Archive | 2013

Online Soccer Academy: How to Dribble with Your Head Up

Jared and Stephen at OnlineSoccerAcademy.com are dedicated to making better players through free, online training videos. They produce and release new videos each Monday on a variety of topics and skills.

Having known Jared for the last few years, especially during my time at the NSCAA, I knew of the great work he was doing and saw OnlineSoccerAcademy.com grow into what it is today.

Jared and OSA impact thousands of players across the globe. What we like especially is the way that Jared takes each individual skill and breaks it down into simple, easy to digest steps. They are also committed to offering the videos free of costs, which allows players to improve by putting in the hard work and not breaking the bank.

The first video we partnered on is “How to Dribble with Your Head Up” In the video, Jared shows the proper technique for dribbling with your head up and also includes key points to help you hone your skills.

Take a look at the video on YouTube, and head over to OnlineSoccerAcademy.com to see the entire post.

Senda at the UN Forum on Sports and Peace

This past June 5 and 6th I had the opportunity to attend the 3rd International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development at the UN headquarters in New York City. 

The forum was started in 2009 at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. The forum focuses on how sport can contribute to peace and development in the world, centering on themes such as promoting education and healthy lifestyles through sport and advocating a peace culture among young people.

Among the people who attend were UN Special Advisor Wilfried Lemke, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, IOC President Jacques Rogge, and many other important figures from the Sport for Development and Peace Movement.

After Ban-Ki Moon opened the forum, I had the chance to meet him, and tell him briefly about Senda’s work. I even got him to sign a Senda limited edition VOLTA Premier ball for our office space.

It is great to see that the most important figure at the United Nation took the time to open an event that addressed the role of sports to improve communities.

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To be honest, the rhythm of the forum’s sessions and some of the presentations were a bit slow, and included ceremonial phrases and statements that were new to me. Perhaps that is just part of the UN’s protocol, and a way of hosting presentations when you have so many government representatives from over 80 countries.

Perhaps, instead of the forum being dominated by “one way” presentations, with a brief time for Q&A, it would have been useful to have more time for unstructured sessions, or even four or five smaller “unconferences” in which smaller groups of attendees get to network, discuss their goals while using sports for development and peace, as well as share challenges and opportunities. This might present more opportunities to explore how different organizations, businesses, and governments might be able to collaborate on sports initiatives, and work together to learn best practices that have been proven to work effectively.

Maybe that will be the case in 2015, when the next forum takes place in a location to be determined.

Overall it was a very interesting experience: I was proud to represent Senda, and humbled to have the opportunity to share the work that we do with the help of our customers and nonprofit partners. Below is an interview from the UN’s TV crew, which covered the event, and asked me to describe the work of some of the organization Senda partners with!

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Lessons from Bangladesh: Building a Brighter Future for Workers

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Hearing stories from the women working at the Fair Trade factory. They want to be able to contribute to the well being of their families, and improve their lives.

It has been one month since a Bangladeshi factory collapsed, leaving 1,127 workers dead on April 24. All of us at Senda have been following the discussion going on at a corporate, grassroots and non profit level. I hope that they serve to make sure that what happened in Bangladesh never happens again, and that workers around the World are not subject to abuse, poor working conditions, and low wages.

I really believe that another production model is possible, and that with some outside-the-box thinking, innovation, and compassion,  brands can genuinely  make progress in improving  the lives of those making their products. There is no reason why poor people in developing countries should be struggling to make ends meet and live a life with dignity, while companies make record profits. This does not have to be a ZERO SUM GAME.

I acknowledge that the problem of poor working conditions in factories is complex, and that mistakes will be made in all honest efforts aimed at changing the current reality. But I also believe that the time is right to construct a new paradigm, and create a system in which brands make quality products, producers make a good living, and consumers feel good about the impact of their purchases. With that vision in mind, last year I embarked in a 10 day trip to Pakistan to meet the workers behind our Fair Trade Soccer balls. I wanted to see first hand the conditions in which our products are made. The trip provided a lot of lessons, and inspired myself and the Senda team to continue working hard to make things better for our producers.

