If you have been following the AC Milan news you will know this team took a mini ritiro recently. A ritiro quite literally means to withdrawal in Italian, a withdraw from family and normal life to be together as a team. A retreat so speak to settle difference, build chemistry, and form bonds. While many of you are envisioning a camp fire and a sing along, that is not what a ritiro is, but after a win on the weekend and draw mid-week we should take a closer look.
As a Coach I used the ritiro with all my teams over the age of sixteen. Why? Because frankly it works, and I think it works even better with young players than it does with highly paid professional footballers. The reason being is simply one of camaraderie. If you have never been part of a team in your life I genuinely apologize, it is one of the most special experiences any athlete can endure. It can be even more gratifying as a Coach, as you watch the team grow and the bonds forming. A ritiro is a way to take the players out of the normal element and make them rely on each other something they do on the pitch and take for granted. It can be as simple as remembering someone's kit on the bus or compromising on a movie. The ritiro just works, and it worked for Milan.
A few seasons back I took the team I was coaching to a tournament in Cape Cod on labor weekend. The season would not officially start until a week later and the team had only been formed a week prior following a hard fought try out. Some of the boys had worked together, some freshmen were added to the mix and you could see the cliques forming. The trip was a chance for the boys to meet their new teammates, train in unfamiliar grounds, and play some stiff competition from all over New England. We didn't make it out of the group stage of that tournament, but the ride back was an incredible buzz of communication and excitement of what was to come. That team went onto finish ranked second in the country and that trip had a lot do with it.
For a Professional club the trip is no different, you train hard, you work in a friendly and you do team building. The players are receptive to that because if you take away all the noise of a professional footballer you have left the same simple fundamentals as a child footballer. The ball, your coach, your teammates and the game. It acts as a level set, something to truly remind each and every player what they are there for in the first place. It was a good call by Max to do this, and while you can't do every week, it is a reminder for each player to look back and recall as the season moves forward.