Opening Doorz caught up with Rajat Yadav, a soccer buff to know more about him, his soccer and his Dr Romeo Jozak style of coaching.
By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | January 31, 2020
Dr. Romeo Jozak is a well-known name on the International Soccer stage. Most of the players who did duty at the World Cup Soccer in Russia, 2018, for Croatia have passed through his training technique and keen eye, when he was Academy Director at Dinamo Zagreb [Croatia’s Leading Football Academy] and later as Technical Director at the Croatian Football Federation.
Dr Jozak, a Ph.D in soccer from the University of Zagreb, splits though the overview to get to the root of playing soccer and that is what intrigued Rajat Yadav from Delhi into incorporating his style of coaching when he chanced upon his training DVD a few years ago.
A Biochemical Engineer from IIT Delhi, by profession, Rajat started coaching four years back when he joined Baichung Bhutia Football School as a beginner youth coach. “I grew up as an Arsenal fan and always pondered over the question, ‘what does a coach do differently from the other one that their team plays better and more attractive football. The key problem being how to reduce football from being a complex sport to something that is teachable in units’,” says Yadav when questioned upon his following of the Dr Jozak way of coaching.
“In search of answers I spent hours on web looking at different type of coaching course and methodologies. Dr. Jozak’s videos on YouTube at the NSCAA convention (the biggest soccer education event in the US which matches the fun, excitement, and learning opportunities to soccer coaches at all levels of soccer), particularly caught my attention. He focused on a very specific aspect of technique of receiving the ball which was logical and made sense. His ideas around stereotypes of co-operation (1-2, third man) were equally excellent. I was hooked and bought his DVDs and used and experimented those drills with my kids. His methods were effective—one good automatism drill was worth more than hours of lecture in creating movement stereotypes while attacking. To this day I find his DVDs one of the best resource for coaching technique,” reveals Yadav.
Opening Doorz caught up with the soccer buff to know more about him, his soccer and his Dr. Jozak way of thinking soccer.
With a rich background in education, how did you get interested in soccer coaching?
I had been a keen EPL follower since childhood and grew up during era of Arsenal Invincibles. Arsenal’s former manager Arsene Wenger has been a personal role model both personally and professionally. Inspired by him, I was very sure from college that I would pursue football coaching; it was a matter of managing timing and finances. I deliberately chose a career in stock markets [they remain open from 9:15-3:30pm] so that I could pursue coaching in the evening.
Did you play soccer in school/college/represent any club?
School didn’t have much soccer culture. I did play in college in several tournaments but never played professionally.
Since the four years you have started coaching, how different has your approach to the game been? Are you able to read the game better and plan strategies for your team that nullifies the opposition’s onslaught?
I think broadly now I’ve come to the understanding that a coach will have three things to take care of in a team:
- Individual player development
- Own game model
- Tactics: Individual game strategies (nullifying opposition)
Different coaches prioritize different things but the best ones master all three and understand fully how all three are linked.
You mentioned that you surfed the internet and came across Dr Romeo Jozak’s videos and since then have been his die-hard fan; what is it that struck you about his method of coaching?
I am from an engineering background and I like people who break down things into simpler parts. He made some statement which made a lot of sense to me, for e.g: a key thing I learnt from him was that a big part of football technique was turning your body which is facing towards your own goal towards the opponent goal. It sounds simple, but if you go and watch a youth match, over 50 per cent ball possession loss would be due to this simple technical mistake.
He made a statement in one of the videos: “If you can’t turn the first time you need to pass back, this should be a law.” It is extreme, but watch Pep’s Manchester City for half an hour and you realize they rarely violate this; it is the key to keeping possession.
Any other aspect of his coaching that has caught your eye which you have incorporated in your style?
His drills. His breakdown of technique into parts are logical and coachable! One thing I’ve learned is that it is very difficult to coach just by speaking; a lot of players learn just by doing. For example, everyone knows what a 1-2 is, but trying to coach a 1-2, is very, very hard. A simpler solution here is to create drills which mimic the movements which you want from your player and include all the details like which foot to use, where to move etc. All of this I was introduced to by Dr. Romeo Jozak through his DVDs which has been a great resource and which I still use.
Are you aware that most of the members of the squad who played the final in Russia at the World Cup against France (2018) were under Dr Jozak’s guidance as teenagers when he was Academy Director at Dinamo Zagreb?
Yes, I am aware of that fact. I read a lot about Dinamo Zagreb and Dr. Romeo Jozak’s work. With a small budget they have been one of the best talent producing academies in Europe.
Obviously, you have benefited a lot from his style of coaching without even meeting him. If you get a chance to meet him, what would your first words be to him?
Well, I’ll be selfish and ask him to hire me in his technical staff. I would also like to thank him wholeheartedly for taking time out from his schedules and sharing his knowledge in various forums, through his books and DVDs and conferences, which has enabled coaches like me to learn from his experience and wisdom and of course for giving the world the delight of watching Luka Modric.