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Learning how our soccer ball panels are screen printed.

Because I actually lived inside the Fair Trade factory  (I stayed at a guest room on the 2nd floor), I was able to see first hand that workers making our soccer balls have access to proper breaks, to subsidized meals or a place to eat their own, that fire extinguishers are all places strategically, that emergency exits are properly labeled. There were some water faucets that were out of service and made it difficult for workers to access water, and we communicated that concern to the factory. They immediately acknowledge it, and took the necessary steps to repair them.

One of the main goals I had while in Pakistan, was to understand what it felt like to work everyday on the making of soccer balls. In order to do that, I asked people involved in the making of soccer balls to teach me about the work they do, and to allow me to participate in the making. I want use that opportunity to understand exactly how our products are made, have other people at Senda experience that, and then work with workers and the factory to find ways to make processes better

We might never become expert soccer ball stitchers, or screen printers, but by understanding better the work they do we can work along with them to make processes better, safer, and more efficient. It also makes us get closer to workers, and show them that we care, and we are willing to put ourselves in their shoes.

There is an opportunity for brands to empower consumers with knowledge about who makes their products, share their stories, and allow them to make a difference in their lives by committing to treating them with the respect that we believe everyone in this country deserves. I hope that more brands will embark in such a journey, and also that more consumers demand that from the companies they buy from.

Skillz and Drillz Video of the Month: The Cruyff Turn

 

Our monthly video from Skillz and Drillz is showing a classic and elegant beginner basics move: “The Cruyff Turn.”

This trick is a great way to get away from an opponent or simply just faking a cross by pulling the ball back in a different direction to get space for a better position to pass the ball, or simply a better alternative action to take place.

By doing a Cruyff turn you are  misleading the opponent and making him change his choice of action in which it most likely will be a delay from your action, ultimately leaving you with more space and time.

Take a look at this video showing step by step instructions and try to see if you can manage to do what Cruyff first did during the FIFA World Cup in 1974.

Impress your friends, coaches, opponents and yourself.

And don’t forget to visit Skillz and Drillz to stay tuned on his videos and updates!

 

 

See Cruyff doing the move himself:

Ball Testing with SJ Quakes Players: Senda Volta, Nike Seitiro, Adidas Prime

The Senda Volta, Nike Seitiro & Adidas MLS Prime

A goal that we always have at Senda, is to offer products that are as good as any other similar options in the market, with the added value of Fair Trade, and the opportunity for customers to Share the Game with others.

In order to ensure that, we work with hundreds of coaches and players to test our products, and get feedback. Recently, we had the great opportunity to do product testing with Sam Cronin, who is the starting Center Midfielder for the San Jose Earthquakes, as well as Quakes trialist Josh Suggs, and former CAL Captain Tony Salciccia. During a beautiful South Bay afternoon we tested our top of the line Senda Volta, along with the Nike Seitiro, and the Adidas Prime Match balls. Our goal was to check where our Volta Premier Match ball stands , compared to the two most popular brands with the best leagues in the World.

For testing, we looked at 3 main indicators: performance during crossings, performance during shots, and finally overall touch and feel of the ball.

 

Test 1: Crossings

When making a series of long distance crosses for Sam, Josh and Tony enjoyed the responsiveness and precision of the Volta, which surpassed that of the Adidas Prime, and matched that of the Nike Seitero. In terms of long crossings, the Volta flies well in the air and it does not “shake,” like the Adidas ball does.

The Adidas Prime uses the same thermo-bonded technology as the Jabulani (official match ball for 2010 South Africa World Cup) which was a nightmare for most goalies because it moves a lot when it flies long distances, for examples in in crosses and free kicks. The Prime improved in this aspect, but it still curves in rather unpredictable ways, unlike the Volta and Seitiro models.

