Summer 2023, and guess what was on my 15-year-old's bucket list? Yup, you guessed it – soccer, soccer, and some more soccer. With his club on a break, Mama had to step in and find a solution.
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Of course, the universe (and Google) pointed us to England, the homeland of sport, where the turf smells of legends.
After sifting through endless options, we hit gold: The FCV International Football Academy. Nestled amid postcard-perfect meadows, the academy radiated old-world English charm with its vintage main building.
What sold me? It wasn’t presented as just another "summer camp". This was an International Football Academy, complete with UEFA-qualified coaches training the lads twice every weekday. They weren't looking for tourists; they wanted serious players.
Fast forward to a delightful July morning, and we touched down in England. Located near a quaint village by Leicester, the academy was just an hour's train ride from London. It was a mini–United Nations with kids from all corners – USA, France, Vietnam, Spain, Lebanon, Israel, Greece, Tanzania, Uganda... you name it!
So, with my duty as a soccer mom momentarily paused, I did what any self-respecting parent would do: made a beeline for the serenity of the English countryside, Buxton to be precise. Think Downton Abbey, minus the drama and with more sheep.
My son? Details from him were scarce. Let me break it down for you: conversations between teenagers and parents are mainly monosyllabic. But the occasional emoji led me to believe he was enjoying himself. No comments on the food, which by teen standards, is essentially a Michelin star.
July in that quintessential English spot has its moods, with rain often being its favorite expression. On those drizzly days, the kids were whisked off to Loughborough University's indoor arena for their training sessions. I happened to drop by on the last day of the program and was blown away by the top-notch facilities at the university. (See video)
In the lounge, a casual chat began with a fellow parent – a dad to a badminton player from the English national team, practicing just next door. Between sips of tea, we bonded over the unpaid full-time job of being sports parents. We sighed over the long hours, the costs, and the dedication it takes to nurture young talents. But, as we concurred, the grind is essential. After all, how can an athlete with four weekly training sessions even stand against one clocking in ten?
Rounding off our trip, we tackled London. Over three days, our experiences blurred into a mix of sports brand hauls, endless searches for the perfect sneakers, a mesmerizing tour of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, a uniquely subterranean gym experience, and even checking out tattoo age restrictions. (It's 18 😅)
Two weeks after our return, my son, with his bolstered confidence, approached the coach of an elite club he had always dreamed of joining. After undergoing the trials, he made the cut!
Here's to pursuing big dreams and the sheer joy of watching your child go after them.