José Mourinho began his football management career as an interpreter and translator for Sir Bobby Robson in Portugal (Sporting Clube and Porto) and Spain (FC Barcelona).

03 March 2015

Thesis Review: "Aspects Related to the Management of a Team of Very Young Players" by Mark Iuliano

Photo credit: Old School Panini.



"Aspects Related to the Management of a Team of Very Young Players"
by Mark Iuliano

Italian managers present a thesis to their colleagues and teachers at the Italian Federation (FIGC) site in Coverciano, Italy. This discussion finalizes a three-part training process that currently lasts over nine months according to the FIGC.

Mark Iuliano, the current manager of U.SLatina Calcio in the Italian Serie B, presented his research during the 2012/2013 "Corso Master" (Master's Course.) Hernan Crespo (his thesis on internationalization and globalization was excerpted here) was also in his coaching class as were many of Iuliano's former Azzurri/club teammates: Fabio Cannavaro, Fabio Grosso, Pippo Inzaghi, Marco Materazzi, Massimo Oddo and Gianluca Zambrotta, respectively. You may click the link above to download a PDF file to view the original in Italian.

Prior to his current position, Mister Iuliano managed the Primavera (reserve team) at Latina and before that, the Allievi Nazionale (U-15) at Pavia. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport on 9 October 2013, Iuliano was suspended for six months due to a post-match confrontation with a match official while at Pavia. He accused the referee of racially abusing one of his players during a match versus Novara. Iuliano allegedly made serious verbal threats prompting his suspension and a 250 euro fine by the Italian Sporting Justice commission.

Career Highlights for a Highly-Decorated Player

Iuliano, a defender, was born in Cosenza and began his footballing journey with Salernitana. He also had spells with Bologna and Monza, respectively, before his career-changing transfer to Juventus FC in 1996. His trophy haul at the Old Lady was impressive:
  • Four Serie A Scudetti
  • Three Italian Super Cups
  • One Intercontinental Cup (Club World Cup)
  • One Intertoto Cup
  • One UEFA Super Cup
After a stellar decade with Juventus, Iuliano had a spell with Mallorca (La Liga) before returning to Italy to finish his playing career at Sampdoria, Messina, Ravenna (where he had to serve a two-year ban for doping) and San Genesio Calcio, respectively.

Mark was capped 19 times for the Azzurri scoring one goal according to the Italian Federation. He was a member of the Euro 2000 team (he started in the European Cup final v. France) and 2002 World Cup side for Italy.

Let's take a look at what Mister Iuliano had to say in an intriguing and informative analysis about a unique topic: Youth Coaching by a former decorated professional.

Discussion Items
  1. Thesis Overview
  2. Writing and Presentation Style
  3. Understanding Cultural Sensitivity in a Multicultural Italy.
  4. Diagrams
  5. Notable Quotes by Mark Iuliano
  6. My Ratings
  7. Link to the Italian source document.

His famous encounter with Ronaldo in April 1998.
The penalty kick that was not given: Juventus 1 - Inter 0.

1. Thesis Overview

There is an index that outlined six sections:
  • Introduction
  • Expectations
  • My team
  1. First impact
  2. Annual objectives for the Giovanissimi category.
  3. "Their world" (He also discussed in a concise fashion, Osgood-Schlatter Syndrome that mainly afflicts 11 to 15 year-olds, in this section.)
  4. The parents
  5. Listening and Confronting
  6. Communication
  • Work on the Pitch
  1. Athletic work
  2. Technical-tactical work
  3. An example of a weekly microcycle.
  4. Legend

  • Training Ground Exercises
  1. Coordination exercises
  2. Technical-coordinating exercises
  3. Technical exercises
  4. Situations of play
  5. Theme-based training games.
  6. Athletic exercises

  • Conclusion

2. Writing and Presentation Style

Photo credit:

The length of his thesis was 33 pages (making it one of the longer ones I have reviewed with the exception of Filippo Inzaghi's.) The author provided a comprehensive look at youth training through the admittedly naive eyes of a new coach. Iuliano's approach is hands-on, logical and he demonstrates keen observational abilities about young players and their parents. He believes in open communication at all levels. He also takes the time to understand young players from their nascent life perspectives/maturity levels and not merely from his own adult ones.
Although this was a serious-minded topic for a professional coaching audience, Iuliano used a very personal tone and correspondingly, an engaging writing style. At times, it seemed as if he were making personal blog entries or speaking notes into a tape recorder. For example, "I understood in daily life between family, school, friendships and dating that took place, their disposition to come on the pitch with the desire to learn and mature could change. Or, to the contrary, come with very little desire to train, feeling this was a burden, and distancing themselves from what is 'the most beautiful game in the world.' " (Page 6)Iuliano's thesis, in my opinion, has a cross-over effect to other sports. He made a deep study into the adolescent mind and body that would be helpful for many youth coaches in other disciplines. Iuliano also understood an important concept: "To make yourself understood better, you need to approach them as much as possible in their own language." (Page 10)

3. Understanding Diversity Issues of a Multicultural Italy
File:Mario Balotelli Euro 2012 vs England 02.JPG
Mario Balotelli in action with the Azzurri
on 25 June 2012 at Euro 2012 vs. England.
Photo credit: Кирилл Крыжановский

I was impressed how Iuliano addressed cultural sensitivity issues found in a multicultural Italy from a youth coaching perspective. I was pleased to see such sensitive, yet realistic issues, addressed in a mature, common-sense fashion. Given his suspension to protect a player from what he thought was racist abuse, Iuliano clearly has strong feelings about this topic.Here were two examples found on page 6:"After two days of work, a young Egyptian boy approached and told me he felt like fainting. I thought it was normal with more than 30 degrees Celsius during a summer session. I brought him a water bottle, but he refused it explaining that he couldn't drink during the day because it was the period of Holy Ramadan.""A boy of Cambodian nationality, who was adopted by an Italian family, couldn't train for three months because his father preferred to go to a bar with his friends instead of bringing him to practice sessions."

