UK Trip 2019 – Day 8

Day 8 was a very busy day. With practice cancelled so we could spend more time in London, it was an early start to go see the changing of the Queen’s guards. A very busy area of London, around Buckingham Palace, with thousands of people lining the streets and packing the sidewalks, and all this while the City of London goes about it’s normal business day. In roasting hot heat, not often seen in the UK, the players looked on in amazement at the spectacle of the Beefeaters marching down the street, accompanied by the marching band. We watched from the left of the palace, on the roundabout as suggested by our tour guide, Flying Scotsman, Jack. After the pomp, we headed to the gates for a closer look, working our way through the huge crowds to get a glimpse of the palace gates and guards on duty.

After the morning with the Queen, the group headed to it’s next stadium tour, Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, and breaking up so Eric and Ricardo could visit their beloved, trophy-less Arsenal, a stadium with more empty cabinets than IKEA.

The following is Eric’s account of his boyhood dream of visiting the Emirates –

We took the London underground from Green Park to Holloway Road. From there, it was a short walk to the massive home ground for Arsenal FC. To give a brief history of the club, they were founded in 1886 and had originally played at Highbury until 2006. Their old stadium could hold up to 40,000 spectators, where as the Emirates can hold up to 60,000. The club’s history goes back to over 100 years, but perhaps they’re best known for their teams during the early 2000s Premier League era. Some notable players to have been part of those teams are Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, and Dennis Bergkamp. They’re the only club during the Premier League era to go a whole season undefeated, temporarily gaining the nickname, ‘The Invincibles.’

Emirates Stadium is massive, and there is plenty to see inside and out of it. Just outside of the stadium for the general public to view are several statues and murals. One can find the ‘Celebration Corner,’ which is a photo-mural of players celebrating their goals from a famous moment. Along the walls of the Emirates are enlarged photos of notable players with quotes about them from fans and colleagues. Then they’re statues of some of their most iconic former players. Along the outside perimeter of the Emirates is the statues of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Tony Adams, and Herbert Chapman. They make great for a photo op.

The stadium tour begins from inside the Armoury Store, Arsenal’s very own fan shop. It’s a self-guided tour in which the attendee receives a tablet-like device with earbuds. The listener can choose who narrates the tour and may go at their own pace. It was an interesting experience because we got to take our time at each part of the tour, however listening to a recording about the stadium wasn’t as interesting as hearing from the tour staff. Although the tablet had interactive features like a camera that would show a behind-the-scenes video of the first team, and video highlights of games, the best part of the tour was about what was physically in front of you. The tour staff are sparse throughout different areas of the stadium. Even though the tablet gives plenty of information, we enjoyed listening to the staff because they’ve been true fans for years. We spoke to a couple staff members, and they shared many of their memories and experiences as Arsenal fans. It felt more genuine and authentic than the tablet because the recordings can get stale.

During the tour we got to see a bust of Arsene Wenger, director’s box view of the pitch, a time capsule of important items from Arsenal’s history, the player’s tunnel, changing rooms with the players’ jerseys, press room, and best of all, go pitch side and sit right where the first team does. Their pitch is fantastic, and we even got to see the grounds men cut the grass. Tour staff told us that it’s a synthetic pitch, quite like at St. George’s Park and Old Trafford. We took our time in that area, as we enjoyed sitting where the players sat. They’ve got some comfy seats.

The tour ended with us right back the Armoury, where we spent a good amount of time gift shopping. However, the overall experience wasn’t quite over, because there was still Arsenal’s Museum. There we saw a visual history of the club. It’s split into two areas: one for their beginning up until around the 60s, and another for their modern era. In each area one can find various objects of importance that represent an iconic moment or player. It’s a nice museum and I felt that it taught more than that tablet.

Overall the tour experience was quite excellent, and we’d love to come back on a gameday. Walking though an empty stadium was nice because we get to take in all the history and learn about the club. After that, we could only imagine what it would be like on a game day. The atmosphere and amount of people would surely make it a complete experience (as well as a win!).

    

UK Trip 2019 – Day 7

The start of our first full day in London. And what a start… an incredible breakfast buffet at the hotel. We can now see why Swansea City stayed at the hotel!

