They say that in order to be well prepared for any position of responsibility, it’s important to have come from the bottom, having passed through all the links in the chain before managing a team and making decisions. This is the case of Jordi Martí, Sports Director of FIATC Joventut and alumnus of the Master in Sports Management at Johan Cruyff Institute.
Jordi was a player from the lower categories of Joventut, who then went on to coach, and run youth development basketball teams for 11 years, and since June of 2013 has taken on the position of sports director. He is also, like so many players and coaches that have been trained in Badalona, a product of the inexhaustible black-and-white reserve of young players, but at the management level.
This week FIATC Joventut faces the ‘Copa del Rey’, a competition that could be Jordi Martí’s first title as manager. In this interview, we talked about competition nowadays, but also on how exceptional performance with the fourth lowest budget of the ACB League is obtained, and how the joint work with the coach to plan future signings or develop brand identity in a club as historic as FIATC Joventut is.
You were Joventut’s director of youth development basketball for 11 years. How much did that experience help you in your transition as sports director for the professional team?
A lot, because also within the club the basis of the first team are the home players and rookies, whom a good portion I signed when they were playing in the lower categories. I have seen them grow and we have been able to assess their performance. It has been very important.
In June of 2013, you took on the position of sports director. What was the aim?
Primarily, my goal was to help the club in the situation we were in at that time and to provide the knowledge and commitment of the people in-house.
You are also a product of Joventut’s basketball school, but at the management level. How is this change?
They put you in an office, you change the concept and you are still enjoying basketball but in a different way. You start analyzing all the accounts, do the signings while already in formation, but these are different as they’re considered bets, while in the first team they must be realities and maximum performance must be achieved. But it was all linked to a deep knowledge of the club, and that has helped me.
How is a team like the one this year set up, with great performance and the fourth lowest budget of the ACB League?
It’s complicated, and sometimes regarding performance – at the moment we are third – it’s not consistent with the budget because numbers tell all in sport and with more budget you can sign better players. But when you have this responsibility you try to make a team with what you have; adjust with a coach who knows and is sensitive to the club’s situation at that moment, and who understands the club’s philosophy, which means growing with the young players, go on investing to ensure that they stick their head into the first team and train so if another powerful and rich club comes in and takes a player, there are other players in the house we can survive with.
How is working with the coach when setting up the team?
Together with the coach and starting with the players you think are important for certain positions, you must continue going forward. I take on relationships with all the representatives, filtering out the kind of player that’s in line with what we want and we come to the final part: the salaries we can afford are suggested to the coach, and we end up deciding. It’s a time when assistant coaches can also help a lot, on an analytical level among others. There is also a very important support for computer programs or applications that may help you have many filters for players and from there, together with the three coaches and myself, we try to decide on the best player. And then we piece the economic-sporting puzzle together to square away the money and come up with the best team.
Last season you incorporated a psychologist to improve collective performance. How was that experience?
Good, and it stemmed from a company that does tests based on American experiences and they adapt them to each country. I think it’s very good and if all clubs could have a budget dedicated to this, they should do it. They’re experts in knowledge and people analysis applied to sport and, although we know the players’ sensations and situations, a reflection from them can be very good. When we want to get a certain performance out of a player, we can work off the court and work on how to approach this with the help and experience of a specialist who can help us.
What other changes have you introduced as sports director?
We’re back at trying to highlight our brand. I found a club where, for the past two or three years, the board seemed to have the intention of letting people with new ideas and a new flourish come in. The club was making contracts that were very short and it wasn’t able to move onto being a medium term project. Upon entering, and having my personal objective to stay at the club for a few years, I tried working in the medium to long term and, above all, with a club identity.
Financially, Joventut paid a heavy price to be European champion. How did that reality check force the club to change its management?
No doubt. At that time, the club was believed to have 12,500 members, coming from a small pavilion, a members’ waiting list, people who are very committed… It seems that Badalona will always be committed to the team and the numbers fool you. We dreamt, we won the European Cup, there was a big boom and we fooled ourselves in thinking that it would be forever and the reality of sport is that these changes happen.
The Copa del Rey could be your first title as an executive…
Those are big words. We go there and we’ll take it step by step. We’ll play against Gran Canaria, in their house, we know the pressure that can be there, we know the pressure they can have as hosts… Our goal will be to attempt to beat Gran Canaria and if we succeed, we will continue to do so as a team in the semi-finals and then see what happens. We’re all inspired: from veteran players like Savané, who is also considering whether this is his last Copa and who’s tremendously excited, up to Alberto Abalde who is still linked to the supporting team and is giving the first team minutes, so that would be his first title. We are going to try to live and compete from this.
Which aspects of the Master in Sports Management can you apply in your day to day activities?
I don’t know how it’s going to be at the end of the Master. But in the everyday sense, you see the knowledge that you are acquiring and you go on relating and applying it. And in the things that you go about doing, you’re shaping them and in others, you reinforce them and are happy. There are many subjects; the most financial part for example, is also good to know because when I work with my financial executive I know where he’s going. Marketing is also essential to know where I’m going with my players, how important the actions they carry out are, the brand power so that later on it turns into money to invest the following year on new equipment. Everything that I have been taking here, from the subjects to working relationships, are very interesting and very formative for me and I’m lucky to be able to put this knowledge directly into practice.
What do you think about Johan Cruyff having founded an Institute to educate athletes?
It’s great. It’s very well thought out. I think that often, sport steals a part of young people’s education and this is very well organized and focused because an athlete may have concerns in continuing with sport, but he needs this support to know where he’s going and have enough training to direct his/her future. There may be people who earn money in the sport and do not know how to manage it and this can serve as a guide. For me, the Master is an amazing tool for the sportsman who finishes his career and wants to continue at the management level. It’s tailor-made support.