The Wigan Warriors Community Foundation Apprentice Coaching team have just touched down in the Spanish City of Valencia.
During this two week project, the Warriors Foundation Apprentices who are all undertaking their Level 3 PE and School Sport qualification, will participate and lead sports coaching sessions with local amateur sport club FC Sporting Xirivella.
The Project is in partnership with ‘Everything is Possible’ an international organisation that provide funded work experience opportunities worldwide for young people and adults, and facilitated whilst in Valencia by ‘Agora Cultural’ an organisation with over 12 years’ experience in providing youth exchange opportunities across Valencia.
Warriors coaches have spent their first morning settling in to their new surroundings with a walk around the Valencian zone of Le Bega Baixa home to the University of Valencia and the world famous ‘Mestalla’ Football Stadium. The guys also got the chance to visit the local beach before heading back to the apartments in the afternoon for their project briefing with Lile from Agora Cultural.
An early start for the team, as we met Lile for our first visit across the City to our two week hosts at the Xirivella Sports Centre.
On arrival the team was introduced to the coaches, ex Levante FC professionals, Ruben and David, and the 40 children from FC Sporting Xirivella aged between 4 and 16. Luckily for the Foundation team, we had a secret weapon in Community Coach Reece Hampson who’s knowledge of fluent Spanish allowed both sets of coaches and children to ask questions and welcome everyone.
The first session began at 9.30 and the Foundation coaches split themselves into three groups of 2 to work with the three different age groups. For the first day the team were simply asked to observe and assist the Valencian coaches and were given the opportunity to join in whenever they wished. The morning finished with full sided games in which all the staff got fully involved and had a fantastic time.
It was back bright and early to the the Camp De Futbol Muncipal with all the coaches excited for the second day of this weeks camp. The coaches loved the first day and their confidence had grown significantly with them leading sessions throughout the day with a little help of Reece’s translations. The day finished with the opportunity to cool down in the huge outdoor pool which was welcomed by everyone and a great way to finish off another fantastic morning.
Once back at the apartments and freshened up, the team set off to Agora Culturals education centre where we met Begonya for our very first Spanish lesson. The session was a great introduction to the language of Castellano (the native language of Spain) and taught the team some of the simple basics of Spanish conversation such as reading the time, introducing and describing yourself and saying hello and goodbye.
We finished the evening by visiting one of the local traditional Spanish restaurants where the coaches put their new found Spanish into action over a good meal.
The coaches were now settled into their new routine and our morning coaching sessions ran as usual followed by the well needed cool down in the pool. The trip has already been a fantastic learning and cultural experience for the coaches, but also for the 2 members of staff accompanying the team who were facing new challenges for themselves. For a start, the group was given a mini bus so that the team could explore Valencia and provide a travel means to and from the training ground. The Spanish roads seem to be a little but more hectic than those in Wigan, especially in rush hour and when you combine that with very little knowledge of the area and the fact that your driving on the opposite side of the road, it all equates to what where a quite interesting first few days out on the roads!
In the evening the group decided to head out into the centre of Valencia to take in the sites and experience the Valencian culture from the heart of the City. Lile had given the team a map of the city the night before and had suggested a good parking spot for us to park up and walk into the city. The city was unbelievable, ranging from historic beautiful buildings, to lively modern shopping streets and everything in between. We sampled some of the local cuisines at a Tapas Restaurant in the heart of the old town, before visiting a number of landmarks including the Museu de Belles Arts (Museum of Beautiful Arts), the Catedral de Valencia (Catherdral) and Torres de Sarranos(Sarrano Towers) to name few.
Every evening on return from the camp, the coaches were tasked with visiting the local supermarket to purchase the ingredients needed to make their dinners the following day in and in some cases their tea for that night. Being away from their family and home comforts, in some cases for the first times in their lives, the experience was providing a fantastic opportunity for the young coaches to show more independence and develop their confidence out side of their usual comfort zone. On day 5 (Thursday) the group decided to try a different option for lunch and chose to visit the local bakery, known as a ‘panaderia’ in Spanish, to once again test their growing Spanish language skills, meet some of the locals and experience further the local cuisine. The Bakery’s in Valencia are truly mouthwatering, lined with everything from fresh bread, pastries, croissants and cakes, all for as little 1 euro or less! Needless to say the group enjoyed their experience and lunch was a big hit that day.
In the evening, it was back to Agora Cultural’s headquarters for the groups second Spanish lesson of the week. Begonya began the session by providing the coaches with a booklet on football and sport translations, which was a huge hit with the coaches as they were very keen to be able to use their new language skills in context at the coaching sessions. The session also included a look into Spanish verbs, professions, dates and time of year and numbers.
The coaches were excited to get to work with their new found language skills, and being the final day of the camp, the coaches were asked to lead and deliver the sessions by themselves - which they did and proved to be a fantastic morning of football coaching.
Tomas, the lead coordinator from the football camp, presented all the coaching team with Levante camp t-shirts as a extremely kind and appreciated gesture and fantastic memento for everyone involved. As with our very own summer rugby camps, two ex Levante players were invited down to meet the children and sign autographs, which the young players and coaches were both grateful for the opportunity.
Surprisingly the coaches alongside the young players were then presented with certificates of participation, another amazing gesture from Tomas and the team, which rounded up an amazing first week in Valencia! A number of amazing relationships were made between the coaches and young participants and it was a sad good bye for both groups.
