On the back of a Championship winning season, the MacDuffie Mustangs Girls Soccer team headed across the Atlantic to share their talent and love of the game with the people of London, England; twelve Varsity players, three guest players, plus eighteen family members made the nine day trip during the March break. According to Coach George, “The decision to take this group of soccer players to England was an easy one to make. The passion they have for the game, and the skill level that they have already acquired in their young life, created the right recipe to take on the road to the country where the game was founded. It also helps that these young ladies are fantastic people…..but don’t tell them I told you so”.
The purpose of the tour was to expose the players to the culture of soccer in England. This was achieved by providing an opportunity to train with professional coaches, and to play against youth teams of Premiership and Championship clubs in England.
Of course, a visit to London would not be complete without visiting some of the historic sites, including Buckingham Palace, Parliament and Big Ben, Tower of London, London Eye, the many museums, and Windsor Castle, where the trip started on arrival at Heathrow Airport.
Ava, an eighth grade student from South Hadley said, “Being exposed to more soccer; watching, playing, practicing, and being seen by professional coaches, made me more aware of how important the various aspects of being a player are, both on and off the field. The importance of being well-rounded as a person in general”. Mimi, a ninth grader from Connecticut added, “The experience and knowledge I gained from the tour, made me realize that even though you may have great ability and skill, you still need to work on all other parts of the game and your character”.
Some of the football (soccer) highlights the group experienced included, training with English Football Association coaching staff, and Chelsea Football Club Academy staff at the Wembley Stadium complex, followed by a tour of the stadium, and a photo opportunity with the iconic FA Cup. A traditional game day Saturday afternoon was experienced by a visit to Selhurst Park to watch the Premiership clash between Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers.
Field side seats made for a truly magical experience. Some members of the group also visited Stamford Bridge to watch Premiership leaders Chelsea take on Southampton. The second training session took place under the instruction of the Arsenal Football Club Ladies coaching staff. The day spent with the Arsenal Ladies included a 2-hour practice, followed by watching their game against Yeovil Town, ending with a private meet and greet with the players, including England stars Lianne Sanderson and Kelly Smith.
The third training session took place at the Charlton Athletic Football Club (of the English Championship) training ground, under the instruction of Charlton Athletic Football Club coaching staff. The Mustangs played three games in total, against Queens Park Rangers Football Club, Charlton Athletic Football Club, and finally an unforgettable experience of playing against Chelsea Football Club at their breath-taking Cobham Training Ground.
Many thanks to:
QPR FC, Charlton Athletic FC, Chelsea FC for allowing us to play against their youth teams, and for hosting us at their facilities, QPR FC for securing excellent tickets for the Premiership game against Crystal Palace, all the coaches that worked with the team, from the English FA, Chelsea FC Academy and Chelsea FC Academy Goalkeeper Coaches, Charlton Athletic FC, and the Arsenal FC Ladies.
The tour was organized by Premier Coaching (premiercoachingsoccer.com) and Let Me Play (letmeplay.co.uk).