Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Day 10: August 8th

Every one woke up looking forward to a last round of games. The forecast called for cloudy skies with periods of showers. A perfect day for soccer.
All of the boys teams had an early wake up call to eat breakfast and get on the bus to make the 141 mile trip to Norwich for the early afternoon game times. Today would prove to be the toughest competition. But the boys looked forward to getting off site and seeing some more of the English country side. Throughout the trip the boys won and lost but gained invaluable lessons in playing TOUGH and working as a team.

The older boys team battled hard and beat the Norwich side 3-1. All in all it was great competition for the older boys throughout the week and really solidified and brought them closer as a team.

The U 14 girls and U 15 girls traveled to the Brighton & Hove Albion training facility to play matches against both a Brighton girls team and a team from Bournmouth. Today proved to be the toughest competition for both groups making a great day of hard fought last games. The U15 girls had some easier games earlier in the week but were able to finish the trip off with some tough competition and really show their strength and ability with a final hard fought 1-0 win. The U14 girls group finished really came together and finished off their tour with wins against both teams as well.

In the evening the U16 Blackbear group traveled over to Lancing College to eat dinner and later play the women from Lewis FC. Though they lost 4-3, it too was great competition. They were able to play a few ladies teams throughout the trip and really show how competitive girls soccer in America can be by playing up to and in most cases better than the English women team's ability. They should all be very proud of how the represented themselves and their Club this trip.

All of the boys teams attended the Norwich FC vs Swindon match at Carrow Road for the EFL Cup or English Football League Cup. This was a first round match in the Cup for all 92 league clubs, though premier league clubs don't begin play until round two. Since already out there for final matches, all the boys got to experience another stadium and see Norwich beat Swindon 3-2. Swindon scored first in the 25th minute but by halftime Norwich FC was up 3-1. A goal for Swindon in the 62nd minute made the end of the game tight and great to watch but  wasn't enough in the end and Norwich came out with the win.
With all of the boys away for matches, the U14 girls came back to Lancing College and took full advantage of an empty dorm, making use of the ping long table, video games and overall quiet.
In the late afternoon before dinner they had a girls afternoon of relaxing and facials while also celebrating Zena Fitzgerald's birthday tomorrow with streamers and party poppers.
In the evening everyone snuggled under blankets as a group in the common room and watched a movie.
Tomorrow everyone will be up for their last breakfast and then back to their rooms to organize, clean and pack before a closing ceremony by the staff and onto the Coach buses back to the airport.
Believe it or not and ready or not... you get your child back tomorrow!!!!
We would like to thank all of the staff from Sports Tours Europe for the amazing attention and care they gave in keeping all of the kids responsible and safe. Everyone grew to love them and they will be missed by all.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Day 9: August 7th

Woke up to another bright but partially cloudy day. Apart from our day excursion on the Brighton Pier, the skies and weather have been good to us.
This morning all of the teams at Lancing College and Ardingly College had their last training session with their Brighton Staff Coaches. Most groups started with some light warm ups and possession drills before heading into an 11v11 game for the girls as well as games with the boys. It was a good way to end out the week for the coaches to be able see the group play and see how they implement the tactics learned over the week. All of the Players will have a personal one on one meeting with their coach as well as get a critique/ evaluation form.

Back at the dorms everyone showered before lunch and prepared for the Amex Stadium Tour planned for this afternoon.
In this downtime, I headed into the Lancing College Chapel. The biggest difference between the two campuses is the architecture at Lancing and The Chapel. Set up on a hill, the chapel can be seen for quite a distance and is a destination for tourists.

It is an example of Gothic Revival architecture that started foundation construction in 1868, but in 1977 when construction finished, it continues to remain unfinished. It is the largest school chapel in the world though they worship mostly in the crypt down below the main chapel.
The outstanding feature to the chapel is the large Rose stained glass window. This year the tapestries are all being cleaned but you can still enter, walk all the way to the front and turn around to view the magnificent stained glass feature.
Here are a few shots from the interior to give you a good idea of  the the inner to match the outer beauty.

