What does it take to be the best?

Gonçalo Nunes, former coach of SL Benfica, explains about the Portuguese training methodology
Gonçalo Nunes, former coach of SL Benfica, explains about the Portuguese training methodology

What does it take to be the best?

How many hours should you train a week? What skills should one focus on at a young age? Should one write an exercise diary? Is it dangerous to lift weights before you are 16? NF Academy’s coach Gonçalo Nunes gives his best development tips.

Tens of thousands of Norwegian children carry the dream of becoming a professional football player. Very few slip through the eye of the needle. This does not mean that it is impossible, if you train a lot and a lot correctly.

So, of course, the big question is: What is proper training?

Of course, there is no single answer to that question. Each player has his or her skills and things he or she needs to improve or refine. In addition, age must be taken into account – good training tips for an 11-year-old may lose value when the player is 16.

A football player must work hard to reach the level where opportunities arise. Still, sometimes even good players do not get many opportunities.

This has been one of the goals at NF Academy over the past year. In addition to high-intensity programs with a focus on player development, we are looking for solutions for how to offer players the opportunity to take the next step in their careers.

Our coaches do an internal evaluation of all the players who participate with us. Based on the evaluation and the player’s level, we hand out invitations to train at top European academies, our scholarship program, participation in elite tournaments with our elite teams or participation in international training camps.

Over the past year, many players who participated in local programs have been invited to train at top academies.

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Gonçalo Nunes, former coach of SL Benfica, explains about the Portuguese training methodology

What does it take to be the best?

How many hours should you train a week? What skills should one focus on at a young age? Should one write an exercise diary? Is it dangerous to lift weights before you are 16? NF Academy’s coach Gonçalo Nunes gives his best development tips.

Tens of thousands of Norwegian children carry the dream of becoming a professional football player. Very few slip through the eye of the needle. This does not mean that it is impossible, if you train a lot and a lot correctly.

So, of course, the big question is: What is proper training?

Of course, there is no single answer to that question. Each player has his or her skills and things he or she needs to improve or refine. In addition, age must be taken into account – good training tips for an 11-year-old may lose value when the player is 16.

A football player must work hard to reach the level where opportunities arise. Still, sometimes even good players do not get many opportunities.

This has been one of the goals at NF Academy over the past year. In addition to high-intensity programs with a focus on player development, we are looking for solutions for how to offer players the opportunity to take the next step in their careers.

Our coaches do an internal evaluation of all the players who participate with us. Based on the evaluation and the player’s level, we hand out invitations to train at top European academies, our scholarship program, participation in elite tournaments with our elite teams or participation in international training camps.

Over the past year, many players who participated in local programs have been invited to train at top academies.

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Inner drive and hard work

Our Portuguese academy director, Gonçalo Nunes, has seen several young players climb into the international starry sky. He believes Norwegian players should draw more lessons from Cristiano Ronaldo, which in his eyes is an exemplary training product.

For the short version of what we are now going to hear more about is the following: There are no shortcuts, and it’s about putting everything in the pot required to reach your goals.

You have trained many players over the last few decades. Do you have any single players you want to highlight, who had a particularly good development under your wings?

– It is difficult to single out individual players. I have seen so many incredible players develop. Not just as football players, but also as human beings. Several of the players I have trained have gone on to play for professional clubs. I am also happy to see that many of them have also gotten good jobs. In many cases, I think the experience they have gained in the training field has made them more responsible people.

Through football training, you learn, among other things, to work with details, and to function in interaction with others. It is invaluable. If I still have to single out individual players who have become professionals, I will go back to the time I worked as an academy manager for a small village club in Portugal. There were two players who had the odds against them. T

hey had a long travel time for training. They often had to change buses two to three times. Sometimes they also had to hitchhike. But they did not give up. They did it in a way, and always showed top effort in the training field. Today, they are both professionals. He alone plays for Sporting Braga, which is one of Portugal’s best clubs. Their stories show how important mentality is.

Portuguese coach and NF Academy International Director Gonçalo Nunes
Portuguese coach and NF Academy International Director Gonçalo Nunes
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What mentality do you want the players to have?

– They must first of all look at any training as a learning opportunity. When I was the technical coach for Benfica’s U17 team a few years ago. I worked closely with the players’ individual skills. In that group, two players in particular excelled. They were both humble. They did everything to be able to learn something new every day. They remained after training, and used every opportunity to maximize training benefits. They asked questions about what they could do to get better, and worked on the details afterwards. Today, both have professional contracts in Benfica.

You mention Ronaldo. What do you think he has done right over the years?

In my eyes, Ronaldo is the ideal role model. He has developed throughout his career. He has sacrificed a lot, and he sacrifices a lot to this day to stay on top. After each match, he uses cryotherapy, so that recovery recovers as quickly as possible. All the way, he has been willing to go the extra mile.

