Saturday, July 18, 2015

Teen Lessons at the Barcelona Summer Cup

Day 16 – 24
Best Hotel Negresco, Salou
Wellness rating – variable depending on the day.  Three buffet meals a day, a small and incredibly overheated gym, many motor coach journeys, and perhaps as much wine as water, with days of surf and sand and turf and concrete made each day an adventure in wellness.

Here we go!
Bring on the teenagers!  21 teenagers, 3 younger siblings, and 18 assorted adults make up the group headed for the Barcelona Summer Cup in Salou.  This is Futbol with countries from North America and Europe born between 1999 and 2007 represented, both boys and girls teams, all intent on playing their hearts out in the hot Spanish sun.

What a life experience for those boys and their coaches whose journey began with the planning one year out, but in reality had started for many of these boys who began playing on the same team (or in the same league) when they were just 7 years old.  You can see more about the boys and their coaches in the links.  They have been coached, worked through fitness training, played and practiced, won, tied and lost over many years and hundreds of days.  Their results were a series of losses and if that was your only benchmark you would not be paying attention to the value of a team sport, for a team they were.  In every game each member of the team stepped up with effort and heart, never giving up, never slowing down until the final whistle.  They were there to be part of a team, which meant playing, eating, exploring, sleeping, swimming, beaching and growing together as a team.  The 18 boys on the team are all unique, and all brought their own strengths to bear, and at the end of it all returned home better for the experience.

We did enjoy this time which began by releasing the jet lag with a trip across to Costa Brava for a day of kayaking and snorkelling, discovering their first topless sunbathers, and for the adults getting lost in the sun and sand of this area.  From there it was into days of training for the boys, and exploring the nearby Salou and gorgeous beaches of the area.  The girls tried out the cleaner fish pedicure – five minutes of these babies nibbling at their feet as they squealed and squirmed and took endless photos.  

The days at the pitch were an exercise in staying cool, cheering on teams from around the world and seeing how coaches and teams interact, and no matter what the language was it was often the same message – play your best and while there is joy in victory, what matters is being there for your team.  

Our final days were filled with adventure and excitement, one of these back on motor coaches as we enjoyed a day in Barcelona including Camp Nou, a true soccer fans experience that should not be missed.  The tournament organizers knew that if in Salou, you have to experience the Port Aventure Theme park, and the majority of the teams took advantage of these tickets and enjoyed the wonders of roller coasters while some of us instead enjoyed the Mediterranean.  This evening everyone headed in to see Amaluna, and this Cirque de Soleil spectacle had the boys heads exploding with wonder at the super-athleticism of these wondrous performers.  To see them experience this was a highlight for sure.

It was bittersweet to send many of the boys home and see the other families off at the end of this part of our adventure knowing it was the end of an era in their soccer lives as this team will disband and join others next year.  Thank you Coach Sherri and Palmer for making this dream a reality, and thank you to the boys who showed respect, teamwork and joy in this epic journey.

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