Over the weekend, our under-15s travelled to France to compete in the AS Lens football Tournament.
Danny Bell reports on the weekend:
This weekend, myself and Liam had the privilege of taking our TNS Academy U15s (19/20) squad to Lens in France to compete in an international tournament. We also had two of our talented U14s join the group on this occasion, who were playing at times, two years up with the tournament working in birth years.
The weekend began with an early departure from The Venue on Friday morning, where we set off to Dover with the U16s, as they were also heading to an international tournament in France. Despite it being very early in the morning, the humour and excitement was very high and it was good to see that socially the boys are all good friends and gel well together.
Once arrived in Calais, tournament organisers collected the U15s to travel to Lens, while we said goodbye to the U16s due to them travelling to Lille.
Upon arrival at the tournament, we spent some time checking out the impressive facilities we were at, and had dinner together. After dinner, it was time to head to our hotel and once settled in, our evening meeting took place discussing on and off the pitch plans for the weekend.
Players shared ideas and understood how to represent themselves, their coaches and of course, our club. Once finished, it was time for bed due to an early start for breakfast and the beginning of our group matches.
On Saturday, we played three group games and had a real feel to how the football was played here and learnt the tempo of the games both on the grass and artificial pitches. Our boys competed in every game and put themselves in a very good position heading into Sunday’s fixtures.
Lunch time consisted of Cajun Chicken and rice, along with lots of bread! The players knew this was very important for them and their bodies for the long weekend.
As we headed into Saturday evening, and all fixtures being competed for the day, some chill and socialising time was needed before dinner. With our boys being very friendly and having great banter we call it, it was not long before they started making friends with other players and teams.
Despite the language barrier, we were able to watch our other friends’ games the next day and vice versa. Everywhere we went, our French friends came and watched our games and celebrated the goals we have scored, saves we made and cheered us on after every new player coming on.
Dinner time was needed to recharge and this time we were treated with lasagne. The players knew that this was very important to eat, with pasta being a slow release energy source, with a big day tomorrow ahead.
It was time to head back to the hotel for a final evening meeting and then off to bed for another early start.
Breakfast consisted of again, more bread! Followed by our 1st game of the day shortly after, which turned out to be against the tournament winners in the end. It was a very competitive game and only one goal separating the sides.
Our 2nd game came relatively quickly with not much waiting time in between, which we think is a positive thing. We found every game very competitive and our players were faced with different challenges every game which they learnt from.
Following our second game, lunch time consisted of chicken and potato wedges which our players loved. In this break between our third game, we spent some time eating lunch and talking to our French friends. The complex where we had all breakfast, lunch and dinner was a short walk away from the football pitches, meaning we had some time attempting to break the language barrier down with our French friends from the dinner hall to the pitches.
Our final group game had some pressures on it, more than most, with us being level on points but ahead on goal difference meaning only a draw to go through. Players dealt with this pressure really well and had a real maturity when performing in front of many people and of course, playing under pressure.
As we waited for the results on who we would be facing from Group B, there was a fantastic inflatable football table on the complex, where our players spent a lot of time having fun. There was also a power penalty area, where the device can record how powerful your penalties are. You can only imagine the banter and competitiveness this caused within the group..
The final game was in front of many people watching, and the players had great responsibility and they loved the challenge. Every tackle, every 1v1, every save, every shot was really celebrated by the players and the biggest thing I have learnt about our players is they really have a bond like no other, along with a real maturity and very, very smart young men. This really pleases me, as I have coached the group now for two years, with the majority of players being here at the club for a long time.
It was now time for the end ceremony, where players were cheered by all teams at the tournament for their ability and confidence to play and stick to your playing style and of course, due to all the friends they had made.
It was now time to head back to Calais and catch our ferry back to Dover. It was going to be another long, late evening, but players are all on highs and had the greatest of times. It is of course really important that we focus on the football when we travel to international tournaments however, I personally feel that the social environment that we create for the players is just as important if not more, as developing the person is one of mine, and our club’s, main aims.
Many thanks to all of the players for a fantastic weekend, it’s one that I will remember for many years to come.