‘A once in a lifetime kind of experience’: Cullman High coach spends week training in Spain

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Cullman High School Girls Soccer Coach Jacob Brown (left) with TOVO Academy Founder Todd Beane (right) in Spain last week. (Photo courtesy of Jacob Brown)

SITGES, SPAIN – However interesting you think your last week was, it probably wasn’t as interesting as Jacob Brown’s. The head coach of Cullman High School’s varsity girls soccer team spent the week learning his craft from some of the best in the world next to the Mediterranean Sea. Brown was one of just a few coaches who was able to make the trip overseas for the TOVO T1 Coaching Course in Sitges, Spain, near Barcelona.

Brown was excited when he found out he would be getting this kind of opportunity and it didn’t disappoint.

“You go through an application process and go over all of your qualifications, what you have in licenses, how long you’ve coached, what you coach and why you wanted to be there. They screen all the coaches and pick out who they want to be in the course and I couldn’t tell you exactly why I was chosen,” Brown joked. “I can tell you that I was very thankful for being chosen because it was definitely a tremendous experience, a once in a lifetime kind of experience, and I learned a lot.”

According to its website, TOVO Training is intelligent football (soccer) training designed to develop players of great cognition, competence and character. Unlike traditional training, TOVO is based upon sound pedagogical practices that encourage players to seek effective solutions with vision, precision and pace.

After experiencing the TOVO methodology up close and personal, the thing that stood out the most for Brown was the mental challenge that came with the training.

“The main emphasis is on cognitive ability. Everything they do, whether it’s a training session or whatever, is built around thinking and mental decisions. They don’t do a single exercise that is not mentally taxing or challenging,” Brown said. “We also had discussions about research on how kids learn and what are the most effective ways for kids to learn. The methodology itself is very simple and about making sure you don’t do anything that isn’t cognitively challenging.”

Brown has already been following this training model for a few years but getting the hands-on experience overseas showed him even more that he can bring home and apply to the Lady Bearcats program.

“This is the methodology that I’ve really been following the last three years, so we’ve already had a lot success going into it; however, being able to go hear it first hand was a wealth of knowledge that I didn’t already have,” Brown said. “So, I will adjust my practices, but one of the new things we’ll be implementing is what we learned from their movement expert. He teaches things like mobility, stability and running technique so if we can incorporate that into our practices, theoretically it will reduce the number of injuries that we have and keep everybody healthier for the longevity of the season. That’s definitely some knowledge I did not have before and this was the top guy in Holland. He’s actually worked with several professional coaches, so it was nice to get first-hand knowledge from him.”

Brown had a lot of memorable experiences outside of the classroom and off the practice field as well, like making the short trip over to Barcelona to watch some of the best in the world compete at the FC Barcelona La Masia Youth Academy.

“That’s where some of the greatest players in the world have come through and we got to watch a U18 and U19 game. So, those are the kids getting ready to potentially be promoted to the first team,” Brown said. “It’s literally the number one youth academy in the world and everything is top notch so that was an incredible experience to be able to witness that.”

Other than the coaching knowledge that he was given first-hand, the thing that Brown will remember most about the trip is the setting. His time in Spain gave him some more perspective on the world in general as well as the game.

“Being by the Mediterranean was definitely an experience. What we actually did every morning was we went on a 30-minute walk right along the Mediterranean from where we were staying to the field, so literally every day we’re walking along the sea and obviously that’s not a view that you get here. It gives you a little bit of a different perspective of the world I guess,” Brown said. “One of the things they did before each session was, we would all line up in a circle, close our eyes and take a couple deep breaths just to take in the fact that you’re training by the Mediterranean Sea and you should be thankful for what you have. It’s a lot to take in and definitely reminds me that I have a lot to be thankful for.”

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