Monday, August 15, 2016

Day 13 August 13th

Today is our last full day before we make the journey back to America. The kids woke up quickly and made their way to the canteen (new term for cafeteria) and tucked into another delicious "Full English'. Although some people haven't particularly liked some of the food on the trip, I don't think there is one person that has passed up on proper bacon. If only we could bring some back with us...

The field hockey players headed off to Oxford which is about two hours away from Brighton. The famous city is world renown for its university and the various colleges that dot the skyline has helped earned the name 'City of Dreaming Spires'.  The players walked around the city center and took in some of the local shops which now occupy the historic buildings that line the streets. In the middle of Oxford is the castle which was converted into a luxury hotel. The castle is almost 1,000 years old and was an active prison up until the mid 1990s. Once lunch rolled around everyone made their way to the Head of the River pub which sits next to the River Thames. This is the same river that snakes its way back down to London. During the summer locals take part in punting which is similar to the gondola boats in Venice, Italy. The players did some more shopping and soon they were back on the coach and on their way to Lancing.

The soccer players were treated to something special, a Premier League match between Southampton and Watford. This weekend was the official start of the Premier League and what a way to usher in the new season. The players packed into the coach and set off for Southampton which is another famous port along the English Channel. The boys played their youth academy earlier in the week (and we won) so they were interested to see what their first team was like. The stadium is right by the water and the way it is built made for a cracking atmosphere. Watford struck early in the first half but Southampton equalized in the second half after a superb volley from Nathan Redmond. The game finished 1-1 and the kids went home with big smiles on their faces. 

That evening, CMT held their closing ceremonies for both soccer and field hockey. The soccer players were awarded several accolades including 'Unsung Hero' for both boys and girls. The winners were Delaney Goodell and Aidan George. The Seacoast United coaches also nominated two players who they thought were the most improved players over the two week camp. The recipients were Lyida Thibault and Andrew Van De Water. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Day 12 August 12th

Games, games and more games! Today was the last day of the tour where all the teams had games. We had girl soccer teams away in London, we had boys soccer teams in Worthing, the other girls soccer team at Lancing and field hockey was down the road in Lewes. Keeping track of all of the action was a task and it almost felt like we had become the new Sportscenter (ESPN song now playing in your head) so let's get right into it for all of the detailed match report.

The kids were all up bright and early and they hurried over to the cafeteria to grab some breakfast. The boys soccer players put on their gear and then they hopped onto a bus which took them to Worthing, a small town down the road from Lancing College. The boys were matched up against Crystal Palace (London), Bournemouth (Southern England) and Volenti which is an academy out of London. You might recognize Crystal Palace and Bournemouth as they are clubs currently in the Premier League.

The girls soccer teams were split into two sides, with one team hosting Portsmouth FC in Lancing and the other teams traveling up to London to take on Tottenham Hotspur at their training ground. The game against Portsmouth was a battle between who had the loudest kit, Seacoast wearing their volt yellow one and Portsmouth with a florescent pink kit. The game was pretty much one way traffic and the girls did well to control the overall play. The finished the game winning 3-0 and afterwards Portsmouth presented them with a framed shirt. Up in London, the Seacoast girls were taking on a high profile side in Tottenham. Another Premier League team, they are well known for their youth academy and producing some of the best talent in the country. The girls set the tone from the onset and it was all Seacoast. The game finished 6-0 and it was a joyous ride back to Lancing. Another win and another clean sheet.

Field hockey were playing against a local county team in Lewes, a little village just on the other side of Brighton. The sports complex was very impressive. They had grass tennis courts and several field hockey pitches. The backdrop easily wins the best view of the trip. Just behind the field are the remnants of the old city wall. As you look up the hill you can see the old castle which sits atop the hill overlooking everything. The 16s and 18s went up against two very strong and technically gifted sides. The 16s were caught out early on but they grew into the game and didn't give up until the final whistle. The score ended 4-2 but it was easily the toughest match of the tour. The 18s went down 3-1 early on but managed to get the game level at 4-4 by half-time. Although the second half didn't turn out the way they had hoped, the players still put in a great shift and the other teams coach was very impressed with our determination and overall attitude. All of players and parents were treated to a BBQ by the host team and everyone got along great. They exchanged stories about their experiences here in England whilst the English players talked about how much they enjoy visiting America!