I never trained Ronaldo myself, but I have worked with several in Sporting, who worked with him while he was there. They said they had to lock the gym at night. Ronaldo snuck in and lifted weights. He wanted to be strong, and be the best in everything. It is such dedication that is required to reach the top.

Is your main message that players must take responsibility for their own learning?

– They must take responsibility for their own learning, and they must be forward-leaning. It does not hold only with high goals. One must also have an inner “drive”. You have to set aside time and stay focused.

Cristiano Ronaldo on the Portuguese national team
Cristiano Ronaldo on the Portuguese national team

Key training principles

The football Ronaldo and other Portuguese young boys learn to play early on is based on some of the same offensive and defensive principles, on which NF Academy builds its training methodology.

Our training sessions are based on goals and principles rather than pre-selected exercises.

We give our coaches different goals from other programs, so they can build the entire training program based on the same goals. This means that even if a player participates in more than one gathering, the exercises will not be the same, even when the coach is the same.

The main goal is to improve the participants’ ability to read the game. To do that, we work from the principles of the game. Once they begin to understand the principles and make the right decisions in different situations, they will develop greatly as players, regardless of technical level:

– Step 1 – Offensive principle: Progression; Offensive coverage; Mobility; Room.

– Step 2 – Defensive principle: Delay of play: Defensive coverage; Balance; Compactness.

The third step is based on the individual player’s technique. This is also where our coaches give the most direct feedback and advice to the players about their performance:

– Step 3 – Competitive sessions to facilitate individual technical development: Dribbling / tackles, finishes, ball control, heading, goalkeeper positions, 1 on 1 situations and more.

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Strengths and weaknesses

Back to our Portuguese Academy Director Gonçalo Nunes.

Many players wonder what skills they should be working on. A player may be good technically, but lacks speed and air strength. What would you recommend to such players? Should they concentrate on cultivating what they are already good at or should they focus on improving what they are bad at?

Again, I want to highlight Christiano Ronaldo on making strengths even stronger. His finishing skills are outstanding. He had facilities for it already at a young age, but has never stopped working with it. You can see how his shooting technique has developed throughout his career. At the same time, you have to work on your weaknesses.

It is absolutely crucial to reach the top. In NF Academy, for example, we are concerned that players must learn to use both feet. It is not enough just to have a silky soft right foot. You will get into situations where you have to shoot with the left, or clear a ball with your bad foot.

How much time should a young football player train weekly in your eyes?

– If you want to be the best, you have to compare yourself with the best. My home country is Portugal, and I want to use my references from the top academies there. In Sporting and Benfica, young players between 12 and 16 years old train for an hour and a half, four to five times a week. In addition, they play matches on the weekends. In total, there will be a training amount of just under ten hours.

In addition, we recommend that they put in two hours of self-training, where they work with individual skills. 16-year-old players should also spend an additional two hours at the fitness center.

This is important not only because they need to get stronger, but also because they need to do injury prevention training. All in all, a player hoping to be the best should put in between 13 and 15 hours a week.

READ ALSO: NF Academy is coming to England

Speed ​​and strength are becoming increasingly important in international football, but weight training has traditionally been a bit controversial in football Norway. Many people think that you should wait to lift weights until you are 16. How do you approach this?

– In my opinion, it is not possible to set a date for when players will start training with weights. It really depends on the player’s maturity. What I want to say, however, is that it is important that the player is instructed. If you lift weights incorrectly, you can do more harm than good. It is important that you bring someone with you to the gym the first few times, which shows how the machines work. You can also train strength without weights. One thing is for sure, strength is part of the total package that a modern football player must have.

Many players have the right attitude. They are willing to train as much as they can, but they do not always have a good training offer. Maybe they only have the opportunity to train organized a couple of times a week. What are they going to do? How do they create a training routine that allows them to be as good as the best?

Of course, we recommend everyone to participate in NF Academy’s gatherings, which will give them good training. As well as an insight into how talent development is done in Portugal. Otherwise, self-training is a good thing. If you have the opportunity to bring some friends and play, it makes the training more competitive. You also get to push each other.

Young players in Scandinavia often lack a competitive mentality. It’s a real challenge. If five boys are on the training field together, they can compete to be the first to do tricks to 50. This is an example of good technical as well as mental training.

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What other tips would you give young Norwegian football players? Should they plan their own training in advance? Should they record their progress?

– Players who are part of a football academy, often have a training device around them, which helps them measure their progress. Whether it’s how fast they run or more technical skills. If you are not in an academy, it can definitely be a good idea to write a kind of exercise diary. This keeps an eye on your development. It can also be a good way to get more motivation. It is inspiring to see that you get better!

Are there any theoretical football books you would recommend young players to read?

I would recommend young players to study their role models. There are many good football biographies. Many of these give you good insight into what it takes to be the best. It’s a good place to start. At the same time, you can watch Youtube videos, concludes Academy Director Gonçalo Nunes.

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