Earlier in the year, Sydney Olympic FC introduced one remarkable man to the community, a man who defied the odds and cheated death, Chris Karatzis.
There are some people who suffer from a disease or encounter a life changing situation and let it define them, not Mr Karatzis who recovered from a brain aneurysm and with the support of his family and friends returned to his number one passion, coaching. Nothing could hold this man down as Karatzis returned to the Sydney Olympic Football Club and accepted the role of the Under 18's boys coach.
Youth development is one of Karatzis' highest priorities, one he has upheld since he began coaching 32 years ago. Karatzis has coached many well-known players and has worked along side, current first grade coach Peter Tsekenis. During his various stints as a coach, Karatzis has seen many players progress to the A-League and abroad and has always been on hand to lend his support.
The road to stardom is by no means easy with several young footballers often struggling to make the jump from junior to senior level/semi-professional football without difficulty. Karatzis is all too familiar with this dilemma and believes that the issue stems from the fact that players underestimate the step up.
" In some cases, players come up to higher grades with a good understanding whilst others are unaware of and have a not so good understanding of whats needed at senior level.
" With over 30 years in the game and having worked with 3 National Coaches, I have seen young footballers progress to all levels and it's important for players to obtain lots of knowledge on their preparation and future as a professional footballer ", Karatzis explained.
Players with limited understanding of senior level football often find themselves in a state of shock or in a limbo, but Karatzis believes that these players can overcome this obstacle and adapt quickly, if they possess a willingess to learn and accept direction. Karatzis also believes that improving ones skills at a younger age, could contribute to a smooth transition into senior level football.
"I believe that at 17 or 18 years of age a player is a senior, they need to be as correct and possible and perfect their techniques at a younger age, so they can adjust to senior football", Karatzis said.
At this stage, the development of skills and techniques is considered assumed knowledge with an understanding of the basics and fundamentals of football required. So what is expected of a player with ample theoretical knowledge? Execution and Practice.
" Players at 17 or 18 need to be familiar with football systems and plays and should be able to perfect and execute accurate passing and movement both off and on the ball", Karatzis added.
How does the veteran coach prepare for an upcoming game?
" We [ the coaching staff ] start with our first training session every Tuesday with a team meeting and discuss the previous game.
"We ]let the players know the positives and try to correct the mistakes by addressing the negatives from the match".
Evaluation is detrimental to the improvement of performances both individually and collectively as a team and enables each players to transform their weaknesses into strengths. This is something that Karatzis believes should not be ignored but rather each coach should strive to nip in the bud.
" We are constantly addressing the weaker areas to enable players to continue their development.
" Areas we had to address involve not being caught out on the counter attack and man to man marking which players need to get right in order to progress", Karatzis explained.
Karatzis' secret to success is not rocket science instead his coaching principles are governed by the philosphy of 'keeping it simple', where players make decisions early and play a simple but accurate passing game. The idea of keeping it simple extends to players without the ball also, with players encouraged to move and create space in order to outnumber the opposition.
The coaching veteran still affirms that winning titles are less significant to him and the furthest thing on his mind, rather his greatest satisfaction as a coach is to see his players develop and advance their football career.
" If I see a player make it to 1st Grade, I will be satisfied. If we win a trophy, my wife said it will end up with the others".
A strong statement from a coach who has seen it all and worked with the very best. A man who lives, breathes and has an overwhelming passion for the game, which will never wane.