The Coaches Corner article has given me an opportunity to meet with a wide variety of coaches from different backgrounds. This article will be about a conversation I had with former Saucon Valley graduate and current Lehigh Valley United Soccer coach Luis Devia. Below are a few takeaways from our talk. I hope you enjoy!
Lehigh Valley United is the premier Soccer Academy
I have to admit, when I did some research on Lehigh Valley United I was in awe of their accomplishments and a little ashamed that I wasn’t too familiar with the academy. The club itself has had tremendous success winning titles and getting their players to play at the highest levels. They have had members play on the United States National Team and others have played professionally in Major League Soccer. In 2013, one of their teams, the LVU 93, beat the Chicago Fire in the U19 McGuire Cup National Championship covered Live on Fox Soccer Channel. These are just a few of the successes that this club has achieved in recent years. But, the true success of their program is the result of the leadership they have from top to bottom.
Coach Devia's Background
The Lehigh Valley United has soccer teams from ages 3 to 19. One of these teams is coached by 2010 Saucon Valley graduate Luis Devia. Luis grew up with soccer all around him. He was born in Colombia and at a young age, his family moved to the United States. As a child, Luis participated in soccer. His very first soccer coach was his father. When you are the son of the coach, this could go one of two ways: it could be a blessing or it could be a curse. For Luis, having his father coach him was a blessing. He showed him the way and gave Luis an excellent example of how to teach the beautiful game. His fathers influence is with him every time he takes the pitch to coach.
As Luis matured, his skills really took off. Soccer was his main sport but he participated in Tae Kwon Do and received a black belt in the martial art. He appreciates the lessons that he learned from competing in Tae Kwon Do. The 15+ years of training in martial arts helped him improve as a player. The training helped him have a quicker reaction time, improved his agility, and greatly improved his leg strength. This training laid the foundation for his success as a player at Saucon Valley, then Elizabethtown College, and eventually winning a National Championship with FC Sonic based out of Allentown, Pennsylvania. (How sweet is that? There aren't too many of us that can call themselves a National Champ!)
In regards to coaching with the Lehigh Valley United, passion is what drives the club. Passion is what drives Luis. Passion is what he wants from his athletes. Can you see a trend here? As I look over my notes, the word passion appears a bunch of times. This word comes from the Latin root pati, meaning suffering or enduring. It does not mean love or things you like. It means you cannot live without it. Passion, at its core, is a form of pain that demands it be quenched. For Luis, passion is what keeps him in coaching. This passion is on display at each and every training session. Everything is high energy and high enthusiasm. It is not rare to find coach Luis dripping in sweat after one of their practices. He is hands-on in his teaching and challenges each and every kid to reach their full potential. The environment is competitive but it is fun. To me, this is the ideal environment for a kid to explore their physical abilities and progress their talents.
There is one aspect of training that Luis requires from all of his players: knowledge of the game. In our discussion, we talked about many examples of kids amazing us with their ability to pick up on challenging things. If you present upper level information to young kids, some might understand 90%, others only 65%, but the important thing is that you have introduced it to them. In a year or two, that information is still somewhere in their brain and it will click for them. Ask a lot out of your players, you will be surprised with what they pick up!
As our conversation came to an end, Luis gave me a few maxims that the Lehigh Valley United Coaches like to use. Enjoy the struggle. Be professional to everyone. Be inspirational. Educate. These are words that should be posted in every locker room and spoken at every coaches meeting. These are words that we can all live by. It was a pleasure talking with Luis and appreciate him taking the time to meet. Good luck to you and the rest of the Lehigh Valley United Academy!