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May, 2020

Staying Connected in Time of Crisis: Villarreal and its International Academies.

Finding ‘normal’ in the midst of a quarantine like this is extraordinarily difficult. Routines that have been in place for months or even years get cast aside, we’re stuck at home way more than we would like, and most of the human contact and relationship that we have in our lives are turned on their heads and fundamentally altered. Because of that, when we sat down with Carlos Ortiz, coach with the Villarreal International Department, the first thing I wanted to ask was just ‘how are you doing?”

“We’re in a unique time where we’ve all had to adapt ourselves.” says Ortiz, “To try and keep a positive attitude and stay healthy, what I’m trying to do is follow the tips that the club has recommended, creating a daily routine, which includes not only time for work, but time to do some sport and also a few hours to continue learning, either by watching talks of various professionals or by reading some interesting texts.”

There’s probably a lot there we can all relate to. Reading, finding ways to continue to learn, working in just about any way we can, all in some sort of structure that forms some sort of ‘routine’. But what is work for Carlos, when things are actually normal? Well, in addition to visiting our various international academies (pre pandemic he found himself with Villarreal Virginia). He works with coaches and players, constantly working to enrich the on field product of our international academies. His projects are varied and, in a sense, his ‘routine’ is not exactly having a routine, which probably makes the sudden requirement to stay in one place even more jolting. Just two weeks after arriving in Virginia, all athletic competitions were shut down and he found himself working online.

This has to be frustrating for anyone, but even more so in this instance because for Carlos, Villarreal Virginia (VIVA is a unique place. He says the hard work and sacrifice that everyone puts in there is what makes everything they do possible

There are just so many people involved from both the International Department at the club to the staff at the academies themselves that make it all work. It made me wonder, how does a person get involved with youth soccer in the way that Carlos or the folks in our academies have? “First of all, what we all share in the department is our love for football, and above all the respect and thanks for the club for allowing us to work in what we most enjoy. After that, what makes us prepared to carry out our job in the international department are our willingness to learn, to face new situations and experience, and especially enjoy what we do.”

Speaking of new situations, how does a club like Villarreal help serve its satellite academies in a world circumstance where they can’t interact with them in person?

“Since the crisis started, we’ve stayed in contact at all times with the academies both to show them our support in these moments as well as proving the academies with material and tools that they can use to be able to carry out the process that they were carrying out before the crisis.” says Carlos, “Furthermore, we’ve carried out online workshops including families, coaches and players, and that has helped unite the entire worldwide Villarreal Academy family in these though times.” You can get an idea of what those online workshops look like in the embedded tweet below:

In terms of how the Academies themselves have responded, the reaction really reflects one of the difficult parts of this pandemic: the fact that every local situation is so different, as Carlos explains: “The academies and the people that make up the academies have continued to work alongside us during these moments, we’ve been developing activities and different actions that help them, depending on the needs of each academy. In each country or state, the situation is different, so we’ve tried to adapt the work that we’re continuing to do with them, but they have also received a level of considerable support especially online.”

The academies have also paid it forward, and keeping player families up to date on all the latest ins and outs has been one of the things that VIVA and the other academies have prioritized. This hasn’t been just about maintaining peak performing young footballers, these discussions are about health and diet and the kind of routines that give entire families an outlet during this pandemic, as it always is with Villarreal, not losing sight of how important the people are.

As our chat with Carlos came to an end I had to ask him at least one off topic question because I knew he had played against Paco Alcacer during his own playing days. I wanted to know what it was like facing off against the guy who would eventually become Villareal’s record arrival. “With Alcácer, you could never switch off. He wasn’t the tallest or the fastest striker, and maybe he wasn’t the player who was the most involved in the game, but just like now, as a youth player he found it really easy to score. It could seem like you were controlling him, but he could just get away from you, touch the ball twice and score two goals.” We’ve certainly seen flashes of that in his early days at our club. It does not take many touches of the ball for him to find his way into a shot or created chance. I look forward to being able to see him and the rest of the lads on the pitch soon.

I appreciate Carlos taking the time to answer a few questions for us. As always, I’m thrilled with the work he and the International Department at the club do to help our international academies and reach out to us fans. People like Carlos are what make Villarreal such a wonderful club!



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