Following our fill up of food, we head to the football cages, ‘Goals Gilette Corner’, just around the corner from the VAR station near Heathrow airport. The center has multiple playing fields specific for small sided games, where teams of 5v5 play in a tight area with walls all around the playing area so the game doesn’t stop, and players need to react at speed, and this increases the speed of decision making of the player. Players in Europe are rarely coaches, and develop by playing in these centers with their friends. In the South of London there is a huge talent pool of players where they have grown up playing on these types of fields, where cages are available all throughout the neighborhoods.

Exhausted from the mornings practice, we freshen up at the hotel and have lunch, ready to take on London and the underground. Our first experience of the underground was a successful one, we all made it on and off at the right stations. We spent the afternoon exploring the area around Westminster, the location of Big Ben and the House’s of Parliament, and a conveniently located red telephone box! We managed to cover over 9 miles of walking throughout the day, and that didn’t even include a 1 hour sightseeing tour along the River Thames on a boat.

The day ended with groups separating, some players exhausted heading back to the hotel early, while the tours ‘Spice Boys’ wanted to head to the shops on Oxford Street.

Spice Boy, Jose, pointing in the direction of the next shop!

 

UK Trip 2019 – Day 6

Bright eyed and bushy tailed for breakfast, we met in the lobby for our last full English meal in Manchester. Afterwards, we repacked our bags, loaded the bus, and made our way London, but not before we stopped at St. George’s Park for a tour.

With construction finishing in 2012, it took 18 months for the entire project, including the on-site Hilton Hotel to be completed. This world-class training center is the home of England’s 28 national teams, spanning 330 acres across the Staffordshire countryside. This mult-million complex has hosted many world class teams such as Manchester United, Barcelona, and Ajax. Here, they can use the outstanding pitches, sport science facilities, and stay at the Hilton hotel which is right on site. They have several world-class facilities that include a gym, pool, and even an underwater treadmill. We got to see them all, and even got to sit in the dressing room of the English national team. After exiting the dressing room, we saw their wall full of autographs from players that have trained there. This includes former and current players, but also world-class superstars like Messi. There were over 50 other autographs from players such as David Beckham, Radamel Falcao, and Andres Iniesta.

There are 13 outdoor pitches including the Sir Bobby Charlton Wembley replica pitch. This is a hybrid pitch that costs a million pounds that’re artificial and grass stitched. Their indoor pitch is considered one of the flattest in the world – being checked by the FA every year. We left St. George’s Park more than impressed.

After St. George’s Park we had lunch, and then made our way to London. It was a long ride, but we got to enjoy a brief view of Windsor Castle. Once we arrived at Cheswick’s Clayton Hotel, Swansea’s very own team were leaving for their match against QPR. We got to see them board their own bus, and just a couple hours later we got to see them beat QPR away from home, 3-1.

This was a Championship match, which is one level below the Premier league, being played at Loftus Road – just a 20 minute ride from our hotel. Both sides have been in the Premier League and are now competing to see who can make back up. All our players and staff were completely engaged in the match, as the atmosphere was incredible. We could hear the Swansea away fans singing from outside the stadium, and we could hear them singing the entire match. It might’ve been because they were in the lead most of the game, but the Swansea traveling fans never let up their cheers and supported their team with a passion and enthusiasm that can’t be rivaled anywhere inside an MLS game. This was truly a special experience for our players, as they got to see a club play not just for themselves, but for their brilliant fans. Their win didn’t just look like a team effort, it was a genuine club effort.

The songs, the cheers, applause, and even the displeasure were some of the loudest we’ve heard in a stadium, and it wasn’t at capacity. It showed us how passionate the club’s supporters are, and how football is intertwined with their identity. Everyone had such a great time, and we couldn’t be happier that we got to experience such a fantastic atmosphere.

After the game, we made our way back to Clayton Hotel to get some rest. It was a day full of travel and football, and we can’t wait for more.

UK Trip 2019 – Day 5

Day 4 started off with a bang, an early start down to breakfast with the team and a walk over to the playing fields behind the Sports Village stadium, where both Manchester Utd U23’s and Woman’s team play

This was to be the final training session during our time in Manchester. The training session was mainly focused on shooting and agility. A warm up activity followed by physiological development in an agility game competed within the teams, and finished off with a shooting activity to develop from a 1 v 1 situation in to a 2 v 1 and 2 v 2 situation depending on the context of the game. We even got to experience some UK rain, with the final few minutes of the practice playing out in freezing cold rain. However, after a nice shower, there was a noticeable rise in morale.

