This Easter, the Sunshine State welcomed Hungerhill School from Doncaster for a week long football tour – and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Setting their sights as high as the roller-coasters, they trained like the pros with Orlando City SC coaches, put their skills to the test in their fixtures and filled up on some All-American grub (we’re talking pancakes, waffles and fry ups every morning).
Lucky enough to share the experience with them, I’ve penned down the top highlights of Hungerhill’s American adventure. Be sure to check out all of the photos below!
Day 1: Training like the pros
After a day of travel (and adjusting to the time difference!), the school headed to the spectacular Orlando City SC to kick-start their professional coaching training session with the club’s professional coaches. The group were split into 4 and took part in 4 separate drills – each one as good as the last.
What made it so great was that it met the level and ability of every player and really got the group thinking about their positioning, shooting and passing.
After pushing themselves on the pitch, it was time to hear from the players and coaches themselves in a Q&A session. With mass footballing knowledge and experience between them, the guests included:
Lewis Neal – British footballer for Orlando City B, originally from Leicester
Tom Sermanni – Ex Scottish footballer, now Head Coach of Orlando Pride (women’s team)
Seb Hines – First team player, originally from Yorkshire, close to where Hungerhill School are from! Also played for Middlesbrough FC in his early career
Luke Boden – First team player, also from Yorkshire
Anthony Pulis – Head coach of Orlando City B. Tony Pulis’ son
Rob Valentino – Assistant coach for Orlando City B
Mark Watson – Assistant coach of first team. Played for Watford in his prime
The key message that came across was ‘work hard to achieve your dreams’. If an opportunity comes your way, take it!
With so many British players and coaches, the kids really related to their experiences – especially with Luke Boden and Seb Hines who are originally from Yorkshire, not far from the school itself. It’d be great to see some Hungerhill pupils make that step to professional football in years to come.
As my first visit to Orlando City SC, it certainly won’t be my last – it’s an absolute must for any group.
Day 2: Cool down at Aquatica Waterpark
What better way to cool down and relax those tired limbs than a day at the water-park? We’ll just let the picture of Aquatica speak for itself…
Day 3 & 4: Game on!
Squeezing in some downtime in the mornings (think shopping and go-karting), days 3 and 4 came thick and fast with the group’s set of fixtures.
It was great to see such enthusiastic local teams who absolutely loved playing the UK teams. The post-match hospitality was unbelievable – exchanging memorabilia, making new friends and enjoying dinner together (American’s don’t half love their BBQ sauce!).
The level of professionalism from both sides was really impressive to see – it really showed off the true values of an international fixture. Each team did a walk out, lined up to shake hands before kick-off and captains swapped pennants. It couldn’t have been better.
Football is growing massively in USA and girls’ football is currently at a phenomenal level. No doubt the country’s incredible facilities like 3G and perfect grass pitches, stands and club houses have all helped to get American football to the incredible standard it is today.
Day 6: Scream if you want to go faster!
You can’t come all the way to Orlando without paying a visit to a theme park! After spending the day at Busch Gardens, the group enjoyed a spot of shopping at Florida Mall to spend their last few dollars before heading home.
All in all, this is a tour I’ll never forget. The excursions were jam packed full of fun and laughter and the sporting fixtures were played in great spirits. I hope Hungerhill School enjoyed it as much as I did.
I’m currently counting down until the next one…
By the way, did I mention we spotted Kaká?