As you all know, I have been talking about turf fields in this county ad nauseam for as long as I can remember, even before I began writing this column 13 years ago.
I have spent countless hours researching and writing about the community benefits that a complex complete with turf fields or outfitting local high schools with turf fields would bring to Carroll County. One of the benefits of playing on turf is that you get your games in. One of the drawbacks to playing on turf fields is that you get your games in.
With the crazy Maryland weather that we are once again having to endure this spring, there have been several games so far that I’ve had to stand in driving rain and/or gale force winds to coach one or both of my Celtic teams.
I wake up in the morning hearing that all of the county’s field have been shut down due to the inability to play their games due to all that rain, then drive to a far off turf field in another county and end my day wringing out my shirts and dumping water from my shoes, despite wearing a set of rain gear.
But at least we got our games in, right?
One of the complexes we played in last weekend was in Leesburg, Virginia, home of the Barca Academy teams.
I wish I could describe in great details the acres upon acres of synthetic turf fields, the stadium complex that would make many county facilities blush, the future plans to add apartment buildings for the residential players, and even their clubhouse complete with a barbecue joint, gift shop and tables where you can eat or relax between games, but even someone so fascinated with turf field walked away from that game with something way more important to the success of youth sports programs.
Desinvitado. No invitado.
That was the phrase of the day and the results of which will stick in my memory for years to come. Since we only had 11 players that day and no bench for the coaches to sit on, I grabbed the attention of a Barca representative to ask him some questions about the complex.
It turns out, he used to be the coach of the Leesburg United team that my Wolfpack team used to play against many years ago.
After discussing the fields with him, I had one more question. As we stood there talking about all things soccer, I asked my new friend what was their magic potion for the behavior that I was experiencing that I had never witnessed before. You see, in this incredible complex with approximately 8-9 games going on simultaneously at every age group, all you could hear throughout the entire complex was the sound of the referee whistle and an occasional, but rare, coaching from the sidelines.
That’s when he explained to me the concept brought over from the Spanish mainland where Barcelona’s main training complex resides, the one he called Desinvitado. The English translation to that is basically to be dis- or uninvited.
They have a club wide policy that runs from the little soccer stars we saw at the Leesburg complex to their Developmental Academy teams in Leesburg, New York City, and Arizona, and all the way back to the training grounds where Lionel Messi and company hone their amazing skills each day.
What it means is that everyone that joins the club is told about the policy as they accept an offer to join a Barca team, you get only one official warning to change your behavior, and then any second act by the player, his parent, or even a coach and their entire family will be desinvitado from the club.
So, even if your 16-year-old son has a bad attitude and your 8-year-old daughter is a perfect angel, she too, along with everyone that may be affiliated with the club will no longer be allowed to participate as a Barca member.
The coach told me that even he, after posting a 6-0 record with his team to start the season, was removed from his responsibilities as a coach because he was too emotional and motivational to fit in to their style of play.
Talk about trying to teach an old dog new tricks, they could care less about his success on the field but were very protective of their club’s worldwide culture. I guess he too was desinvitado, although in his case, they kept his kid in the goal.
I can’t even begin to describe to you the setting where not one peep was heard from any parent or spectator throughout the complex, no players complained to the refs and all coaching/player relationships were treated with the utmost respect for the person, not just the position.
We all could learn a little something from the Barca culture.
Author Chaim Potak, in his book “The Chosen,” wrote “I've begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”
Maybe it’s time some of us just shut up and listened on the sidelines of a youth sporting event.