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#93: The professor who played with Xavi: Barcelona’s Jordi Diaz-Gibson describes La Masia


In the photo above (taken by John Gibson, who was a Madison-based photographer and poet), we see Jordi with some youth teammates, including the future Barcelona superstar, Xavi. In the interview below, we learn about Jordi's trajectory as a young player...and much more!

Jordi Diaz Gibson is a respected professor at Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona, where he teaches and conducts research on leadership, schooling, and social networks. Growing up, he was an elite soccer player, competing at some of the highest national levels. From his office in Barcelona, Jordi joined the SGG podcast. We discussed:

1. Growing up playing soccer in Barcelona, including the influence of his father.

2. The disconnect between youth soccer clubs and schools in Barcelona.

3. “Coaching young people as if they are old people…it was not good. It did not have a training focus.”

4. Problems associated with focusing on short-term results in youth sports. “They stopped liking the game.”

5. Playing with Xavi.

6. The impact of coaches on youth athlete development. “You need to really think about how those talents can improve over time. And how can you shape that talent and the way that the athlete is thinking. And shaping the skills…The decisions you make are very, very important for the success and development of the players and the teams.”

7. The importance of Xavi’s developmental environment with Barca: “He was in the right place at the right time…and he had a great mindset.”

8. La Masia: Clear system, clear player type, international scouting.

9. “The same system is applied across all the years of development.”

10.La Masia developing a “360 program” – holistic child development perspective.

11.Carlos Folguera La Masia: “Your dream must be playing there (in the big stadium). But the probability is that you’re not going to make it. And we want you to make the most of your life beyond soccer.”

12.“I learned how to be a person at La Masia.”

13.“You never know how to best support the dream and reality at the same time.”

14.Making difficult decisions about moving on to a different career than soccer.

15.Lessons learned through high-level sport participation.

16.“I really believe in the power of sports. But, as with all powers, we need to think about how to display them and to support kids in the right way.”

17.Jordi’s early focus on youth sports and human development.

18.Maintaining perspective.

19.The challenge of understanding how the game is evolving…and how it may evolve in the future.

20.The critical roles of Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola in developing modern soccer schemes.

21.“Disrupting” the way the game is played.


Extra: In-action video of Jordi as a young player in Barcelona. Take note of both the skill and the settings!


The young elite player (above)... and the professor he became (below).