When the opportunity arose for me to participate in a soccer camp in Claremont, CA I became instantly excited about the learning experience that was to follow.
The camp was based on children of the high school age, freshman to seniors, all looking to get in front of perspective college coaches to showcase their talents. The players had travelled from a varying amount of states and countries to be here. This was also a big opportunity for them.
After everyone had landed we transported to a 4-star hotel just minutes from the training field. Each day we would follow a strict schedule to give the players boundaries and direction. I felt like this is what it would be like when they eventually got to college and the camp was set up not only to help the boys evolve into good soccer players but to help them transfer into actual college life. It forced them to interact with strangers and form bonds fairly quickly. The organizer of the camp, Matthew Edwards, did a great job in selecting his team. Firstly, and I think this was the most the most important step, he chose current students of the colleges to assist the players. They would chaperone and mentor the players to help them adapt to their new environment. He then selected coaches from a variety of universities around America. Some of the most prestigious colleges had sent their assistants to coach the boys and transfer their wealth of knowledge of the college soccer to them. Yale, Colgate, Northwestern, Pomona-Pitzer and two colleges from Chicago. A psychology and mindset specialist was also flown in from Atlanta, GA to give the boys access to the other side of the game.
When everything had settled down we went into a meeting where the boys were introduced to the coaches and mentors. After a brief introduction, and when teams had been formulated, we travelled to the facilities via minibus. The facilities were excellent. Huge grass fields and an amazing turf field which overlooked the mountains. Everything was kept to a high standard. On my first day I drifted between the fields to really get the full experience I was after. I wanted to see how different the level in college coaching was to the sort of training that we offer as a company. My observation was that they kept the drills very simple. Quick possession games for technique, switch of play games for tactics and a very quick small sided game that used outside players as bumpers. One thing that the coaches wanted, and got, was intensity and speed of play. Each team rotated after 30 minutes which helped the efficiency of the session.
The main thing that I gained from the sessions was the communication to the players. How each coached acted and reacted to certain points within the sessions. How did they react when something worked vs. when it didn’t work? Did they hold their players hands in giving the information to them or did they let the players learn from the environment? Everything varied from coach to coach and it was very helpful to see all these different coaching methods and communications in such a short amount of time.
On the second day of the camp I was placed with the head coach of Pomona-Pitzer University to help as an assistant. Coach Bill was a very experienced coach. He has had previous roles in England and did the majority of his work with Tottenham Hotspur. The opportunity to work side by side with Bill was exceptional. We worked again on speed of play and focused on giving the boys as much technical and tactical information as we could on an individual basis. Bill and I discussed how each of the players learned in a different way and discussed how we use certain techniques to overcome this obstacle. We then prepared the team for their games later on in the day by going over some simple strategies. Bill’s experience in soccer was second to none and he gave me so much advice that I will use forever.
What I took away from the camp will help me in the future. I got to see many different coaching styles and communications. I learned a few drills that may be useful but, again, they are very very simple. It’s the information that the coaches feed the players that really make these activities effective. The lecture on Mindset was also very helpful (I will post this separately) and really gave the players access to a completely different level, and very important, aspect of the game. As the game gets to a higher level so does the need for mental strength and the various exercises that were provided in the seminar will no doubt help the players gain a massive advantage in the future.
The biggest benefit of this camp from a personal point of view was the networking. Being able to meet new coaches and gain their perspective on the game that we all love was an immense pleasure. I now have more people to ask advice from and have more opportunities to go and coach at a very high level.
From a player’s point of view it was a great opportunity to really taste life as a high standard collegiate athlete. How do they prepare themselves mentally and physically? What to do away from the soccer field that will help them gain an advantage? Most importantly I believe was the social aspect. Giving these player and environment where they had to adapt will only make them stronger as players. Those that accepted and got on with it will absolutely reap the rewards.
Kile Dee - 19th February 2016