 

We then started on the long journey to Chester. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester

Parking next to Chester Castle, the group headed off towards the city center by walking along the ancient walls that surround the city, and passing under the famous Eastgate Clock. When everyone finished their lunch at a roast meat shop, we split up into smaller groups and traversed around the town. One of the groups roamed around the wide array of shops while another group explored the many churches and bridges that Chester had to offer. Finishing our trip with a treat, the groups came together and enjoyed ice cream while watching over the Chester Canal. We had a fantastic time and loved venturing through the city.

Spice Boys on Tour

UK Trip 2019 – Day 4

A bright and early start at 7:30am, and first stop our hotel breakfast at the hotel to energize before heading to the practice facilities.

Today’s session was a scrimmage session, using small sided games in the ‘football cage’, with the coaches taking part and splitting up on to the 2 teams. A fun session to give everyone a kick of energy to help overcome the jetlag. For preseason purposes the games were timed to 4 rounds of 20 minutes with  a 5 minute break in between, to cover a total playing duration of 80 minutes as we build towards the first game of the season. The games were high intensity, technical, and very strategical in both possession and recovery of the ball. Everyone was exhausted after the practice, and once we got back to the hotel everyone went to their rooms to take a shower before eating lunch at the hotel.

Today was one of the highlights of the trip, as we headed to Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, the ‘Theater of Dreams’. First on the agenda was the museum, so much rich history from its beginnings as Newton Heath, and having so many incredible players pull on the Manchester United jersey during it’s incredible history. The trophy cabinet was 3 completely full rooms of trophies and cups (maybe they could let Arsenal borrow a couple for their museum!). Although an incredibly decorated history of success, we learned about the humbling history of the Munich Air Disaster, where many Manchester United players and staff lost their lives following a European Cup game.

After exploring the museum we had a lecture about health and what you have to do to become a pro player. There was a huge emphasis on education and the importance of being a good player, and the belief that to be a good player you also need to be a good human being. We learned diet and sleep are so important, and it takes real dedication to be the best. The team was then incredibly excited for what was a huge surprise, as we were given the chance to wear some of the worlds greatest players jersey’s, the actual jersey they wore.

The day kept going, now moving on to the tour. The tour guide taught us a lot about the history of the stadium, including the bombings during World War 2. After the tour ended we spent a good hour in the club shop, and the majority of the team bought some new Manchester United merchandise, new fans for many years to come. Then we had dinner at a local restaurant called Hotel Football, a place next to Old Trafford, owned by the Class of 92. To bring an end to our evening, we fittingly watched Manchester United play out a 1-1 draw with Wolves.

UK Trip 2019 – Day 3

Following our long day of travel, and after everyone checked in at the Holiday Inn Express, after getting a good night’s sleep, the team was energetic and ready for their breakfast. Surprisingly, everyone woke up and got ready in time for breakfast. At the hotel, we had a classic Sunday breakfast: British bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, a medley of breads and grains. Everyone found something delicious to enjoy, some preferred the American bacon over the British bacon, while others filled up on yogurt and granola.

Next on the agenda was a brief training session at the nearby fields. The fields were absolutely stunning (the fields were perfectly cut artificial grass), and the team had a great time. Training consisted of agility training, a round of rondo, and ended with a short scrimmage. Everyone played extremely well despite still adjusting to the time zone. The group was split in to 2 teams for the duration of Manchester, and will be changed on the arrival of the group in to London. The orange team won session 1, resulting in the green team writing today’s review.

After the training session, the group headed back to the hotel to have some lunch and wash off. Representing British culture, meat pie and chicken pasta were the stars of the meal with roasties (roasted potatoes) and salad supporting them. Desert was much needed, for a post session sugar intake to replenish the energy expenditure of the practice session, and muscle glycogen stores. The Imperial War Museum was the next event of the day. A huge building filled with ancient war artifacts fascinated the group. Topically, we found ourselves in a book reading  from an author of many books which based his writing on the relationship between sports and war. The museum was a humbling experience. Next up was the main event of the day, the football museum, a multistory building of football’s roots, greatest moments, and interactive games. The football museum was a blast; there was plenty of football memorabilia and football related challenges for the group to challenge each other. At 5:00pm, and no injury time to be played, the museum closed, so the group trekked to the nearby shopping center. While some travelers went to the indoor mall section, others walked around the outdoor area. Lastly, the group met up at Nando’s for a delicious dinner to unwind from the fun events that filled our day. Looking forward to what tomorrow brings!

