A great interview with the NSW Thunder coach by Mark Seeto
Mark Seeto has sent through an excellent interview he did recently with the NSW Thunder Coach Jamie Amendolia. Football NSW have published a sanitised version on their website (available here), but we are pleased to present the full version for your viewing below.
Thanks go to both Mark Seeto and Jamie Amendolia for making this available for publication.
Interview with Jamie Amendolia
Question: At what age were you introduced to Futsal?
Jamie: I was introduced to futsal when I was 12 years old, playing in a competition at Fairfield Leisure Centre. At the time the NSW State League was played there where crowds of up to 600-700 people would come and watch.
Question: Did you sustain any serious injuries playing futsal?
Jamie: I was very fortunate to not sustain any serious injuries until I was 27. It was then that I had to have two knee reconstructions in consecutive years. The second operation was a result from playing futsal. I think the wear and tear finally caught up with me.
Question: What was your first coaching experience?
Jamie: I started coaching football when I was 12, at Enfield Rovers where I took a team through from the age of 6 until they were 12. My first futsal experience was with the NSW Schools teams, when I was 20 years old.
Question: How did you end up coaching at Sydney Magic? Where else, if anywhere, have you coached?
Jamie: I went to watch a few Sydney Magic games the year before I started there. I felt the team had so much skill and potential, but were naïve when it came to the tactical side of the game. It gave me itchy feet to start coaching again, and when the club asked me if I would coach I accepted the challenge. It has been a great experience and we have enjoyed success with a great bunch of players.
Question: Did you have a role model growing up?
Jamie: I wouldn’t say I had any specific role model growing up. I think a lot of different people influenced who I am today. However I would say that when it comes to football my father has been heavily involved all his life, and this has rubbed off on me.
Question: Did you have a Futsal mentor?
Jamie: Again, I had many coaches over the years, people such as Con Tsokos, Erkin Osman, Ex Australian coach and Brazilian Delamore. However if I had to mention one coach I would have to say a Brazilian called Farinha. I spent four weeks with him in brazil in 1995 and his knowledge of the game was second to none. He still remains a good friend and is currently coaching the Chinese national team who just qualified for their first ever world cup.
Question: Growing up, was there an athlete that you admired and wanted to be like?
Jamie: There were many athletes from different sports who I admired. I enjoyed watching football players like Platini, Zidane, Maradona and Ian Rush. I am a Parramatta supporter and always loved watching Peter Sterling when I was young. The other would have to be Michael Jordan, who had the ability to carry a team on his shoulders and win games with his individual brilliance. When it came to futsal, there was a player by the name of Vince Nastevski who played for the White Eagles. His composure on the ball was exceptional, and his ability to cut in and out of defenders was a joy to watch.
Question: What are your interests outside of Futsal?
Jamie: Dining out, spending day after day at the beach, and relaxing with my wife. I also love music and have an interest in learning to play the saxophone.
Question: What is your favorite Futsal team?
Jamie: The Brazilian team of the 90′s.
Question: How have players changed in the years since you first began playing and how have coaches changed in that time?
Jamie: The dynamics of futsal have changed so much and with this has come change in the coaches and players. The first difference I have seen is the age of players at the senior level. When I first started playing at senior level I was surrounded by men who were in there late 20′s and early 30′s. It is very rare to see players at that age still playing at the higher levels. Looking at the State League this year I would have to say that the average age would be much younger than this.
In this generation I find a lot of players can have problems on the court when they are put into tight positions that require their own thinking. I found that players of past generations were more effective in the last third of the court. However, putting that into perspective we should understand that these facets of the game come with age and experience. I must say though, the speed of the game today is much faster that than of the past. I would also say that there are a larger amount of players that are educated on the tactics of the game as it is being played overseas. There is more emphasis placed on systems, both in attack and defence. In my playing days, there were only a handful of players who were exposed to this type of futsal education.