4. Diagrams

A short interview with Iuliano on the RAI show, "Dribbling."
There were a few video clips from his playing career.

Iuliano was very clear in his use of graphics. Beginning with over-sized colorful images in his Legend (which I found personally helpful compared to some coaches who use minuscule ones), he made his schematic diagrams larger than usual. They were also simplistic yet detailed at the same time. His text in most places for training ground exercises was equally concise:
"Only skip with your right foot... Row C, hop with your legs together up to the circle... Yellow cones: Tight or long slaloms... After five touches, leave the ball and position behind Player A..."
He also listed an objective for each drill: "Transmission of the ball. Orientated control. Shots on Goal." 
His images were more like PowerPoint slides than schematic drawings. Iuliano believes that young players need simple exercises especially at the beginning of a competitive season.

5. Notable Quotes by Mark Iuliano

1. From his introduction:

Deciding the topic to discuss for my Master's Course thesis was a spontaneous choice by me. And perhaps the easiest and most sensible one that I could have made. After so many months that have gone by to learn, work out, discuss and personalize numerous principles of tactics, technique, training methods, medicine, psychology and communication, my thoughts often turned to the boys, who are now 15-year-olds. And how could all of this "data" from me be metabolized to help them?

Of fundamental importance was to understand how I could simplify everything and transmit it to them. Either on the field of play, or in their heads through communication, being able to simplify so many conclusions. Often, those which were very technical and complex.

To manage a team of "Giovanissimi," (14-15 years-of-age) from a small club in Lega Pro (Italian Third Division) has been on one hand a very enthusiastic experience. But on the another hand, one that was difficult and with an enormous complexity.

The topic of this thesis is about the analysis of types of problems found, and the presentation of solutions adopted, to reach predetermined objectives by me and my staff during the season.

2. On parents:

From my scant experience as a coach, but also from a personal perspective, I've noticed that parents in the majority of cases look to experience a second life or to have a second chance of success through their children. To have back that which they had to renounce due to working realities or for those due to "lack of technical capacities." (Page 8)

Translator's Note:

Iuliano also wrote that he preferred his young players to communicate directly with him instead of via their parents (to call/text him if they were sick, couldn't train, etc.) He didn't like significant interference from parents although believed it was important to discuss his expectations with them. That perspective reminded me of a sign at some Italian youth training grounds, "Parents are not allowed beyond this point."

3. From his conclusion:

This enormous undertaking can't be considered the basis for future experiences. Many coaches think that working in a youth sector only serves as trampoline to gain experience and end up at senior sides.

My thought is that the best and most prepared coaches should train young people. Because you run the risk, and it has happened in many cases, to do physical and psychological harm to young boys at such a susceptible age.

Young footballers shouldn't be used as pieces to "arrive", but you should be the manager for these players.

The manager also should be the one who transmits educational qualities such as:
  • Respect for the rules
  • Respect for opponents and teammates
  • Develop attention
  • Consider yourself helpful
  • Give the best of yourself
  • Never feel that you have arrived
  • Know how to accept your own limits and those of your teammates
  • Understand the importance of humility and generosity
On a personal level, I feel that I have achieved many of the objectives that surely I considered unattainable at the beginning of the season. I can compare the season that just ended with a "leap into the darkness." Where I wanted to put into play on a humane level, as much as a "professional" one, only considering this was the first step in my "second life" in the world of football.

From the footballing side, together with my staff and team, I feel that we've attained excellent results competitively as well as technically. But it is from the humane side that the greatest emotions and gratifications have come from. The result on the pitch never was our "fixed nail on the wall." This came gradually and in a growing manner at the same level with improvement of the group's physical and mental condition (team and coaching staff). And the last few days that went by, all of us were very sad. It was comparable to the end of an unforgettable holiday.

The last point that I would like to make, and perhaps it is the most important, is that "short-cuts" don't exist. No victory is "random" apart from weekly match results. Work, engagement, self-sacrifice, study, knowledge and a little bit of luck are fundamental components that make the difference.

--- Mark Iuliano

6. My Ratings

Photo credit:
Coaching education: 9/10
Editorial organization: 7/10
Graphics: 10/10
Writing style: 8/10
Overall: 8.5/10 = Four and one-half Stars.

7. Italian source document courtesy of Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC)

Scuola allenatori - Tesi



Tesi finale del corso Master 2012/2013 per allenatori di Prima categoria Uefa ProAutore/i: Mark Iuliano

Related Coaching Thesis Articles

Translated excerpts from FIGC (Italian Federation) Master's Course Coaching Theses. 
Image credit: FIGC.

Please click the image to visit my page dedicated to the works of 15 other FIGC UEFA Pro coaching thesis documents.

Soccer Translator

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and The Soccer Translator since 2008. You can follow Steve @worldfootballcm on Twitter.

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