UK Trip 2019 – Day 2

Day 2 of our trip to the U.K. is a continuation of the long travel from San Francisco, just a blur of sporadic sleeping moments on the 2 flights separates the days.

Upon landing at Manchester Airport, we are greeted by Jack, our tour guide from WorldStrides, a jolly Scotsman with many stories.

The players first experience of Premier League soccer was the walk up to the stadium, with masses of fans descending on to the Etihad for Manchester City vs Spurs, a repeat of last seasons Champions League Final. On entry all fans warned today they are Man City fans, and we were seated at the top of the upper tear among the die hard ‘Citizens”.

Man City were all over Spurs and took the lead through a Sterling header, but we immediately pulled back to 1-1 to the disappointment of the City fans, while Dai celebrated inside. The magic moment was left for the very end of the game, when Jesus thought he had stolen the win at the last moment but VAR brought the Spurs fans joy, when a controversial handball decision was given and the goal was disallowed.

At the end of a long 24 hours that included traveling, and a Premier League game, the group checked in to the hotel at Leigh Sports Village to now experience the jet lag of being exhausted but not able to sleep. Meanwhile, one room found the joys of room service with a 3am pizza, fries, and garlic bread.

UK Trip 2019 – Day 1

A great start to the trip, with everyone arriving at the airport an no passports left at home.

Starting out at San Francisco International Airport, it is a long trip to our final destination of Manchester, England, where we will be arriving late Saturday afternoon.

Undaunted by the long travel, everyone was in great spirits, even fitting in their last American fine cuisine of burgers and fries, before experiencing the literal heart stopping traditional British food of battered sausage and chips. A few confused players with figuring out the climate to be expected, some fine minds quoted as ‘isn’t it winter in the U.K. during our summer?’, and ‘what’s the equator?’… this could be a long week!

Thankfully a smooth flight through to London, where the group now wait for their connection to Manchester. Exhausted bodies strewn across airport benches, as we wait for the light to finally confirm departure as we are teased by the delays to our flight and whether we will make it to the Manchester City vs Spurs game. To keep most players busy though, Premier League kick-offs are the perfect distraction as last minute transfers, and then the checking of important Fantasy League points is keeping everyone buzzed for their first EPL weekend in the U.K.

A packed itinerary is ahead for the week, and the group can’t wait to get immersed in the British soccer culture.

Week 3 Review

The following contains information about the weeks practice. The email will outline the sessions that have been completed and what the players worked on. We have a player centric, proactive curriculum which ensures the players will cover all the necessary mechanics, skill work, and give players a chance to be decision makers and creative players. Through the long-term development from U8 to U19, the players will pass through different stages and priorities as outlined in the program welcome meeting.

While during practice the players will be given the tools they need, if an individual wants to push on with playing at a higher level and performing to the best of their ability, practicing at home will always give them that extra edge, and we can’t encourage enough for those with passion for the sports to practice in their own time. This also avoids unnecessary over-training of structured practices continuously throughout the week.


ADP Training Pool, U8 and Competitive Ages

  • Small Sided Games, Free Play, Pre-Season.

Both sessions during this week were for Small Sided Games. A 3v3 to 4v4 format where players play the sport. Gaining game insight and intelligence while playing the sport in a pressure free environment

  • Physiological Conditioning – Speed

One of the purposes of physiological conditioning at this age is for positive outlook on fitness. Too often fitness is used as a punishment, this gives the youth player the wrong response to what fitness should be. The session gives the player a positive outlook, and provides a positive habit of looking after the body for athleticism. This age performs in fun games and races, with a ball.

Physical conditioning at this age is largely hereditary, as adaptations to physical activity (with exception to agility, balance and coordination), will be more efficiently optimized once player enter the growth and maturation years.