Back at Lancing College, the boys and girls soccer players were treated to a closing presentation by Brighton and Hove Albion. Everyone received goodie bags along with trophies commemorating their time in England. Afterwards the kids had a BBQ which was a great way to end what was the easily the biggest sporting day of the trip. If anything, Seacoast United had just completed a mini Olympics. Great day, great people and great weather!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Day 11 August 11th

Today the boys and girls soccer players had the opportunity to visit the 'Home of Football'. Wembley Stadium is located in North London and sits on the site of the previous stadium. Many people in America will be familiar with the stadium because it has hosted NFL games the last couple of years. The stadium was officially opened up in 2007 and is the official home of the England national team as well as several cup finals (FA Cup, League Cup, etc.). In 2010 it hosted the Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona. The stadium is regarded as the holy grail for English football and the kids had the opportunity to take a behind the scenes tour. They went into the changing rooms, the press conference room and even had the chance to sit in the dugout.

Field hockey spent the majority of the day preparing for their last game on Friday. This will be a big test and one that the girls certainly want to end on a winning note. The feedback we have received from some of the other teams has been amazing. They are well impressed with the standard that our teams have played at and they are all jumping at the chance to come to American and play us on home soil!

In the evening the girls soccer teams had two games against local opposition, Crawley and Eastbourne. Both of the games were really tight and it made for some entertaining football. Crawley and Eastbourne were very impressive and put up a good fight against the Seacoast United teams. After the game, they all received USA Nike balls and they girls received commemorative pennants to mark the occasion.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Day 10 August 10th

10 days. It has been 10 days since Seacoast United arrived on these shores. The kids are growing up and maturing, both on and off the field. We have mentioned how well the group seems to be gelling but it is worth noting once more the comradery these players have with one another. Everyone on this trip has rallied around one another and they all share one common denominator, the badge. These kids are working ever so hard for the Seacoast United badge on their shirts and little by little, this country is finding out what it means to be a Seacoast United player.

Today was much like the other days on the trip, chock full of activities. Girl soccer players were invited back to train at Brighton's training complex, field hockey players participated in a workshop that involved video analysis (more on that later) and the boy soccer teams had games against Brighton and Southampton. All of this made up for a cracking but first, we had to have breakfast. This was the second time we were treated to the most popular item on the menu this whole trip, the mini waffles. These things are without a doubt the best things we have eaten during our whole stay. Whoever came up with these, BRAVO! You should receive a knighthood.

First up, the girl soccer players enjoyed a light morning session after their heroics from the day before at the training ground. Everyone was still buzzing about the game they attended last night and some of them even attempted to recreate some of the goals scored. Once they were finished with their session, they enjoyed a bite to eat before heading out to the Brighton training ground. The girls trained on one of the artificial turf fields with an actual Brighton Ladies coach and you could tell from their faces they loved every minute of it. The coach (who plied here trade in Texas on a couple of occasions) was fantastic and only demanded the best out of the girls. The bar was set and they surpassed it. The field hockey players took part in a workshop this morning which focused on the benefits of video analysis. All of the players took a lot from it and it certainly gave them a new perspective on how to view the game.

The boys soccer teams had some big matches in store in the afternoon against Brighton and Southampton. For those of you familiar with the Premier League, Southampton has one of the most renown youth academies in the world. There most famous export is Gareth Bale and they have consistently produced some of the best players in the country; The boys were split up on two fields, two of the teams played at the dome and the other team played on grass. The Seacoast teams ended up winning three matches which was a huge result! Special mention to Xavier Ross and Brandon Rodriguez who both recorded hat-tricks. Once finished, the boys headed back to the Lancing Collge a little bruised, but chest out and head held high knowing they had just beaten some of the best young players around.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Day 8 August 8th

Last Monday, the players touched down in a foreign land with many of them making the journey outside of America for the first time. One week on and you would think that they were world travelers (and world athletes for that matter). After the weekend excursions in London and Brighton, the normal schedule resumed with training and games taking precedence.

The players awoke to another sunny morning in England and have started to wonder why this country gets such a bad reputation when it comes to weather. Fun fact, there have been more consistently sunny days during our trip than at any other point in time in England. Just kidding, that isn't an actual fact but it sure is nice to be enjoying such lovely weather.

Once breakfast was finished, the boys and girls soccer players changed into their kit and headed over to the classroom where they participated in a seminar with some of Brighton and Hove Albion's academy and recruitment staff. The players quickly learned what it takes to be a top players as well as how the scouting system works in this country. Players as young a 7 are offered places in the academy and they can quickly go on to signing a contract before they are 18. Brighton is relatively close to London so it was interesting to hear how they compete with the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham and Crystal Palace for players. Once the seminar was finished the kids headed out to the fields. The boys had a game in the afternoon so they worked on some small sided games and technical drills whilst the girls scrimmaged.

