Alicia Piz, founder of The Catalyst Training Center
Soccer News: The Catalyst Training Center – Not Just another Sports Facility
From the moment you step through the doors of The Catalyst Training Center (TCTC) you know that this is someplace different, something unique in sports facilities. Alicia Piz, founder and head of TCTC, has worked hard to create a one-of-a-kind center dedicated just to soccer and soccer players. With a team that is trained in the “Catalyst philosophy” and whose members have all spent time playing high-level soccer, TCTC offers exceptional guidance and preparation for athletes of all ages.
While The Catalyst Training Center features a full-size goal and dozens of soccer balls, what truly sets it apart can’t be seen at first glance. This is the Catalyst philosophy that guides everything that is done at the center, and that focuses on the concept of “body control before ball control.” It is Piz’s strong belief that before a player can be successful on the ball, he or she must understand the body mechanics that are involved. To that end, everyone who works at TCTC goes through an intensive training program.
Every coach at TCTC has had education in some area of physical training and development. Several of the coaches have their Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy or their Master’s in Exercise Science. Others have special certification in Personal Training or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. But no matter what their education when they arrive, they all go through the same program to be ready to teach the Catalyst way.
“When coaches first come in we go through a three-month training program where we all meet every week to talk,” explained Piz. “We review videos on body mechanics and they all experience every single one of the exercises that the players do.”
By going through the same exercises as the players they train, the coaches are able to explain exactly what they had to do to push through difficult points. As current or former soccer players, the coaches are also able to make the connections to actual on-field situations to help their clients better understand the reasons for each exercise. This is something that facilities that do not have a soccer focus or Piz, this is key to helping players to improve.
“One thing that was important for me when I was in college was understanding why I was doing the exercises and how the exercises applied to what I was doing on the field,” said Piz. “Because we have been through all of it as soccer players at every level, we can explain to the players and we can put it into perspective.”
“With other services,” Piz explained, “if they don’t cater specifically to soccer and their coaches and trainers don’t have a background in soccer, they’re not going to be able to relate to what the player’s experiencing on the field and be able to put it in perspective to them in that way. That’s really the key thing about The Catalyst Training Center – everything is specific to soccer, for soccer, by soccer players.”
In addition to having new coaches experience all of the exercises, Piz has them go through video review sessions with slow-motion clips of players who have trained at TCTC. During the review, new coaches analyze the players and evaluate their movements and body mechanics. New coaches also watch training videos from the National Strength and Conditioning Association to learn what to watch for in technique. Finally, they watch videotapes of themselves going through the training exercises and do more analysis.
“It turns the tables back on them and gets them to reflect on their own movements and athleticism and be able to apply that,” said Piz. “For example, my knees come in very badly, and that’s part of the reason I’ve had a few ACL tears. So when I watch on video and see my knees go in when I jump, I think about that. Then when I see a player come in and see their knees go in, I know exactly how that feels and what it looks like and how to identify the ways to correct it.”
The final stage in training for new coaches is a mentoring program where they shadow the coaches who have been with TCTC. This allows the new coaches to ask questions and get feedback from experienced trainers. They also have the opportunity to discuss what they would do and how they would help the players at the center.
The collaboration continues throughout the entire TCTC team, with regular meetings where coaches share both successes and struggles. These meetings allow the trainers to learn from and inspire each other and build off what each one is doing. To facilitate these meetings, and to provide the best training possible, TCTC keeps a notebook on each player, where coaches can record strengths and weaknesses, areas for focus and goals. The notebooks also allows for a substitute coach to pick up where a regular coach has left off, with no break in training.
This combination of communication among the coaches and with the players is part of what attracts people to TCTC. Piz has modeled many of the procedures after the physical therapy facilities at SDSU, where she played soccer. Because of her injuries while playing, Piz spent a significant amount of time in therapy and took note of how important good communication was.
“When I developed this program [at TCTC] that’s where a lot of it stemmed from because it was the exact same thing,” Piz explained. “My physical therapist was constantly taking notes and asking me if I understood why I was doing what I was doing and how it felt. That communication between my physical therapist and me, or like here the communication between the coach and the player or parent, is what really allows for progress.”
“A lot of feedback we’ve gotten from players who have gone to other facilities or used other coaches outside of Catalyst is that our communication is huge,” Piz continued. “The players understand why they are doing something and how it is important to them, and it’s not just us saying, ‘Go over there and do this, now do that, now go get water.’ We put it in perspective.”
A final important element of the TCTC Custom Training Program is the use of Standard Performance Tests (SPTs) to evaluate players. At the first session and again at every twelfth session the player is put through a series of physical evaluations. These tests include blind balance, power (vertical) jumps, quick hops, ten- and forty-yard sprints, 180 degree agility turns and sprint-to-shuffle-to-backpedal agility.
“The SPTs are a crucial component of the programs,” said Piz, “because they provide a benchmark for how the player has progressed so the coach can provide feedback to the player and parent and also plan for moving forward with training appropriately. Every player we have trained has improved in at least half of their SPT tests by the twelfth session, so these are also a big confidence booster for the player to see how their hard work is paying off.”
All of this has paid off for both TCTC and the many players who have come for training. Piz is extremely gratified by the progress she has seen from players of all ages and at all levels of ability. She looks forward to continuing the work that she and her team have begun and the expectations that they are setting for soccer in San Diego and Southern California.
“I want parents and players and coaches to start to have a higher standard of expectations for soccer development in every area,” said Piz, “mentally, physically, skills and athleticism.”
Related Article: Alicia Piz on Proper Soccer Training for Player Development