European soccer style hits home at Luchessi

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PETALUMA – If you’ve happened to venture past Luchessi Park this past week you may have noticed an increased level of soccer intensity.

That’s because of a decidedly European influence. And that’s because Pepijn Lijnders, 23, and Jefta Bresser, 35, are leading a series of camps for Sonoma County Alliance players and bringing with them more than a little Dutch influence to the game. Pepijn is a technical skill coach for the PSV Youth Academy in Holland while Jefta is a trainer/coach for U11s in the PSV Youth Academy.

Both players competed in the highest levels of soccer in The Netherlands, and both ultimately had to retire from competitive level soccer because of knee injuries. But that hasn’t curtailed their love of the game nor has it kept them from passing their knowledge of soccer on to youth in other parts of the world.

Following is a Question & Answer with Pepijn.

Camps continue through the middle of next week.

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PD: When did you start playing soccer and where?

PL: I played in third division from my 15th birthday. I started at PSV Endhoven when I was 18 and practiced there and coached for two years. I had to stop when I was 20 because of some knee problems.

PD: Do you still play competitively and if so at what level?

PL: No

PD: How did you get into coaching and do you find it as challenging as playing?

PL: If you see the development after every practice on personality, explosive and technical skills, its very satisfying.

PD: I think you said this was your second trip to Sonoma County. Has the talent level risen any from your first look at it to now?

PL: This is my third time coming over here. I developed, together with Frans Hoek, a complete practical vision to develop soccer players and complete soccer teams to their own highest level. We are working with a few clubs – Sonoma County Alliance, Sac United, Bay Oaks and Samba (L.A.). The level has gotten a lot better in two years. The clubs are working together with us to develop a vision on coaching.

PD: Soccer skills of kids here – what has surprised you, if anything, in a positive way? What are they better at than you thought they might be?

PL: The difference in the two years that we have been coming here is gigantic. How they play now and how the coaches at SCA develop the vision on technical skills is incredible. They are open to learn, they want the best for the players, thats why they bring us over to give their players and coaches quality technical coaching.

PD: And likewise, what is the biggest area for improvement with these players?

PL: If you see how the best players in the biggest leagues in Europe play and how they make a difference in the games. It is all about their technical skills and how they can beat their opponent and dominate in all the 1v1 situations., basic skills are in the ages 8-12. So when we give the practices in these ages its all about the technique!!!: 1-1 Zidane; 1-1 Kaka; 1-1 Ronaldinho; 1-1 Beckham; 1-1 Robben.

Every practice they will touch the ball 1,000 times, they will come out of the difficult situations 1,000 times, they will beat their opponent also many times.

In every exercise there are three objectives: Personalty; explosion with the ball; technical skills. They have to understand that they have to be their own coach, they have to develop themselves with the moves and series of moves they learned in the camps and they have to become independent so they can make their own choices in the heat of the game, without the coach telling them what to do!

PD: How do you compare U.S. soccer, at least from Northern California, to soccer in Holland?

PL: There are so many youth players over here, so thats the first big difference. The other difference is that players in Holland look every day on TV at soccer and see their idols play. So, its logical that they have a more realistic and visible goal in soccer. Its a complete culture and the No. 1 sport also for adults and youngsters. Its important for the U.S. to create something for their best players in age groups from 8-18 years old so they can play with the best and have a professional education to become a top player!

PD: How far away are we from ever seeing the U.S. in a World Cup Final Four?

PL: That depends if you make academics where the best players will play together and have every day practical quality coaching. Combine school practices and tournaments in Europe to play against the best age groups from Spain, England, Holland and then you create players who will make a difference in the World Cup. We think it could happen for the U.S. So you have the biggest pool to fish for from your players. Right now not one player from the United States is playing in the Champions League. So there are no players at the Champions League level- there is something going wrong somewhere, right?

PD: In the U.S. baseball, football and basketball in a way share all the good athletes. Is it that way in Europe, are there any other sports that siphon players away from soccer?

PL: No.

PD: Do you think U.S. sports fans in general really understand the passion for soccer elsewhere in the world?

PL: No, they can’t experience the culture of watching a stadium with 50,000 fans screaming for their idols.

PD: After watching the kids play here, what is the one thing the U.S. needs to do to improve the level of soccer in this country?

PL: Make every state have one or two academies where the best players play with the best and where the best U.S. soccer coaches can do their work. Keep bringing the best coaches from all over the world to educate the coaches! The United States needs to structure their entire soccer organization to be cohesive so they can work together and learn from one another.

PD: Who is better, Arjen Robben or Ruud van Nistelrooy and are they the two top players ever from Holland or is there someone else?

PL: Robben is another type of player, I like them both! Van Persie is playing at Arsenal is also a very young talented player from the Dutch education. Cruyff van Basten and Bergkamp were the best alltime in Holland!!

PD: Do you own a pair of wooden shoes?

PL: Is this a question from one of the Ziemer brothers??!!!

PD: How does the training in Holland differ from elsewhere in Europe? If there is a country that uses comparable training techniques to those of Holland?

PL: We think the difference is in the culture of playing soccer. The people demand different things in different countries. France has a good youth education.

PD: Who do you think is the best U.S. soccer player?

PL: Of course. Demarcus Beasley, but also Brian McBride, who plays on Fullham, I like.

What age group of kids do you enjoy coaching the most and why?

PL: The kids can develop technical the most until they are 13, so thats the most important age! Also I like to work with the U17, U19 and U21 because they are close or already professional. That makes my work at PSV so great because I develop the longterm and I work with players who are almost at the top and make the difference in the games with it.

PD: Can any of the Ziemer brothers beat you 1v1?

PL: Possibly 2v1 they might have a chance!!!!