West Elk soccer returns to Spain for training (and fun)

Madrid, Valencia and the beach

For the third summer in a row, West Elk Soccer Association (WESA) has a group of local youth soccer players, as well as guest players from Gunnison, Buena Vista and Telluride, training and traveling in Spain with the FUTEDU Soccer Academy.

The partnership with the FUTEDU Academy started with a trip to Spain with the high school boys team two years ago. Last year the girls team headed to Spain and this year, it’s the boys’ turn again with 19 players making the trip.

WESA director of coaching Tom Lewis and WESA coach Jason Lain are on the trip with the team and they are one week into their tour. Lewis provided this update from the first half of the tour.

Madrid

After 17 hours of traveling, landing at 8 a.m., flying through the night, spending five hours in Washington and the boys knowing the airport like the back of their hand, we got to Madrid!

We had a little city center tour the day we arrived, exploring the innermost part of the city and getting to explore the unbelievable (even for an English guy) architecture of the city. Then I heard the strangest thing from a 14-year-old boy, “I wish we could have spent more time in the city, as it was super cool to see all the buildings and the city.”

Real Madrid

The boys had two sessions with Real Madrid at the Real Madrid Sports City, which is the training facility for all of their teams, including all of their academy teams. Really cool setup, as you get older, you progress closer to the first team training field. We trained a couple of fields into the complex with coach Victor. The boys donned their Real Madrid training kit and got to experience the Real Madrid philosophy in its own environment. We arrived via coach, escorted in and out of the facility by security, who would not leave us alone within the complex, clearly, some top-secret Champions League plans around there…

Santiago Bernabeu

Probably my highlight of the trip, visiting the best stadium in the world, not just in soccer, but any sport. This stadium is mind-blowing, 80,000 capacity, with grass that goes underground (and still grows) so they can host Taylor Swift concerts and other things in the summer, seeing all 15 of Real Madrid’s Champions League trophies, along with a replica Ballon d’Or of every player they have had when they have won it. You could smell the success as you walked along the trophy cabinet and saw the history of the club that was formed in 1902.

Valencia

The four-hour bus ride to Valencia had the boys knocked out cold as the jet lag was still beating them down. Enter humidity and HEAT. During the first five days we have spent in Valencia, the boys have been to the beach, walked to the Mestalla stadium, had a day off and been able to get out and explore the city a little bit via the e-scooter, watching carnage ensue as 19 American teenage boys descended on Valencia for two hours, causing chaos and mayhem everywhere they went. Don’t use sport mode the guide said, all 19 scooters were in sport mode by the end of the tour, but he loved us, and the boys had a ton of fun.

FUTEDU training and game

The training with FUTEDU has been top-notch, they know what they are doing. Jose, Pere, Chloe and Gaby (who still plays professionally in Spain), the boys have been responding to the training and I can see them improving and applying the different styles of play that FUTEDU and Spain provides. Pere has a level of passion and love for the game and the boys I haven’t seen in many people, Gaby has the science and professional game background to help push the boys to new levels, Chloe has experience playing college soccer in the U.S. for four years, along with coaching, and Jose is the head of FUTEDU and breathes professionalism. With these people around them, the boys are responding and listening to what they say, being open to new positions because of it, and giving their all in practices. It’s hot, it’s humid, but nobody is shying away from the challenge and all of them want to come back a better player from this experience. 

Following the days of training sessions, we played a game on Sunday night, in 80-degree heat, on turf, in 95% humidity. The WESA uniforms have never been this wet from the rain, and it wasn’t raining. We faced a local Valencian club, Union Imposibles. Sadly, we lost the game, but the development I witnessed in players was impressive, all 19 boys learned as the game went on, dialed in, listening to Pere, myself, Gaby, Jason, and Chloe from the sidelines (Gaby and Chloe messages going through Tom to be spoken in English), Pere being passionate as ever from the sidelines in his positive messages, in Spanish and English.

Beach day

The boys have gotten to experience two beach days so far, one involving some training, small-sided games and ball mastery in the air, and another day of relaxing, swimming in the ocean and laying on the beach for a few hours. Tom and Magnus showed their pasty side and are now a colorful pink.

All of the boys had to work out how to play soccer on the sand, and after a while, they realized it needed to be in the air, due to the volatility of the random bounces that put Rainbow Park to shame as the ball traveled to them. I think they took some value from this session of first touch and the need to go forward more when they have the ball.

There’s more in store on the second part of the trip with a paella cooking class, karting, another game and more training with FUTEDU.

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