” The Volta ball was easier to get used to, and to strike in the air” Josh Suggs, San Jose Earthquakes trialist

Test 2: Shots

When it comes to striking the ball, the Volta felt a little bit harder than the Seitiro and Prime. Players said that this did not mean that it was more difficult or uncomfortable, just a ball characteristic that you notice after using all three balls. The harder outer surface can benefit players with strong shots when they strike the ball, offering more immediate power. Some players who don’t like harder balls might not like this aspect, and this comes down to personal preference.

The Adidas Prime is the ball that travels the most out of the three, but it can be quiet inaccurate because it gets more power only if a player strikes the ball “just right.”  That it is not always easy after winning  a 50/50 ball, hitting a ball at high speed, or in other game scenarios, and players preferred a ball that offered consistency in different scenarios, and not just clean shots.

Finishing session, using the Volta, Seitiro and Prime

Test 3: Touch

In terms of touch the Senda Volta is little bit harder than the Seitero and Prime, both which have a “spongy” feeling. The top-of-the-line Japanese synthetic leather used in the Volta resembles more the older Match balls used in the late 90’s, compared to the newer synthetic materials developed by Nike and Adidas.

When we asked for a fair final assessment, Suggs said that he honestly enjoyed playing with the Senda Volta the most.

 

“With a  lot of balls, it takes a long time to get used to them,” Suggs commented. “With the Volta one gets to know the ball rather fast, and it provides a consistent response in different game-like scenarios”

Although it was the first time that all 3 players where introduced to the Volta, they did not feel any inconsistencias with the ball, and they felt that it was up there with the Nike Seitero, and above the Adidas Prime when it came to overall touch, shooting, and making/receiving crosses.

 

From our end, after talking with Sam, Tony and Josh, and asking for their honest feedback, we feel that we have succeeded in making a top of the line ball that’s as good, if not better, than that of the two market leaders in soccer. That makes us proud. Very proud!

Meanwhile, we will continue to research the latest cover materials available for different types of match balls, to make sure that Senda is taking advantage of the latest technologies available to make the best performing product.

But whatever new materials are developed using technology, they have to be tested and approved on the field, where the magic happens. Technology, for technology’s sake is not the answer. The final word should come from players and coaches on the fields, and not just from the labs. Right now, it seems like we are in good hands with a Volta Match ball, that has some of the traditional characteristics one finds in Japanese cordley leather, which is one of the best on the World.

The story to make the best posible Match ball leveraging technology and embracing Fair Trade continues, and we will keep you posted!

Sam Cronin helped us test the 3 balls for precision, touch, and flight

Senda in Brazil



“O conhecimento do Brasil passa pelo futebol.”

Translation: “One’s knowledge of Brazil happens through football.”

-Jose Lins do Rego

At Senda, one of the things we enjoyed the most is to hear stories of how our soccer balls travel to far away places, and used in different locations we never really imagined. We love hearing from customers who end up becoming Senda Ambassadors, and share their passion for what we do, as well as their Senda balls, in places like Japan, Norway, Argentina, Morocco, Alaska, and South Africa. They often times send us their reflections on the trip, and we want to share the latest one, from our latest ambassador in Brazil: Juliano. Here is the story he shared with us, and our readers:

My experience with soccer culture in Brazil has expanded my outlook on the diverse nature of the sport. I grew up in the United States, but I am half Brazilian, and I’ve been to Brazil several times to visit family. Though I have spent a significant amount of time in Brazil, every trip is a cultural experience for me. I spent three weeks there, in December and January, visiting family and enjoying the coast of São Paulo. During this time, I played lots of pickup soccer, and visited O Museu do Futebol (The Museum of Football) at Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo.