I feel coaches have also evolved over the years. It is great to see a lot of players from my days and before me now getting back into the sport. People like Brett Hewitt, Adam Confoy, Steve Knight, Erkin Osman and Brett Divall a just a few that come to mind. These guys are incorporating everything they experienced as players with what they are seeing happening in the game today. This combination is great for the sport. There is also a new generation of coaches coming through our sport, coaches who have a real passion for the game and are bringing fresh and new ideas. I feel that today, as with the players, coaches education about the game is being spread to a much larger audience. This can only mean a better standing for our game in the future.
Question: Who was the best Futsal player you ever played against?
Jamie: Manuel Tobias
Question: Do you have any interest in coaching at a higher level, say as Australian Coach?
Jamie: Yes, without doubt I would love to achieve the same level as a coach that I did as a player.
Question: What are the challenges coaching the NSW Thunder team?
Jamie: There are many challenges coaching the NSW Thunder team. The final selection of the team shows that there are many players who will be playing in their first international tournament in Iran. It is important that we try to prepare these players as best we can so that their transition to this new level of playing is made easier. It has also been a challenge to incorporate different systems. Our players have previously come from different teams that usually only play one system.
It has also been hard for the players who have had to commit to both our program and their commitments with the outdoor game. The types of training are so different in so many aspects. I feel that the futsal training has been great for them with their outdoor. However I don’t think outdoor has done us any favours. In saying that we have to appreciate that this is the way it works in this country and we just have to deal with it. I think the other major challenge for us is the lack of games at a high intensity which can mirror what we will be up against in Iran. Despite these things, we must continue to work hard and stay focused on the task that awaits us.
Question: How important is hard work and repetition in your training?
Jamie: It is only very rare in sport that we see players succeed without hard work. If I had to say one word that I felt was the most important when it comes to our future in this sport I would say repetition. As coaches we get very frustrated when we see things we work on at training not happen when the players are put into a game situation. However when you look back and evaluate it, you need to be realistic when you look at how much time we spend training specific parts of the game. Sometimes we are fooled into comparing ourselves with teams from overseas, teams that train 8-10 times a week. It is these teams who have the luxury of being able to be repetitive at training due to the high amount of sessions they have. In limited time it can sometimes be difficult to replicate the same type of game we compare ourselves with.
Question: What quality or qualities do you look for in your players?
Jamie: There are many qualities. Commitment to everything they do at training is a must. I don’t want the players to ever look back and say they should have tried harder. Attention to detail is so important, especially when they are limited to how much they can train. It is also important that players be able to play to a structure but then have the confidence to express themselves when the time is right. You can’t help but appreciate when you see a player who has footballing brain, who can learn and understand things that are put in front of him. Lastly instinct, a rare quality. The ability to know when and where to be at all times on the court.
Question: would you prefer a player with more individual skill and flair, or a player who worked harder at set pieces and positioning?
Jamie: I would love to have a player who has individual skill and flair, and is prepared to learn everything else about the game and not just expect that skill and flair will get them through. I also appreciate players who lack skill and flair but work hard at other aspects of the game. As with all team dynamics in any sport, you cannot go without one or the other in your team. I feel a successful team is one that has a combination of both.
Question: What quality or qualities do you want your players to take from you?
Jamie: Most important would be passion. We are involved in this sport for love, not for money. The other would be to have confidence in your ability, to back your judgement and live and learn from your experience.
Question: Do you have a favorite formation that you like to use? If so, why?
Jamie: In todays game I don’t think we can be afforded the luxury of having a favourite formation. It is important that at the level we will have to compete against in Iran, the players will need to be able to adapt to many different formations whether that be in defence or attack.
Question: There appears to be a “I hate Jamie fan club” out there. Why do you think that is?
Jamie: I don’t feel that this is the time or space to answer a question like that. I also dont think that answering a question like that will do anything to increase the professionalism we are trying to achieve in the sport. I will say this though, everyone has the right to an opinion and a right to express that in any form of communication they want to. It is only human nature that people will like and dislike others. Sport has and always will bring out opinions and emotions in individuals who are passionate about it.
Question: Does it bother you?
Jamie: No it doesn’t bother me at all. I have a job to do and am very focused on trying to do that. My only bother would come if these people started to criticize the players that have worked so hard in trying to achieve success in Iran.