In the afternoon, the girl soccer player and the field hockey players had training as the boys rested before their matches against Charlton Ahtletic. Both of the girls sports teams have some big games taking place on Tuesday so there was a lot of emphasis on organization and set up during the session. As the girls were finishing up, the boys were making their way down to the field for the games. Charlton Athletic hails from Southeast London and currently play in the English Football League One division. Although they are positioned lower in the league, it wasn't to long ago they were playing in the Premier League against Manchester United and Arsenal. They are well known for producing good players and the boys knew this would be a big test. All three games kicked off at the same time and the format was four twenty minute quarters. The Charlton players were certainly a talented bunch but our boys competed with them on all fronts. The games ended in a draw and two close losses. One of the Charlton coaches afterwards couldn't say enough positive things about our style of play and more importantly, the way the boys conducted themselves. They already want to play us again before we leave!

In the evening the kids enjoyed some dinner and then they made their way out to the fields once more for a fun game of 'rounders'. The sport is basically and smaller version of baseball with a bat that you use with one hand. All of the players played which was great to see. You really get a sense that all of the kids are coming together and enjoying their time over here.

Day 7 August 7th

It is crazy to think that last Sunday, everyone was finishing up some last minute packing and making sure they had everything ready for their trip. All of the players made their way to Logan airport for the start of this exciting adventure. Fast forward to today and the kids are well on their way to becoming experienced travelers.

Since today was Sunday and there weren't any scheduled activities in the morning, everyone was able to enjoy something that they haven't been able to do thus far, SLEEP IN! The kids enjoyed a 'lie in' and had a late breakfast. Once everyone had a bite to eat, they went back to their dorms to freshen up before hopping onto the bus for their next destination.

Brighton Pier is the famous landmark in Brighton and can be seen sticking out into the English Channel for several hundred yards. Believe it or not, thousands and thousands of people from across the UK flock to Brighton as it is one of the premier holiday spots in the country. The beach is beautiful but slightly different to what we are use to. Instead of sand, there are smooth rocks up and down the shoreline.

The kids had the opportunity to explore the historic downtown as well as the famous pier. To give you an idea of what Brighton Pier is like, think Coney Island but slightly smaller. Amusement park rides, games and even 'candy floss' (cotton candy) stations line up the pier making this a favorite spot for young ones. The pier was officially taken over by Seacoast United and it is safe to say the kids had a cracking day out! Once everyone wore themselves out, we made our way back to Lancing College for a quiet evening knowing that the week coming up would be full of games for both soccer and field hockey.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Day 6 August 6th

London Calling! The famous tune song by the British punk band The Clash always sets the mood when you visit the historic city. There is nothing like London. The history, the buildings, the people, the sights, the sounds. There isn't another city like it on the planet and today the Seacoast United players were lucky enough to experience it first hand.

The kids were woken up promptly at 7:00 am which was a task in itself since we didn't get back from Fulham until midnight! Everyone was excited to explore London so it didn't take much convincing to get everyone over to the cafeteria for a quick breakfast before we made our way to the buses. Two buses with over 70 kids started the journey to Central London. The drive up to the city was great as we weaved our way through various boroughs. The houses and streets are a far cry from the major metropolitan areas the kids are accustomed to but there is no other city that does such an amazing job of integrating the old with the new. Little cobble stone streets are adorned with skyscrapers towering in the sky.

We were all dropped off just before Oxford Street, the busiest shopping district in London, and we were quickly split into smaller groups. Everyone made their way to Niketown which is located near Oxford Circus. The kids were released on the store and had the next hour to try on top of the line training gear and boots. The parents that made their way over to England surprised some of the players which was a great sight. Once the kids all finished, the groups headed off in different directions to see the famous sights.

The girl soccer players headed out and made their way (slowly) to Piccadilly Circus. Of course we came across a Starbucks so we spent a good hour queuing up whilst everyone got a much needed Frappaccuno. The girls eventually arrived at the famous Piccadilly Circus and hopped on an open top bus for a quick tour around London. We saw all of the favorites, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and of course Big Ben. Once the tour was finished, we stopped at a souvenir shop for some British gifts and we were back on the bus.

The boys soccer players enjoyed a tour by foot and were able to get up close to some of the landmarks. The weather today was nothing short of superb and could have easily been the nicest day of the year. A handful of clouds dotted the blue sky and the breeze off of the Thames was well received. The field hockey players were treated to a nice surprise as they hopped into the observation pods on the London Eye. The famous Ferris wheel is fixed along the South Embankment and is just opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The players had a great view of the whole city and were able to get plenty of pictures. Back down on the ground, it was a quick scramble to the bus and we made our way back to Lancing College with all of the kids feeling just a little bit more cultured.