Vivid, fond memories flood my thoughts when I think back to my years of youth soccer, but there’s the international trip I was lucky enough to take to Holland and then everything else. Nothing quite compares to the experience I had travelling with my teammates, competing against young players from all over Europe, and experiencing a culture so different from my upbringing in the London suburbs. Those memories will stay with me forever!
I lived the dream all over again when I was invited, as a young coach finding my way in the U.S., to take a U14 boys team to compete in Holland’s Harlem Cup. This time from a coach’s perspective, experiencing the thrill of international competition and seeing the excitement of my young team as they took to the field for their first match against an Egyptian team. It was incredibly rewarding!
Fast forward 20 years, and I am lucky enough to have made a career in youth soccer and in the last 10 years, youth sports travel. Having provided the steps in players’ development at U.K. Elite Soccer, from fun introduction to activity through soccer at age three, to intense residential camp weeks for high school athletes, we decided in 2005 the next step was to offer the opportunity for individual players and teams to travel to Europe. We formed Global Team Travel in 2005 and took our first teams to Italy.
Seeing over 100 of our soccer players entering the Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg in front of over 50,000 spectators at the opening ceremony was certainly one of the highlights of 2016. Just as rewarding, however, was seeing teams of all ages and backgrounds shaking hands and posing together for “selfies” at the end of matches all over Europe!
This summer, over 700 players and family members will travel with Global Team Travel to play, train and compete in Spain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, England and Costa Rica. I know they will have a fantastic time and come back with incredibly enduring memories and friendships.
Here are my top five reasons why every youngster should have the opportunity to travel abroad:
1. Expand Your Horizons: There is a huge world out there to explore and from which you can learn many incredibly valuable lessons! Travel is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in life, and to spark that interest in youngsters is a great gift.
2. Appreciate Diversity: On their travels, young athletes will see, hear and experience a life that may be very different from their own. New climates, foods, languages, architecture and art are among the many valuable “firsts” to which they may be exposed.
3. Gain a Different Perspective: Many young athletes have experienced their sport from a town, state or even U.S. perspective, but very few have seen it from an international perspective. Being exposed to players with different abilities, playing styles and even fervent fans is a great opportunity to develop a greater appreciation for a sport.
4. Bond as a Team: From the moment a team walks through an airport in matching warmups a lot of eyes are on them. People are naturally curious to see who is travelling and to what event. It puts the team in the spotlight and exposes them to excitement, expectation and scrutiny. Sharing a road trip with teammates brings so many learning opportunities
5. Create Lifetime Memories: The most rewarding part of organizing international tours is bumping into players and families that may have traveled several years prior, and the conversation begins with “Remember that trip we took to…?” The moments are fleeting but the memories last forever!
Whatever your motivation and goals for travelling, you can be sure that GTE will customize the perfect tour to meet your expectations!