11’s to 08’s Competitive Teams

  • Passing Between the Units…

Penetration through passing, using the pass to communicate with players on the direction and speed of play.  Important role for the 2nd attacker with their movement and distance of support to get in to seams and position between the defensive units. All players constantly checking their shoulder to see where the next pass will be played before receiving the ball. Body movement and position to have hips open to the field.

  • Physiological Conditioning – Agility

A fun in competition against other individual players from 3 other teams. A slalom sprint leads the player in to a small playing area, where the first player to enter collects a pinnie and becomes the ‘tagger’. The 3 remaining players must avoid getting tagged. The second set then includes the ball, where players are in a 1v1 situation with the defender. All sets and reps are adjusted for the age group, and repetitions are times to allow for rest periods.

  • Thursdays Free Play

Free play is vitally important, and more of this is needed in youth sports. https://www.soccertoday.com/platini-soaf-let-youth-players-be-kids-they-are-not-pros-yet/ This gives empowerment to the individual player to perform with creative actions and to use the game situation to problem solve, not relying on the instructions from external sources outside of the games context.


07’s to 05’s

  • Physiological Conditioning – Agility

A fun in competition against other individual players from 3 other teams. A slalom sprint leads the player in to a small playing area, where the first player to enter collects a pinnie and becomes the ‘tagger’. The 3 remaining players must avoid getting tagged. The second set then includes the ball, where players are in a 1v1 situation with the defender. All sets and reps are adjusted for the age group, and repetitions are times to allow for rest periods.

  • Physiological Conditioning – Cardiovascular

Designed to challenge the individual’s cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and perform soccer specific techniques under fatigue. A circuit developed to challenge passing and dribbling, alternating with sprint activities in a chase relay. Following the circuit there is a 4-minute run. This is psychologically challenging as there is no specific start/end point so the players must manage the negative thoughts and doubt that can enter a players mind during fatigue. A ball will stay in play for up to 3 minutes without rest during a game, 4 minutes pushes a player past this threshold, so they can compete for extended periods. Increased cardiovascular performance results in higher skill level as fatigue sets in.

  • Thursdays Free Play

Free play is vitally important, and more of this is needed in youth sports. https://www.soccertoday.com/platini-soaf-let-youth-players-be-kids-they-are-not-pros-yet/ This gives empowerment to the individual player to perform with creative actions and to use the game situation to problem solve, not relying on the instructions from external sources outside of the games context.


04’s and Older

  • Physiological Conditioning – Agility

A fun in competition against other individual players from 3 other teams. A slalom sprint leads the player in to a small playing area, where the first player to enter collects a pinnie and becomes the ‘tagger’. The 3 remaining players must avoid getting tagged. The second set then includes the ball, where players are in a 1v1 situation with the defender. All sets and reps are adjusted for the age group, and repetitions are times to allow for rest periods.

  • Physiological Conditioning – Agility Passing

Working in groups of four with one ball per group, players release the ball in a pass to then sprint through a gate at the opposite end of the playing area. Upon returning to the playing area that player is again active to be involved in the passing and moving. Progressions involve having a defender from another group put pressure on the decision making of the players with a burpee forfeit for the team of three losing possession to the one defender. As always, a small sided game to finish with conditions to match that of the practice topic, passing. Numbers up game where players have three options to score, encouraging ball movement to switch points of attack to exploit space. Intensity of session continues to be high due to the numerical advantage of the team in possession.

  • Physiological Conditioning – Cardiovascular

Designed to challenge the individual’s cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, and perform soccer specific techniques under fatigue. A circuit developed to challenge passing and dribbling, alternating with sprint activities in a chase relay. Following the circuit there is a 4-minute run. This is psychologically challenging as there is no specific start/end point so the players must manage the negative thoughts and doubt that can enter a players mind during fatigue. A ball will stay in play for up to 3 minutes without rest during a game, 4 minutes pushes a player past this threshold, so they can compete for extended periods. Increased cardiovascular performance results in higher skill level as fatigue sets in.


Every session is structured to facilitate all four pillars of the players development, and to include challenges, targets, and competition to get players to push themselves further. We are a program that heavily focuses on the players individual development, and not to get caught up in the race for trophies and excessive travel to unnecessary tournaments. If you ever have any questions about the Fremont YSC philosophy, and the proactive curriculum, we are always available to answer.