Local players and coaches wrap up soccer trip to Spain

“It was encouraging to see the level of play increase so dramatically over the span of two weeks, especially in the upcoming freshmen”

by Than Acuff

A group of 19 high school soccer players, 17 of whom are from Crested Butte, and WESA director of coaching Tom Lewis and WESA coach and board member Jason Lain, just wrapped up their trip to Spain training with the FUTEDU Academy. After three days in Madrid to start the trip and then relocating to Valencia for the remainder, the players had a shaky first week of training and play. The team eventually grew comfortable with the rhythm of the tour mixing in the sights of Valencia and some go-kart racing with training and closing out the two-week trip with a match against a local Valencia club and finishing with a 1-1 draw.

“The boys started to find their groove in the second week,” says Lewis. “I think having a routine, jet lag fading and being settled in one place really helped them find their feet and allowed them to take the maximum out of practice each day.”

“Despite a rough start, as the camp went on players progressed rapidly,” adds senior Marin Gardner. “Players taking too many touches began receiving the ball with their heads up ready to make the next pass, allowing us to maintain shape and possession to avoid counter attacks. It was encouraging to see the level of play increase so dramatically over the span of two weeks, especially in the upcoming freshmen.”

While Valencia training was plenty hot and humid, the players started to find their feet in the sessions the FUTEDU coaching staff put together.

“FUTEDU maintained the possession focus, mixed in with strength work, mental conditioning and helping the boys understand how to play two different formations across the two different games and their development skyrocketed in training,” explains Lewis.

While training and gaining knowledge about the game of soccer is a focus of the trip to Spain, there is an element of team building as well with the team a mix of seniors down to freshmen, all who plan to play this fall for the Titans.

“This freshman class is a strong crew who very well might be the future of our program,” says Gardner. “Each of them is full of excellent talent and passion for the game of soccer. They have a tight- knit group that thrives on and off the pitch. Crested Butte soccer has the best mentality, every senior class I’ve ever known taught us what grit, effort and what being a ‘dog’ is like. I, along with my fellow classmates, plan to keep these beliefs alive and toughen up the freshman class to compete at the next level.”

“The seniors stepped up, and helped integrate the younger players,” adds Lewis. “There were of course little friend groups, but at no point was anyone excluded from anything by anyone. On the final night, I heard a conversation from a couple of upperclassmen helping the freshmen with what to expect from coach Than, along with helping points on the speed of play and how high school soccer is. To me that shows the beginning of unity, and togetherness to push for state title number five.”

The true test of how much they learned over the course of the trip came in their second and final match on Thursday, June 20 against Valencia club Tevernes. Tevernes is highly regarded among the soccer clubs in Valencia due to how organized they are, their player ability, their coaching and their facilities which included a full-sized turf field complete with stands that can hold up to 500 fans.

After playing their first match in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the Valencia coaches shifted the squad into a 4-4-2 when they took the field against Tevernes and after 30 minutes of a battle, the WESA team took a 1-0 lead off a goal from Max Naughton. WESA’s shape defensively continued to stymie Tevernes but a second half goal eventually resulted in a 1-1 draw.

“The second match was a great way to end the trip, we had some parents in the stands watching, a new formation from the first game, and an overall better understanding of the players themselves from the coaches, and the players themselves,” says Lewis.

Reflecting on the training, Lewis believes the players have made significant strides in their overall game and understanding of how to play.

“I think the boys realized how important speed of play is, not just quick but when to slow down, and when to move the ball quickly,” says Lewis. “One of the biggest takeaways from some players was when we can go forward with the ball… go forward, don’t be scared, make the turn and play the pass or dribble. I personally think the players will come back from this experience better for that, and hopefully have even more attacking intent than they already had over the last few seasons.”

Overall, Gardner saw the trip as a success both on and off the training pitch.

“The trip was an excellent mix of intense soccer training with high level coaches who made it their priority to assess each player individually,” says Gardner. “Aside from primarily soccer, the team was able to explore the cities of Madrid and Valencia, giving us a feel for the social and cultural side of a European country. The team and I were able to make friends from various different countries and share each other’s stories and passion for soccer. This trip was not only a soccer camp, it was an opportunity for the team and myself to learn how to adapt, make our own decisions, take care of responsibilities and live like an adult.”

Check Also

Grin & Bear It race to Green Lake set for this Saturday

Running through the woods, French toast and beer By Than Acuff For the 41st year, Crested …