The coaches now get a free weekend before looking forward to meeting a new young group of players next week!
After a great first week coaching, the group had the weekend to themselves and decided to travel down the coastal road to a town in Valencia named Cullera, home to Valencia’s closest Waterpark - Aquapolis. 8 hours of slides, waves, rubber rings and a well needed tan top up, the Foundation retired from another fantastic day and called in at the not so cultural local KFC for a much needed feed on the way home.
On Sunday, the team decided to revisit the local beach named La Malvarrosa for a day of sun, sea and sand. The amazing urban beach is located in the north of the district between the two towns of Alboraya and Calle Acequia de la Cadena, a 10 minute drive away from the teams apartments. To many it was one of the largest beaches they had ever come across, measuring 200m in width and stretching the coast for over a kilometer of golden sand, restaurants, bars and local gift shops. The beach itself hosted a number of sporting activities, from a beach volleyball club and tournament, water sports and even a women’s Rugby team training in the 34 degree heat!
The team later retired for an night of home cooked food X-box before an early night ready for the second week of coaching.
Refreshed from a fun and relaxing weekend, the coaching team was eager to go and arrived back at the Xirivella Sports Centre to meet the new host of children and coaches for a 9am start. To the delight of the coaches and children, a number who attended the first week had re-booked on for a second week of coaching and with the cross language banter in full flow it didn’t take long for everyone involved to settle back in to the flow of things and the session’s begin.
The coaches confidence and experience gained form the first week certainly shone through, with conversations in full flow and the trust of the Levante FC coaches being passed on to the Foundation team to lead their own sessions and groups. The new children settled right in and the Foundation team’s uncertainty from the beginning of week one had undoubtedly disappeared. Unfortunately the swimming pool or La Piscina as its known in Spanish was closed on Monday’s so the sessions finished with a small tournament in which both the children and coaches took part.
With La Piscina back open, the coaches gratefully finished their morning of coaching with a much needed cool off in the pool before heading back home to freshen up for the evenings Spanish lesson. In this weeks first session, the group learnt about directions, expressions, possession phrases and the difference between normal colours and hair colours, as we do with blonde for yellow, brunette for brown and ginger for red for example.
Once returned to the flat, the coaching students once again decided to take ownership of their own cooking, nipping to the local supermarket to buy the ingredients needed for a Pasta Carbonara, which proved to be huge hit with everyone.
On Tuesday evening the group also met with Spanish international player, referee and coach of the u21s Spanish side Andrew Pilkington, who also happens to be a huge Wigan Warriors fan, we spoke of the difficulties he faces to promote our great game in the heartland of a football dominated country.
Their is a domestic league and an appetite at international level for Rugby league to be a success in Spain but with little financial investment and a lack of coaches with the knowledge to Develop the game at a junior level, Andrew is doing an amazing job with limited resources. His passion for the game is the main driving force behind his hard work.
future partnership work with Andrew in Spain is a real possibility! All I would say is watch this space.
Wednesday of week 2 had certainly crept up on us, its amazing how quickly time flies when your having fun! With only three days of coaching left the team were still highly motivated and enjoying every second of the project.
One experience that the coaching team were still eager to try was the native dish of Paella, so in the evening we decided to head back to the beach to visit one of the many sea front restaurants in the hope of having a traditional Valencian Paella. Half the group decided to go with the Valencian Paella which consisted of chicken, rice, celery, lemon and a shock for some with English pets…rabbit! The other half of the group went for the Seafood Paella which replaced the chicken and rabbit with muscles, prawns and squid. Needless to say all 3 huge wok’s were spotless by the end of the meal in which everyone enjoyed.
Day 12 and 13
So we have reached the final two days of this two week Sports & Enrichment Project here on the beautiful City of Valencia.
On the final morning of coaching, everyone involved in the weeks camp came together to play a full size game, celebrating a truly amazing 2 week experience. Tomas and the children then organised a player tunnel to show their appreciation of the great work and new found friendships our coaches and apprenticeships had provided throughout the project.
We would like to take this opportunity to say a massive THANK YOU to all the team at FC Sporting Xirivella and Agora Cultural, for their warmth, friendship and support during our two week visit. We hope that our group from the Wigan Warriors Community Foundation have left you with a positive impression of our club and Foundation. We look forward to working with you all again in tye near future!
Upon reflection, travelling abroad to another part of the world has lead to an absolutely incredible experience for all participating staff and students. Having the opportunity to meet new people, make friends and spend time with individuals from a very different culture and back ground, has certainly been transformational.
We have witnessed our sports students take on various tasks that develop their independence, challenge their inner beliefs and self-confidence, pushing them outside of their comfort zones for the first time. All valuable experiences that will stand them in good stead for when they finish their apprenticeships to embark on new careers in sport or onto university places.
We said from the outset, the goal was to create and develop a Sports Enrichment Project for our coaches and apprentices, one that offered an international experience and one that would blow their minds, I am confident, having listened to feedback from the group, that we certainly achieved our goal!
A HUGE THANK YOU to Everything is Possible for making this project possible. It’s has been a pleasure bringing you our Valencia Project Blog. I really hope you have enjoyed reading and following our journey over the last two weeks.