Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

Tales of an aspiring professional, Vol. 1

Christian Manisck, a member of the Dynamo Academy's U-16 team, is training with Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense for a month before returning to Houston. His experience could lead to future collaborations between the clubs, and Manisck will be blogging at throughout.

Day Number 1: Travel and First day

On Sunday, July 25, I embarked on my first solo international trip, and my destination was none other than the training center of Atletico Paranaense, where both aspiring and professional soccer players live their soccer lives, including the Brazilian national team before the most recent World Cup.

The flight was a long one to Curitiba, Parana, in the south of Brazil. It took two flights, a 10-hour international flight, and then a connection down to Curitiba. That part of the trip was exhausting, to say the least, but as soon as I arrived, I was greeted by the director of our age group and I was taken back to the club's training center. In Brazil, their U-16s are called the "juvenil." That is just about when the good stuff started.

The training center was right off the highway, and the first sight of it was breathtaking. The entrance was marked off by an arc-type structure boasting the team colors and name, behind which lie an amazing training facility. Each age group, from the U-11s all the way to the professional team, has three fields each. Each team stays at the training center for three days prior to games. The center, which looks to be at least three acres big, includes a hotel with an elevator and two cafeterias and a team house with individual locker rooms for each team. 

I arrived just after lunch, or right before their second training session of the day, and our coordinator took me to the locker room, where I met the assistant trainer and the team's butler (he really just takes care of the uniforms and stuff). There I was given the uniform and met the kids I'll be with for the next month. Then we went back to the rooms and everyone else showered while I waited for dinner. After that I had a pre-night snack and followed it up with a good night of sleep in a bed! I was very excited to start training the following afternoon. 

Day 2: Physical and First Training

Day two was an early one for me. Breakfast is only served until 8 a.m., and my physical was at 9:30 a.m.

At the physical, the doctor did the usual checkup on joints and then an electro-cardiological test to see if I had any heart problems. I passed and was ready for my afternoon training session. 

Training in the afternoon was all physical. First we did weight lifting and then some explosive training in the sand court to act as resistance. The first training went great, and it was good to start with the physical activities to get situated. After training, the team went up to the locker rooms to get a freshly washed uniform and down to the rooms to shower and rest. Some of us went over to the first team field to watch part of their training. It's really impressive to see the pros in action from so close. Their strength and quickness really does not show on TV or even from the stands.

The rest of the afternoon was relaxing. We had the afternoon free until dinner, then had a snack a few hours later, and then went to bed to rest up for the next day's training.

Day 3: Playing with the pros

Today was another early wakeup, with breakfast ending at 8, and practice starting at 9. Today in practice we had the privilege of practicing with the Atletico Paranaense professional squad as they trained for their upcoming game against Fluminense.

First they had a physical training session while we were warming up and doing our own technical training. Then we met up with them and played a full field tactical game against the professional team. The entire time, the first team trainer would correct mistakes that the professionals made in their marking and attacking. Seeing and playing with the professionals from so close was an amazing experience and shows that they are not as far from us as players as we believe, but that there is also still much work to do to reach that level.

Today we have the rest of the day to rest, since we have had two-a-days all week, and most have been physical fitness-oriented. Lunch, dinner, and snack were at their usual times. We are allowed to leave the facility, but our curfew is 12 midnight. 

So far my experience has been great. Being in this sort of environment, where everyone lives and breathes soccer, is great for an aspiring professional. I'll write again soon with more from my trip.