Champions are made in the summer
By Than Acuff
For the second summer in a row, a West Elk Soccer Association (WESA) team made the trip to Valencia, Spain, for two weeks of training with the Futedu International Academy. While the boys u19 team were the guinea pigs last summer, 21 girls from the WESA u19 team made the trip this summer to train with Spanish coaches, take in the sights of Valencia and play a couple of matches against local clubs.
The team arrived in Valencia on Sunday, June 4 and after some initial nerves, soon settled into the routine with the help of some familiar territory, the soccer field.
“The girls’ first impressions were very positive,” says WESA u19 and Crested Butte Titans high school girls coach Heather Culley. “A little nervous at first being in a different place, with new coaches, but they settled down once they started to play soccer.”
Under the guidance of the Spanish coaches, the team trained twice a day with additional work indoors in the evenings, and Futedu provided a comprehensive mix of skill work, possession work and decision-making followed by additional instruction in the evenings.
“The coaches were very encouraging and intense during the sessions they ran with the girls,” says Culley. “Helping them grow not only as individuals, but also as a team. Most coaches here have played at a professional level, or are currently playing at the collegiate level, so they are well educated in the sport. It was really cool to see how they run practices and the girls got an amazing opportunity to meet Kerlly Real of Ecuador. She plays on the first team for Valencia CF and for the Ecuador national team. She did some trainings and played with them on the second day we were there.”
And while soccer training was the impetus for the WESA players traveling to Valencia, it’s not all about soccer as the team was treated to some sightseeing, a classic Valencia meal and, of course, some beach time.
“The girls got to have a beach training session, with some free time at the beach followed by a delicious paella dinner,” says Culley. “We then had a beach day, followed by a walking tour of the Valencia city center and an e-scooter tour around Valencia. The girls also got to tour the Valencia CF stadium.”
The team returned to training to prepare for their first of two matches of the trip against local Valencian clubs. The WESA team struggled against the local club falling 4-0 and while high hopes may have been dashed, further analysis of the match proved that it wasn’t all bad out on the field.
“They were bummed, most didn’t think they played well,” says Culley. “But after watching the film that evening, they saw there were a lot of good things they did. Just some unlucky mistakes which led to them conceding.”
The team returned to training, toured the Valencia CF stadium and then wrapped up the trip with one last match and the time in training and the lessons learned from their first match showed in their second showdown as they finished with a 2-2 draw.
“They played so much better,” says Culley. “They were more comfortable playing together, so it was a lot better of a game.”
The girls returned to Denver on Thursday, June 15, and Culley believes the experience had an impact on the girls’ program for years to come.
“It was super positive,” says Culley. “These girls got to know each other on and off the field and learned how to play together which is great because we have a lot of incoming freshmen. It has been awesome to watch.”
The training opportunities with Futedu doesn’t end there though as WESA has arranged for coaches from the Futedu International Academy to come to Crested Butte to offer camps. There will be four separate camps available for boys and girls ages 10-19 throughout the month of July. Information about the camps can be found at westelksoccer.org.