The first time I played pickup soccer after arriving in Brazil was at a cement futsal court near my grandparent’s house. I arrived to the court just as a new team was taking the pitch. Curious and eager to play, I asked if they had a spot for one more to join them. The response I got was, “Demorou,” which best translates to “I thought you’d never ask,” or “You should have asked earlier.” It’s basically a politely aggressive way of saying “Of course” and welcoming me into their pickup game. The group was made up of a mix of some younger guys in their twenties, and some middle aged guys. To be honest, I expected the level to be low. I was wrong. These guys weren’t there to mess around. The intensity and passion by which they played was invigorating. It felt like the game was do or die; players protected the goal like their life depended on it, and every missed opportunity was a dagger to the heart. Yet by the same token, they had a certain light heartedness that made it clear that this was a pelada.

Pelada is the Brazilian name for pickup game, and it literally means “naked.” I don’t think there is a more perfect name for it. Pickup games literally strip the sport down to its core. People play out of pure enjoyment and passion for the game without all the business and money behind most sports today. In Brazil, peladas are more than a game. It is a culture unified by the sport of soccer, and a country that boasts the most international success in the history of the sport. The guys I played with were fanatics who had grown up with the sport. Their understanding of the game was developed through years of exposure. These guys were neither the most athletic guys, nor the most skilled, but they had a knack for the game. Playing in their pelada was a great way to discern how soccer is so engrained in Brazilian culture.

Another memorable experience from my trip to Brazil was my visit to the Museu do Futebol. An idea of Pelé, the museum was created as homage to the strong history of football within the country. It is located inside the Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo, a public stadium where many of the biggest teams in Brazil play. I expected a small museum with a couple small exhibits, but found it to be a complete experience and more. I took two hours on the tour, but felt like I could’ve spent the entire day there. There were entire sections devoted to old soccer photos, Brazilian superstars and heroes, multimedia sections with radio and television clips, world cups, records, the evolution of soccer equipment and rules, referees, fans, and much more. Frankly I overwhelmed because there was so much soccer left and right. The incredible thing is that the exhibit was primarily about Brazilian soccer, with only contextual references the rest of the world. It is amazing that the sport has so much history in Brazil.

 

Playing soccer in Brazil has not only widened my worldviews, but also given me a unique look at the game itself. I believe that soccer is something universal enough to connect people throughout the world, and it also provides a special lens through which we can learn a lot about a culture.

I was introduced to Senda at a small-sided soccer tournament in Berkeley, California, and I was immediately drawn to the company. I am an avid soccer player and fan. I think that the Fair Trade model is something to admire in any business, especially in a worldwide market like soccer. Brazil is a prime example of a culture with a love and passion for the game that also faces problems of poverty and extreme inequality. Senda promotes a higher standard for soccer products, and encourages the society and sport to be just at all levels. Fair trade is an opportunity for people to take responsibility and make positive change through a medium that can be universally understood.

Skillz and Drillz Video of the Month: The Zidane ‘Pull Back Flick’

 

 

 

We are starting a monthly showcase of a videos, covering in detail different types of soccer movements from our partner SkillzAndDrillz, which has close to 225.000 views at YouTube.

This is a great way for players of all ages to learn new cool and useful skills, and impress their friends, coaches and not at least their opponents on the field with.
The videos have fantastic step-by-step instructions making it easy and visual for viewers to learn.

We hope you will enjoy our monthly SkillzAndDrillz video, starting with none less than one of the best players in the history, Zinedine Zidane’s “Pull Back Flick”

Visit Skillz and Drillz and stay tuned for his videos and updates! 

This month’s video:

Join Senda, and See Firsthand an LA Galaxy warmup with Beckham and Co.

Senda’s founder Santiago Halty recently had a chance to see David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Kean and the LA Galaxy get ready for a 2012 MLS “All or nothing” Playoff game. It was a fantastic experience to see how World-class players prepare for crucial games, in an environment of hostility, and high-pressure. Here is the video we want to share with you:

Right before the game, David Beckham announced he would end his career with the LA Galaxy, and some speculated that he would going to retire afterwards. He recently announced that he would leave the MLS to continue playing in a different league, which has yet to be announced.