Question: Your detractors say that you have lousy person management skills. Do you think you should be more diplomatic to your players or do you think this is a strength of yours?
Jamie: I will leave that for those people to decide.
Question: Would you call yourself a dictator?
Jamie: Not at all. I have strong goals and expectations for this team, and expect them to be as professional as is possible. As I said before, we don’t have the luxury of training professionally. Therefore when we are at training it is important that we are all on the same track and we are committed 100% to what we are trying to achieve.
Question: Do you think Vikings have done more good or damage to Futsal in Australia?
Jamie: Only time will tell. I will leave the politics of the sport to the people who work in the offices, and remained focused on my position as coach of the NSW Thunder team.
Question: What do you think Futsal in Australia will look like in the future?
Jamie: This is very hard to say at the moment. As we would all be aware the FFA Review will hopefully be released soon. I think after this we will be able to map out a path for the sport with the findings that they have concluded. It would be fantastic to see the sport grow and expand all over Australia in the years to come, so that we can truly say we have a national sport in our hands. It is inevitable that for the sport to reach the next level, we need to have a National League. However I think that this will need to be supported with the right infrastructure. By this I mean strong support for futsal at the grassroots level as the FFA are now doing with football. This also needs to include programs for players aged 16-20 so that they are ready to step up to senior level when the time arises.
If there was one thing I would love to see happen in the sport more than anything else, it would be the introduction of futsal into the Institute of Sport Program. We also need to become better educated as players and coaches in the specifics of futsal, and this will need to come from people overseas. If we are able to look at long term goals for the sport and not just worry about the present, it will allow us as a sport to lay a strong foundation for the future.
Question: Onto Iran, how do you feel the team is shaping with only a week to go before you leave?
Jamie: I am very happy with the way the players have committed themselves to the program. They have done everything asked of them and week by week our intensity at training is progressing.
Question: Have you been able find out any information about the teams you will be playing against?
Jamie: It has been hard but we have slowly put pieces of information together. Wuhan Dilong of China has just finished their national league where they played 56 games, scoring over 350 goals. They have 8 current Chinese national players. They have just finished a four team tournament with the national team where they played against Iran, Japan and Holland. So they will be coming into the tournament very prepared and will be a big challenge for us in the first game.
Port Authority of Thailand currently have 2 players from their respective national team. I believe they have been looking around to buy a couple of foreign players to add to their squad. The Thai’s will be extremely sharp and very mobile. They are currently in the middle of their national league and are sitting mid table. Al Saad will be a bit of a mystery to us. We have not seen the standard of their national league. However we do know that they have just signed 2 brazilians and one foreign asian player for the tournament.
Pro Café of Lebanon could also be a surprise packet. They have 5-6 current national team players, a team that was knocked out of the last world cup qualifiers by eventual winners Iran. As we have seen with the Socceroos, we would be foolish to underestimate any of these teams. All these countries are producing players with a high technical standard. We should not forget that when the socceroos have had to field teams without their oversees players against some of these types of countries the results have left us with something to think about.
Question: When Does the team depart for Iran, is there any special things you are doing before the tournament?
Jamie: The team departs on the 30th June. Our travel should take about 26-28 hours. This includes travelling through Singapore, Dubai, Tehran and then a 4-6 hour bus trip to Isfahan. We have organized a game on the 2nd June against an Iranian club team, and then our first game is on the 4th July. It was important for us to get a game under our belts as the heat in Iran will be very different to what we have been training in here. The temperatures in Iran at present range between 35-45 degrees. So it is important that we try and get the players used to these conditions, even though we would expect the stadium to be air conditioned.
Question: Have you set a target in terms of how far you would like to go in the tournament?
Jamie: We will take the tournament one game at a time. Without accurate knowledge of our opposition it would be foolish to try and set definite targets. However if the boys can put all that they have learned and worked out in training together, then I am confident that we can try and push our way into the semi-finals. If the players can achieve that then I will extremely happy for them as it will be just rewards for the effort they have given to the sport.