Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Beautiful Game

Put fifteen 14 year old boys together in a confined space and tell them to stand still and breathe. You would be surprised at the reaction.
My lovely Brother In Law, Kev, manages and coaches his son's local football team. Most of the boys have grown up playing together since they were 5 and they have a great bond both on and off the pitch. I just hope they realise quite how lucky they are to have Kev at the helm. He is enthusiastic, organised and fun and has created a pretty well performing group with a great attitude and wonderful team spirit.

From my experience, growing up across the road from the local pitch, football training typically consists of a kick about once a week, running round and round the field, passing endless balls to each other,with a few cones added in for extra measure, then back home, covered in mud, smelling of sweaty boy!
Chalfont Saints, thanks to Kev have taken local football training to another level. During the season, about every three weeks all the boys put £4 into the pot and meet at Bisham Abbey, early on Saturday morning. Now for those of you not in the know, set in spectacular grounds, Bisham Abbey is one of the UK's National Sports Centres. It offers training grounds and state of the art facilities for the countries leading sportsmen and women and the great thing about this place is that it's open to the local community as well as the sporting elite. Being a member, Kev takes advantage of this centre of sporting excellence himself, mainly for the fantastic tennis courts and delicious bacon sandwiches in the cafe! But being a sport nut he is passionate about his football lads and about giving them the opportunities and encouragement that he wished he had been given as a boy. Taking them to train where they can rub shoulders with top sports professionals can only be inspiring to these impressionable youngsters.
I was lucky enough to be included in the training session last weekend and it was quite something!
Bleary eyed teenage boys tumbled out of their Mum's cars at around 9am in the car park. i-Phones and  Blackberries were pried from hands and boots were slung on although the effort to bend down and tie the laces was really too much for the lanky limbed pubescents! Subs paid and chatter about lasts nights "Assasins Creed" marathon ongoing, Kev corralled the lads and they headed off for a half hour warm up on one of the FA standard pitches. I headed to the warmth of the cafe and a cup of peppermint tea! After about half an hour the boys all trooped up the stairs.
It was my turn! EEK!
Now I was well aware that  my Nephew, Jack was slightly nervous that I was going to embarrass him so I had to go into cool Aunt mode as well as yoga guru extraordinaire! Kev had secured a squash court for us which was perfect, big enough for the boys to spread out but small enough for me to keep an eye on everyone and stay in control! I didn't give them a chance to moan, straight away telling them to get their shoes and socks off and find a space. My bossy dance teacher voice came in very handy here!
And we were off!
It was a challenge for sure, but I had 30 minutes, a sequence in my head and I was determined to get through it and not put up with any truck (as my Dad would say!)
I loved it!
We started with some side bends and heart opening back bends then went into some sun salutations. I know it isn't very yogic but I had them in competition to see who could do 5 press ups each time in  the midst of their sun salute and let me tell you, no 14 year old wants to be out done by their mates in front of a girl who can match them (that was me - had to step up my game too!!) As well as core strength work, I concentrated quite a bit on hamstring stretching and knee and ankle strengthening poses for these budding sports heroes! Kev had been telling me about the high  injury rate amongst the team and that was why I agreed to take them for a yoga session. If a muscle and a joint is strong and has flexibility to it, when it is put in a compromising position it is likely to bounce back. With a limited amount of movement  and give, the muscle or joint has no chance, and will just tear, sprain or rip instead.
The boys did muck about a bit, making oh so predictable fart noises when I asked them to do a wide leg forward bend, but generally they were receptive and keen and focused. Particular favourite poses were, for me, chair pose and glute stretch which brought about much moaning and groaning (very amusing!) and for them, Tree, where their competitive streaks once again came out with nobody wanting to be the first to fall over!
By their short but sweet Savasana they were all smiling and quiet - a good sign! I gave them a quick run down on using this focus they had in yoga class for their football matches and their homework (groan!) and they were promptly whisked off to the next bit of their mornings training, Spinning!
Of course it would have been better to have done the spinning before yoga, but the boot camp style spinning instructor was on a tight schedule and we had to work around him. After 45 minutes of furious cycling whilst being shouted at by The Bike Nazi the boys were red and sweaty...and done! They all made it though! I was so impressed that apart form hopping off their bikes quickly to fill up their water bottles they all spun right to the bitter end!
After hitting the showers, the team all re-convened in a quiet corner of the tennis viewing area where Kev produced a gourmet picnic for all the starving players. There were sausage rolls, salady sandwiches for the vegetarian players(!) cheese and ham for the traditional carnivores amongst them, crisps and all sorts of other yummies! It was the perfect end to a really great morning of pushing themselves to their limits mentally and physically and after stuffing their faces they were all glowing at their achievements over the last few hours and full of enthusiasm for the next mornings match.
As the boys trooped out to meet their rides home they were so polite,  high-fiving Kev and thanking me for my contribution to the morning with the odd comment regarding their ability to move the next day! I left feeling a wonderful sense of achievement that I had opened these boys up to something new and in doing so had also managed to keep my cool status with Jack!
Thanks to Kev, the boys went back home clean, fed and watered and so knackered out that they didn't have the energy to argue about homework to be done or kit to be put in the wash!
The following morning, "Fart noise boys" were benched for the first half of their match after a speech from Kev about abusing the privilege of being trained by paid professionals! And I am happy to say that Chalfont Saints won their match, 4 - 1 with my gorgeous Nephew scoring two of those goals.
The boys are now asking when they can have another yoga session! 
You gotta love that!

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