‘I play for Chelsea!’ the ten year old stood their proudly in his royal blue kit, name emblazoned on the back. Here was a kid who would boost the mid-table Under 11 side I was running over in Berkshire, a region west of London, England. Then I saw the lad play on the soccer training program. Or not, as the case may be. His proud mum was standing at the side of the pitch, cheering her son’s every tackle, every shot, every pass. She was notably quiet when he missed the ball, or kicked it out attempting a ten yard assist, or tried a Cruyff turn and ended up flat on his backside. Thinking back, her periods of silence exceeded her occasional cheers by a ratio of about a hundred to one.
Clubs’ Academies / Soccer Training Programs – Excellent but Expensive
Still, there was no doubting the keenness of the lad, and so he made the bench for our next match. ‘Why’s little Tommy not playing?’ demanded mum, her smiles of earlier in the week now changed to a fierce scowl. ‘He plays for Chelsea.’
Of course, he didn’t. Mum and dad had sold one of their Porsches (Berkshire is a very rich county) and financed a fortnight’s training at a ‘Chelsea Academy.’ No doubt, young Tommy received excellent tuition in a safe, supportive environment and had a great time. His ability as a soccer player undoubtedly improved but, despite the unrealistic dreams of Tommy and, more worryingly, his mum, he isn’t going to be the next Eden Hazard.
What Mrs Tommy failed to grasp was that the academy program of modern soccer clubs is one of their many money spinners. At the elite level, boys and girls will be selected, trained hard and used as an income source when they reach the point where they make the first team, saving a transfer fee of $50 million it would cost to buy an equivalent players. More likely, they will be sold on to a life of lower league soccer. Even those players, though, are very rare.
For the overwhelming majority, training camps are just that – camps – non-selective, expensive, good but value for money? That is hard to say. It will depend on many factors – the weather, the others in the group, the quality (or otherwise) of the ex-pros, FA qualified coaches and teachers who are employed that summer to run the youngsters through their paces.
So let us take a look at some of the options parents might consider if they are thinking of sending their sons or daughters on a soccer training course in Europe.
We would strongly recommend the following checks:
- Are the coaches police checked?
- Are they qualified under their country’s football association?
- What level of medical qualifications will be onsite?
- What facilities will the kids have access to? Indoors? Grass? AstroTurf?
- What is the coach to player ratio? Anything above one to ten is probably best avoided.
- How are age groups and ability levels organized?
- Where will the training take place?
Residential or Day Soccer Training Program
Swings and roundabouts here. Without doubt, spending a fortnight at a soccer training camp where our kid is fully engaged in life of the camp is a great experience. As long as that is something our child enjoys.
On the other hand, for their soccer skills, the advantages of a day camp are strong. We get to see our kids at the end of the day. We can make sure that they eat properly, that they rest well, that they are happy.
A family holiday to, say, the South of France, where our kids are off playing soccer during the day while we enjoy the beach, the countryside, the history and the food does sound pretty appealing.
But if a residential camp is what suits us best, it is definitely important to check what happens in the evenings. Are there trips out? What measures are taken to ensure our kids eat well? Especially, of course, if we have a fussy eater. If the camp is in a non-English speaking country, how are language problems addressed?
In either case, the practicalities of actually visiting a camp in advance is remote; even if we do, since the staffing will tend to be transitory, we won’t get that much of an insight into the experience our child will receive. However, recommendations are handy, if not deal breakers. Try to get a direct email address or, even better, a phone number of at least three families who have used the camp.
What Does It Cost?
Which is, it is no surprise to learn, a question with myriad answers. There are some guidelines we can follow, though. The company we use will want to make a profit. They will need to pay for their staff – the more experienced and qualified, the costlier these will be. Another expense is to hire the facilities they are using; they will need to cover costs of equipment and insurances.
Therefore, a reasonable expectation is that anything costing less than $130-$150 per day, for a non-residential course, is perhaps best avoided. Having said that, a camp in Portugal or France will probably cost less than one in a British city or Germany.
For residential trips, expect to pay a maximum of $2000-$2200 for a week, to include everything except flights (pick up at the airport, supervised transfers etc). Once more, some countries in mainland Europe will be a lot cheaper, perhaps half the price.
Summing Up – Play it Safe
Barry Burnell was a former youth team soccer coach with a number of top English clubs, including Manchester City. He is currently serving more than thirty years in prison for sexually abusing boys at the academies he led. As terrible as that story is, there are some positives.
Most notably, it has probably never been safer to send our kids on a soccer camp. Any reputable club or organization (and that includes schools who hire out their facilities) is completely committed to ensuring the safety of the kids under their care.
The key word here is ‘reputable’. Of course, there are many small organizations running outstanding courses which improve kids’ skills and offer them a brilliant experience. But, whether we come to Europe with our youngsters or not, we are talking about organizations thousands of miles from home. In such circumstances, big is safest. Not necessarily best, but as reliable as we can hope for.
We are wary of making recommendations. There are so many organizations out there. Nevertheless, Soccer Camps International seems a good starting point. It offers camps across Europe; coaches are fully qualified and it seems to hire out some ideal locations for residential holidays. The company also has some links to top clubs, which adds an extra layer of security. A week in the UK starts at $1750; in France, it is just under $700. There are, though, plenty of extras.
Their website is https://soccercampsinternational.com
Here’s to a super soccer summer…
Abiprod – Soccer Specials
If you like this post, you’ll love our post on how to deal with problem parents in soccer training.