Due to his experience and ability, Julio Velasco is considered one of the greatest masters of the sport. One of the best coaches in the history of national teams (in all disciplines), who has not only stood out for the performance of his teams, but also for his reflections and explanations. From volleyball he even made the leap to football, with managerial positions at Lazio and Inter and, on occasion, even as an adviser to Pep Guardiola, who has repeatedly highlighted how useful his meetings were for him.
Precise as a point guard to describe the learning process, determined as an opposite to attack those who only value the champion and despise second places and astute as a libero to defend the importance of game systems, the player from La Plata has contributed to developing the knowledge of professionals and the general public. Between interviews and talks, he has established himself as a scholar due to his ability to expose his ideas and unravel different aspects. Through phrases, the book Velasco’s word, written by the journalist Lucas Marinelli and edited by the publisher Libro Fútbolibro reviews Julio Velasco’s vision on eight central issues in sport through interviews and conferences that the coach gave during his career.
The concepts not only refer to volleyball, but also apply to non-sports aspects, especially in the part of leadership, learning and success. Regarding this last word, so mentioned in the world of sports, Velasco explained: “In sports, unlike other activities, it is not enough to do things well. It is not enough. If you go to a doctor, he heals you well and It’s very good, ready: it’s very good. It doesn’t matter that there are other better ones. That one is very good and everyone is happy with it. If one person likes one band and another likes another, it’s not that there is competition to see who is better. One likes this one and another likes both and buys the records of both, and everything is fine and both are good. In sports it is not like that. In sports there is one who wins and one who loses. The mechanism many times is that the one who lost is all wrong. But he came second. ‘Everything is wrong because he lost,’ they say. No. He is better than everyone except the one who won. And so the one who came out third, the one that came out fourth and the one that came out fifth. Everyone knows this idea of what sport is like, rationally, but it is not applied to the when judging. When judging, if you lose you are a loser. And everyone you beat? ‘Oh, no, no. Number one’. And, well, number one I couldn’t, the other played better than me. So everything I did is wrong because someone else did it a little better?”
The cover of the book “Palabra de Velasco”, the work of the journalist Lucas Marinelli and edited by “Libro Fútbol”. Photo: Soccer Book
And about what “laying eggs” is, he said: “When I arrived here, three years ago, San Lorenzo had won the championship and in a program they were interviewing the fans. ‘Why did San Lorenzo win?’, they asked. ‘Because we laid eggs”, they all answered. So, to the kids of the National Team I said: ‘I saw this. I ask them this question: have they not played soccer well?’. What does it mean to lay eggs in volleyball, in tennis or in a basketball free throw? What does it mean to have balls? In the basketball free throw it is that your hand does not tremble: make a tic and put it inside. That way, marking yes, you saw, you can put. In volleyball they take you out, you make tin (gesture of reception) and the tribune goes. ‘And lay more eggs!’ Sometimes it’s more complex than people think. I think there are a lot of people who say this, because I try to understand why they say it, because they think: ‘We don’t we have a lot We don’t have much, but if we lay eggs we win’. You have to have a lot. Because having a lot doesn’t mean having only Messi, (Sergio) Agüero and (Ángel) Di María: it means having a game, having a structure, having things clear, having a winning atmosphere”.
The summary of the eight chapters of Velasco’s word
1 – Leadership
In many ways, the quality of a coach’s leadership is an important part of their fitness for the role, given the many facets it influences in their work. Regardless of the driving style, being a good leader is the first point to achieve in order to earn the credibility of the group or the individual athlete (in individual disciplines). Because in order to capture his ideas and have them executed, the technical director must convince and seduce -initially-, guide and motivate and understand and accompany.
On the importance of the staff (to have specialists and be able to delegate), how fundamental specific knowledge is and how to promote it from the discourse, Velasco has knowledge that is more than guaranteed by his experience and his career. Throughout his career, he has also given keys to being successful in this area, such as what is the best way to lead a relationship with an athlete and its similarities with other daily relationships.
Chapter 2 – Group Management
One of the most important points of a coach’s work focuses on human relations. Beyond his practical knowledge of sport, on technical, tactical and methodological issues (the way to transmit his ideas and carry them out), he must also have the ability to create an adequate context to connect with the athlete and bring out his best version. In individual sports this is reduced to a link, while in collective sports it is necessary to attend to different personalities and strengthen the group without neglecting each person.
