After having played for Villarreal and Slavia Praga, Xavi Cano signed for DC United. “I’m absorbing the best of each team in order to create my own philosophy.”

“I never try to impose a set style of play, on the contrary, I try to get the best out of each player and from there, together, find the style or approach to the game that most benefits us as a team.” This is the mindset that has allowed Xavi Cano to skip over the Atlantic and sign for DC United. At 35 years of age, Utiel‘s coach is far from slowing down in his process of accumulating experience on pitch-side benches across the globe. Each one coming hand in hand with more demanding challenges than the last.

Question.- How did you start training?

Answer.- I started at the age of 17 at the Utiel school. In January of 2011, coinciding with my time as a student at INEFC [National Institute of Physical Education of Catalonia], I did an internship at RCD Espanyol B and then debuted my career at Marcet, first as an assistant for the U-12s and later leading a team of U-10s. That experience paid off with a call from Villarreal, when I’d call home until July 2017. There I started developing physical trainer tasks and ended up as the head coach for the U-14s and U-16s categories.

Q.- And then?

A.- In July of 2017 I decided to break out of my comfort zone and lead Slavia Praga‘s U-21s. After a season in the Czech Republic, this summer I was contacted by DC United and went through with the signing to train the U-16s, direct Academy’s methodology and be assistant coach of the main team.

“Competing is fundamental, but the first goal in grassroots football shouldn’t be winning”

Q.- So we’re talking about using top of the range equipment…

R.- The Slavia of Prague is a historical team and one of the best in its country, where it’s won 17 titles. DC United is much younger, created in 1995. But it’s one of the most successful clubs in the American scene, with 13 official titles. It’s also won the CONCACAF Champions Cup and the Inter-American Cup, being the only team in US history that has won an international cup. To this day, they’re in a process of reconstruction and have consequently signed Wayne Rooney.

Q.- What do you like about football in America?

R.- I am excited to work in the USA. I like the way of understanding sports as entertainment; as a show. There, football is in full flow concerning its development. They have tremendous potential and are hungry for progress, but they need to take time to observe and learn from the sporting culture that we have in Europe, maturity in terms of football’s tactical aspects.

Q.- You are already a specialist in terms of training and managing. Has training younger athletes been a choice or happened by chance?

R.- It’s true that those of us who haven’t been top-tier players find it more difficult to develop as coaches faster and more directly. But I think that all technicians should go through younger categories so as not to lose the true essence of the sport. I’ve had the privilege of being able to train large teams and enjoy many athletes’ journies on their way to the elite. It’s a process that I like to call ‘cocido’ [a traditional chickpea-based stew from Spain]: the journey cooks slowly, but it’s very enriching. Being able to get to know different clubs, cultures and countries is allowing me to take in the best of everything and add it to my own recipe of idea on how to do my job.

Xavi Cano en su etapa como entrenador en la cantera del Villarreal CF.
Xavi Cano as a Villarreal CF trainer.

Q.- And what ingredients does your ‘cocido’ have at the moment?

R. – For me, the key is that the players have to learn to choose for themselves, without fear of being wrong. You have to talk to them, ask them what they’re feeling. There’s no doubt that this is not a quick process. It requires a lot of effort and dedication, many hours spent watching videos, analyzing practice sessions and, above all, knowing each and every member of your staff. Grassroots categories are fundamental. I believe that coaches have to provide players with as many experiences as possible so that when they reach professional environments or are getting close to that goal, they have a very broad ‘database’ and can make decisions quicker and better. Competing is fundamental, but the first goal in grassroots football shouldn’t be winning, but accumulating experiences to then have more resources to deal with the difficulties that may arise in their future sporting career.

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