After lunch, we all boarded a bus and headed back to the Amex Stadium to take a behind the scenes tour.  The large group broke up into many smaller groups and we wound our way throughout the stadium visiting the VIP lounge, the Directors box, the trophy room

We got to see the differences in the Visitors changing rooms vs the Home team. While everything is the same in size, the Visitors area is stark and basic while the Home team experiences the comforts needed for good game preparation.

On the other side of the locker room, we sat at the post game interview areas as well.

Then it was on to the tunnel leading pitch side.

Finally, the kids were set free in the Club Pro Shop. A shopping frenzy ensued with jerseys, scarfs, coffee mugs, sweatshirts, watches. You name it, if it had a Brighton logo, those kids bought it!

Back on the bus, the younger teams headed back to Lancing College for dinner and a nightly activity of capture the flag.
The older girls headed back to Ardingly College and prepared for their matches against Horley Ladies. The teams from Blackbear and Mariners continued their unbeaten run against local English competition with two more impressive wins showing off their competitiveness, team shape and organization as well as an ability to finish thanks to some unmatched speed up top.
Tomorrow both the younger and older boys teams head to Norwich where they will play their final round of games as well as watch the Norwich vs Swindon match. All of the girls groups will also play their final games over at the Brighton Academy training ground.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Day 8: August 6th

After a long day of travel into London yesterday to see the Fulham FC match, the kids were up bright and early to fuel up for another long day of sight seeing along the coast and attending the Brighton & Hove Albion vs Athletico Madrid game.
At 10:30am we boarded the bus to make the 45 minute drive to the Seven Sisters Cliff Walk.
The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk cliffs that run along the English Channel. We started our walk at Beachy Head in East Sussex which has the highest chalk sea cliff. Just the bus ride out to the Cliffs posed spectacular coastal views of small towns and sheep fields.

The entire group of boys and girls set out together along the Cliffs enjoying the spectacular views. It felt great to walk and enjoy the amazing weather, another day of sun and blue skies!, after a day couped up on the bus and in the stands for a game.

Every player reacted with amazement at the scenery. There is nothing comparable on the East Coast, and they scrambled to take pictures and selfies. Anyone with height issues stayed back from the edge, but I think the stress level of the Sports Tours Europe and SUSC staff was on high alert keeping everyone safe. More than once, the staff mentioned coming back to visit again when young lives weren't being looked after to truly enjoy the Cliffs 😀

The two hour hike ended at Burlington Gap Beach.

 Everyone finished their lunches, used the restrooms and reboarded the bus for the 20 minute ride to the the Amex Stadium, home of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club. The American Express Community Stadium is located in the village of Falmer and was completed in 2011. This is the first season that the stadium will host Premier League games as the club was promoted from the Championship after last season.
Tonight is a pre season friendly match against Athletico Madrid. After a long walk the kids were excited to settle into their seats and watch some of their idols play. But first everyone stopped for some pre game nourishment. More of the kids were open to trying the meat pies this time. A choice of steak and ale, chicken gammon and leeks or vegetarian gave a choice for everyone.
But many still stuck with home favorites like hamburgers and hot dogs or just sweets.
Back in our seats we settled in for the game.
The game was tight for the first forty minutes with no score until Madrid's Nico Gaitan fired a hard struck 30 yard shot that the Brighton keeper Maty Ryan misread and fumbled it into the net. Both teams made some changes after halftime and at 61 minutes Brighton took advantage of a free kick and new signing Pascal Gross scored on a deflected free kick. However 5 minutes later Fernando Torres headed in a cross to put Athletico back in the lead. In the 76th minute Brighton scored their own header goal from Steve Sidwell once again tying the score at 2 all. But with three minutes left in the game Athletico Madrid took the 3-2 lead for the win. Griezmann's initial close range shot was saved by Ryan but the rebound was slotted home by Lucas Hernandez. All in all a competitive, high scoring game making it fun to watch.

Tomorrow everyone is back on the fields. In the morning the younger girls and boys at Lancing College have a training session before headed back over to the Amex Stadium for a stadium tour and a trip into the club shop.
The older girls and boys over at Ardingly College also have a morning training session with the afternoon visit to the Amex Stadium. The older girls teams have another round of games in the evening to be played at Ardingly College.