We had a chance to show Beckham and several  LA Galaxy players a Senda Fair Trade soccer ball!  Many were intrigued about our products and mission. Now we need to get a few of them to start playing with them in the off season…

Beckham has a long, prestigious, and controversial  career, and has become a soccer and marketing icon. He started playing professionally with Manchester United in 1992 at age 17. He  has since played for Preston North End, Real Madrid, Milan, and the L.A. Galaxy. Beckham has played over 100 games for the English National team, playing in 3 World Cups (’98, ’02, ’06), and missing the 2010 World Cup due to a torn Achilles tendon.

It will be interesting to see where Beckham will continue his career as a player, and if he will return to the MLS as a team owner or manager. Meanwhile, we will continue to work to see if  we can see him bending a Senda Fair Trade ball, perhaps at an upcoming charity game..

Sam Cronin Interviewed by Santiago Halty

Sam Cronin, of San Jose Earthquakes, visits Senda’s Offices

Sam Cronin of the San Jose Earthquakes with Santiago Halty, Founder & CEO of Senda Athletics

Before the end of the 2012 Season, we had the chance to catch up with Sam Cronin, who has been a supporter of Senda since the very beginning, and has helped us test our different ball models. Here is a summary of our conversation!

 

Santiago – “Who are your soccer heroes?”

Sam  –

“…growing up, the player I always idolized was Paul Scholes from Manchester United so, try to mirror my game after his a little bit. I have a lot of respect for his loyalty to Man U, and just the quality of player he is.”

Santiago –“What would you say is the motto that you try to live by, your success motto?”

Sam  –

“I keep it pretty simple: I just try to improve every day, and give my best every day. I’m not a, kind of big picture guy, I just, focus on each day and make the most of each day and, it’s worked out for me so far.”

Santiago –“What has been your best moment as a soccer player?”

Sam

“I would probably say, professionally is probably making the playoffs in 2010, and beating New York in the first round which we weren’t expected to do, but a moment I’ll always cherish in my career is back in college, when our team won the national championship. Just the group of guys we had and all the work we put in as a team to get to that point was really special to win that together as a team.”

Santiago –“What team and what year was that?”

Sam

“That was Wake Forest University in 2007.”

Santiago –“ What has been your most difficult moment as a soccer player?”

Sam

“Yeah when I was in Toronto FC I had a pretty successful rookie season and the next year the new coach came in and, I just wasn’t in his plans. After a few months I was traded to San Jose, which has turned out to be a good situation for me. But in the short term back then, you know, whenever you’re traded its like you hit a cross road: it’s a defining moment whether you’re going to step things up and make the most of it or if, you’re gonna let that—the coach’s kinda lack of confidence in you, bleed over and affect your play.

It was a moment when I just really put my head back down, got to work again, and I’m happy with where things turned out now.”


Santiago –“How do you see soccer as a vehicle for social change? As a tool for changing people’s lives for the better?”

Sam

“I just think soccer is, as they say, is the world’s game. You go anywhere in the world and there are kids playing soccer and for the most part it brings smiles to their faces. It’s such a simple game, but a source of so much national pride and happiness for kids all over the world. So as a professional player I think I’m in a unique position to leverage that and to impact people’s lives, especially kids. I know when I was a kid I looked up to certain players and people and yeah, so I think soccer is a great vehicle to execute change in the world.”

Santiago –“You learned quite a few things about Fair Trade in Soccer since we first met a year and a half. Why do you think Fair Trade is important in Soccer?”

Sam

“I think it’s important in soccer but also in, in every other production in the world. I mean, you here so often, especially in recent years, about malpractice in terms of factories and workers across the world so, as the world continues to progress it’s important that no one is left behind, no countries are being victims of poor practices, especially in factories with cheap labor, so I think it’s important. And I think it’s great what Senda’s doing just to be active in that community, and hopefully more companies will take on the Fair Trade mentality.

 

Check out Sam Cronin testing Senda Soccer balls in San Francisco!!