to deal with everybody, the way they need to be dealt with. I mean usually people say that you need to treat people, or talk to players that way you want to be coached, but the truth is that you cannot coach everyone the same way. You need to learn how these players are and which way to get the maximum effort out of them, no matter what. What you really need to do, at the end of the day, you need to go home and think that whatever you do is to get the maximum of you team. And from the club they tell you that you need to win everything. So sometimes its quite complicated because you need to renounce to some of your feelings, ideas, priorities, because that player cannot accept that is the best way and maybe you need that player for that. That is the hardest part of being a coach I think.
Do you think this outcome focus, pressure for result, can inhibit the desire to play creatively, to play beautifully? Is there a balance?
There is a balance. I don’t like extremes, I always like balance in life and I think the players need to understand “that’s why I’m telling you”. I think its really important they need to understand in which situation they need to behave as a team or in which situations they can get more freedom.
Whats next? How far ahead do you look, as a coach? Is this your life work?
Look, I don’t think about my future far ahead so much. I am a person who lives in the present and tries to do the best he can in every moment in everything he does. I’m enjoying my coaching at the moment. I think I am in a good team, I think I am in a good club. We have a good chance now to win the championship in Hungary. So my hope and will is to play the Uefa Futsal Cup next season which is the most important tournament in futsal and that would be a really good experience for me. I played it as a player and would like to play it as a coach.
I would like to coach as long as I am happy, as long as I have the passion, as long as every day I want to be involved thinking about this. The day that I miss some of this, that its difficult for me to go to the training, or to think about the next one or I’m a bit tired, then I will say stop and I will find something different.
What does it mean to you to be a “missionary” for futsal and grow this beautiful game in new environments?
As I told you I love travelling, I love new experiences, I love learning and being able to teach or to help others learn and improve in this fantastic sport. That is probably what would be the most beautiful thing. I love coaching because I really like the competition. I love it, and these feelings, the expectations for tomorrows match for example. I really want it to come and that makes me happy every day. But the other side of the coaching, of promoting of this sport, that’s something amazing, I love it.
So, at the core of why you do what you do is it two ways: what you receive like these positive feelings of competition, as well as what you can give and the satisfaction that brings?
Yeah, I lived my life without big ambitions but I lived my life in every moment in a very intense way, and for me every game was like a fight, it was really nice to play, I loved it. And now as a coach I live it in the same way. But now with the difference that every training is a challenge, I want every training I run to be perfect. And its impossible because there are some days when players are better, worse, and even me sometimes I prepare things better, or worse. But I want every training I prepare to be perfect. I work for that. And that gives me strength every day. And thats it. The moment I lose this. I lose coaching.
How to you monitor or measure your weekly trainings?
I guess you feel it. You feel every training if it was well accepted, if it was not. If you got what you wanted from the exercises you developed. There are some times that you design new exercises to work on something specific, and you feel like you got what you wanted, but there are some days you want to get something in return that the specific exercise didn’t give. So that’s a learning process. I learn every day. That’s my feedback, when I see the players, I see their faces, their reports, I speak to them, I have a close relationship to them.
The intense passion, living in the moment and not planning to far ahead. You want the maximum out of every moment, every day. This reminds me of a sport psychology concept called “flow”. Do you think this is what you live for and try to live in?
Yeah yeah yeah, I try. Because I cannot live in my future, I can only live here. And that does not mean that I go 100% and jump from a helicopter every day. What I mean is that every day, I try to live the present, what I have ahead of me. And what I have ahead of me is a game next Monday. And I do everything I can to get the best result possible.
Thanks so much for having me, not just now for this interview but for welcoming me here and showing me around. I really appreciate it. I’m just a young student of the game, wanting to learn everything I can about it, from the bottom of the world. You’ve shown me this futsal family by taking me in. All the best for the next challenge: getting into that Uefa Cup and growing futsal here in Győr.
Thanks so much, its been a pleasure, no problem. Its always good to meet futsal people, it doesn’t matter where they come from, their expectations or motivations. Its always nice to find someone who really likes this and wants to promote this and learn. I also want to learn so I imagine myself going to learn or talk to coaches who are professional and really wanting to learn. If I am able to be the other part its a real pleasure.