This months Soccer Smart Academy group quickly settled into life at our Alicante Academy by reaping the benefit of the famous Spanish summers, with temperatures soaring above the 30 degree mark.
The focus was on possession. The hot weather this summer meant the Soccer Smart players had to be extremely precise in keeping the ball, paying special attention to finding one of their fellow teammates. Any loss of possession would result in longer periods without the ball, making it an increasingly difficult and gruelling task to recover with the constant sun beaming down their necks.
At Soccer Smart we don't just expect continuous improvement from our players, but with personal development at the forefront of what we teach, we make it a mission to develop ourselves. Therefore, to begin June the Soccer Smart Academy coaches and I decided to map out two playing philosophies - one in and one out of possession. The group of incoming players would watch these clips through our HUDL player analysis tool with emphasis on the previous academy group. Consequently, players took a short quiz to give them an idea of our expectations and their goals, which in previous months may have taken a weeks’ worth of training sessions to get across.
The Soccer Smart players were fortunate enough to play against Hercules' Juvenile (U19) team after only 3 days of training at the academy. What better way to be introduced to Spanish football ey! The professional Spanish youth team narrowly took the victory with a 2-0 win, but the academy players took plenty of positives out of the game. Bearing in mind the group had only known each other for half a week, the result gave us and the players a great platform to build on.
Towards the end of the week the players were treated to a trip to Aqualandia in Benidorm. With the waterpark boasting of plenty of water slides and fun things to do it gave the players the chance to enjoy the summer sunshine and get to know each other in a relaxed environment before heading back to business in the competitive environment of football.
Matchday 2 was to be played in the mountainous region of Jijona. The players' hard work on and off the pitch came to fruition as they ran riot to win the game 4-0. The pick of the goals was from American player Chris who scored a screamer, catching the goalkeeper off his line from 35 yards out. The following week the Soccer Smart Academy continued its momentum with a fantastic 5-0 victory against Semi-Professional youth outfit Alicante CF and a hard earned 2-2 draw with a team from the North of Spain.
There benefits of coming to the Academy in June were simply fantastic. Firstly, The 'San Juan' Festival, one of the biggest festivals in Spain, took place on the beaches of Alicante. The Soccer Smart players enjoyed street parties, beech fires and some impressive fireworks. The second reward was the 2018 World Cup, which had an extra significance for the players and galvanised them in the evenings to enjoy the highest level of world football. Given that the Soccer Smart Academy boasts of players from all over the world, there was an extra special and competitive atmosphere in the Villa, that these players would have not experienced in their home nations.
To finish off a fantastic month, one of our players has been invited to trial with a professional team in Spain when their pre-season kicks off next month.... I and the Soccer Smart team wish him well and believe he has a great chance of earning a contract. Watch this space!
We wish all the players the best of luck in the next chapter of their footballing career and believe they all leave us as better players and people than when they first entered the door in June.