The aspects included in the concept of “group management” are diverse. From knowing how to get that extra potential to being able to separate personal stories, it also includes establishing rules of coexistence, how to treat the stars without conditioning coexistence and finding a way to approach each player, the famous phrase of “playing the right key” that Guardiola was so shocked in one of his talks with Velasco. With experience in managing all kinds of teams (of young players or older than him), the man from La Plata knows the secrets of this topic and reflects it in very interesting reflections.
Chapter 3 – Learning
There are few aspects as present in a coach’s career as learning. Whether it is its own, due to the desire to develop, or applied to athletes, so that they improve their performance, it is a concept that has gone through its entire trajectory without an expiration date. It is always possible to incorporate elements, add variants or find a new path to follow in search of polishing the work method. As if it were a craftsman, there are always technical, tactical or mental details (also physical, although this task is more carried out by a specialist from the coaching staff) to correct or adjust to perfect the abilities of the protagonists of the game.
In this constant search for growth to improve performance, the focus frequently points to the details in search of a nuance that, no matter how small, facilitates a leap in quality. Between his curiosity to acquire new tools, often from talks with colleagues, and his daily goal of improving the athlete through training, for which the diagnosis made is very relevant, this point occupies a great place in the technical director routine.
Episode 4 – Team Play
Unlike individual activities, such as tennis, athletics or swimming, for example, team sports are not only made up of individual performance, but also of the coordination and efforts of a group. Apart from seeking the development and the best version of each player, it is necessary for everyone to be on the same page to empower the group. From the definition of an idea to the transmission to its members and the staging, the construction of a group aims to unite the pieces under the same guidelines and behaviors.
Emphasizing the importance of functions and roles, rejecting the supposed opposition between a system and individualities, and defining what differentiates the good from the bad teams, Velasco has been in charge of clarifying several points about this process.
Chapter 5 – Success
Between strong opinions and others more flexible, few aspects of the sport generate opinions as extreme as the definition of what it is to be successful. What leads to enter the group of those who reach it? A title? Achieve initial goals? Does it affect performance? And the context? Does it just depend on the result? With a menu from which each person takes certain ingredients and elaborates the theory of it, Velasco has contributed various reflections on this subject.
Far from forceful sentences and ruthless criticism, the man from La Plata has added several interesting points to clarify the recipe for success.
Episode 6 – Mindset
Within the various edges that form sports, such as those of the activity (technique, tactics, etc.) and physical preparation, a very important one is mental. Although it may seem like a secondary issue or one with little connection to the others, it is a central part of each discipline, especially at a high level.
Its most obvious value is in competition: it is useful for maintaining focus; go through bad times; rely on one’s own abilities to enhance virtues and play with more ease, and perform under pressure or in decisive moments, among other things. Even so, its influence on the daily routine should not be underestimated: it motivates to improve; it serves to endure and go through difficult days; It allows you to have the discipline to make sacrifices and maintain habits, and it feeds the desire to grow and win, among other things.
All this, of course, if you have a good capacity, because otherwise it can represent a great obstacle when exploiting and expressing your talent. Because of this and other points, generally intangible (hence the difficulty of seeing them for the general public), the mental aspect is so highlighted by the protagonists of the different sports.
Chapter 7 – Method
Among all the concepts linked to sport that are difficult to define, this is one of the most used. Often used in an empty way or without fully understanding what exactly it refers to, answering what the method is has generated more than one headache. A specialist in simplifying terms and putting different ideas into words, Velasco has also taken care to break this aspect down.
Episode 8 – Being a Coach
Within the different ways of exercising this job (with a greater or lesser level of involvement in other areas of the club or the selected team, with a greater or lesser division of tasks within the coaching staff, with a greater focus on a certain aspect, etc. ), there are needs and tasks that are unalterable. For example, although the conviction of the group can be achieved more through knowledge of the sport or more through the construction of firm relationships and attention to personal-human details, it is a certainty that a fundamental step towards achieving the objectives is given by connect with the players (or the athlete, in the case of individual disciplines) to bring out the best version of themselves.
From locker room management to success -or failure-, through method, achieving outstanding performance and implanting the right mindset, being a coach covers a wide range of points. Beyond his reflections and statements on these areas, Velasco has also broken down other elements necessary to develop the role of technical director: describing the keys to this role, highlighting passion as an essential component, ratifying the relevance of specific wisdom and detailing other aspects (such as the differences between working in soccer and in other sports or the fundamental guidelines in practices), the man from La Plata has elaborated a general painting of what this figure represents.