By Ottawa Sports Pages, For Ottawa TFC Soccer Club
In his new role with Ottawa TFC Soccer Club, Michal Krtek has begun sharing lots of his knowledge from European soccer with young local players, and they’ve been helping him out too to work on his English.
A nice attraction for Krtek to move to Ottawa’s east end from the Czech Republic was indeed the opportunity to improve his English (and maybe learn a little French too).
“I was tired of needing people to translate for me when coaching at tournaments in Europe,” smiles Krtek. “Now I have 20 players – always one or five players understand what I mean and help me with explaining to other players.”
Krtek has been in Ottawa for half a year now, and is coaching with Ottawa TFC’s Ontario Player Development League teams. He’s not the first Czech staff member at the organization; Vlad Vrsecky, the boys academy director, and Krtek played U13 on the same team, and a mutual friend introduced the two of them to Pavel Cancura, the club’s general manager. His two compat-riots have been a big help at adjusting to the move, underlines the 33-year-old from Dačice.
Krtek competed for FC Taborsko – a team in the second-tier Czech professional league – during his playing days, until he retired at age 28 following three knee surgeries.
Krtek has since become a UEFA ‘A’-licensed coach (which is the highest level of certification available in the amateur ranks). His interest in coaching isn’t new though. He’s been a youth coach for the past eight years and has also worked for the Czech Football Association.
Since coming to Ottawa, Krtek has noticed a lot of differences between Czech and Canadian cul-ture in general, and specifically around soccer. For one, Ottawa is a much bigger city than his hometown, which has a population just above 7,000.
“In my city, I knew all people,” he signals. “There is different price for food, for travelling,” he adds.
In Europe, people perceive Canada as mainly a hockey country, Krtek notes, but he’s now expe-rienced the burgeoning passion Canadian kids have for soccer (the 3,000+ players at Ottawa TFC serving as a prime example).
He also found it interesting that there were separate boys’ and girls’ teams, while in the Czech Republic they all play together. Coaches also usually only were in charge of one team, but here he gets to work with a wide variety of teams at different age levels.
His coaching style also contrasts with what many Canadian kids anticipate.
“I am calm. I say before games what I want, and during the game I support players, but not much,” he explains. “(In Canada) coaches, all 90 minutes, speak, comment on the game. I have to do this because the players were surprised I am quiet.”
Part of Krtek’s love for coaching youth soccer comes from the chance he gets to get to know each player individually.
“I can learn about the kids, not only about soccer, learn about them as people,” underlines Krtek, who’s fit in seamlessly with the club culture for which Ottawa TFC is renowned.
Krtek was surprised about how hardworking players are during practices. It’s not that Czech kids don’t work hard, he indicates, but they have different preferences.
“When I say okay, two times sprint 50 metres, the (Ottawa TFC) players go,” he highlighted, while Czech players would question that kind of thing more, and prefer to actually play.
The language barrier is less of a struggle with the kids as well.
“With kids, it’s more easy than now when I do interviews,” he laughs. “On the field, it’s more easy because I can show what I want, and the kids help me. I am learning more English, but soccer is a language too.”