For the past four summers, I've had the amazing opportunity to work and tour with some of the best soccer clubs in the world. I get to see these clubs compete in some of the biggest stadiums in the country as well as observe how these coaches and players prepare for their upcoming seasons. "The Tour" is quite the dichotomy for me. It is stressful, exhausting, exhilarating, exciting, and, at the same time, one of the most calming and teachable moments of the year for me... very strange, I know. :-)
"The Tour" - aka The International Champions Cup (ICC) - is an event that attracts the best soccer clubs in the world to the US for their preseason training and organizes preseason matches in stadiums throughout the US.
This summer was my fourth year working the ICC and my second year working with Manchester United. I spent a month on the road in Salt Lake City, Houston, Santa Clara, Washington, DC, and finished in Dublin, Ireland. As I list the cities we hit in one month, I'm sure you are now starting to understand where the stressful and exhausting descriptors come from :-). At every stadium, we played in front of sold-out or record-breaking crowds, and we also played against Barcelona (my favorite team) in DC... By now, I'm sure you are understanding the exciting and exhilarating piece!
On to the most important part: the calming and teachable moments! While the exhaustion and stress of being on tour can get to anyone, the most amazing moments for me were sitting in the stands at training to watch Jose Mourinho get his Manchester United squad ready to compete in the EPL and Champions League. Sitting and watching training every day was the most calming part of the tour for me and is of course a testament to how much I still love the game! I'd also like to mention that I got a chance to get on the field to play "one touch" with Marcus Rashford...while some may have been nervous in the moment, I was just so happy to be touching a ball with a world-class player! Unfortunately, I did lose 3-2 :-(
In other years on tour, I've worked with Real Madrid and Chelsea. Every coach and club has a different style, but I have undoubtedly learned a tremendous amount just by sitting in the stands watching their sessions. They have all influenced how I prepare my players for their club and college seasons and these experiences on tour have undoubtedly made me a better coach, player and mentor to all the kids and young adults that I work with.
Stay tuned for my next post on how I helped a Williams College player prepare for her preseason this past August.