How Many Hours Of Sleep For A 2-3 Year Old Soccer Team Tour to Italy – A "Player Experience"

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Soccer Team Tour to Italy – A "Player Experience"

When the members of the ’94 Wilmington NC Cape Fear Beakers Boys Soccer Club left for Perugia, Italy, they didn’t know what to expect. They did know, however, that they would be training and participating in an international tournament that included players from several European countries as well as the United States and Canada. Their coach, Antonio Saviano, tried to make them understand that many of their opponents would be bigger, stronger, faster and more skilled than the players they were used to facing. There would also be the issue of playing on a bigger field with Eleven players a side, instead of the usual eight against eight they were used to.

When they arrived in Italy, their week was laid out for them. There would be two training sessions, morning and afternoon, for Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday would be a day to see and a chance to rest. Thursday through Saturday they would compete in an eleven-team tournament with at least two games a day. The championship final would take place on Saturday afternoon.

At 9:30 on Monday morning they all boarded the bus buzzing with excitement as they headed off to their first session. Although jet-lagged from arriving the day before, their enthusiasm overcame lack of sleep. The parents spent the late morning relaxing in town, sightseeing, shopping and drinking cappuccinos. When the team bus returned for lunch, however, the lack of sleep and demanding training session had clearly taken its toll. They boys were exhausted and were told to eat lunch and go to their rooms to rest and recover before their afternoon session. Eleven-year-old Jack Sordellini was among more than a few players who wondered “what did I get myself into?” He still rallied for the next session, just like the two on Tuesday, but was always happy to return to the hotel to eat, swim with his teammates at the pool and just relax. Wednesday was a welcome day off, and many members of the team toured Rome and other parts of this beautiful country.

On Thursday the games finally started. Jack couldn’t wait and it didn’t take him long to get what he came for. Playing on the right wing, it seemed that every ball in the first 10 minutes of the match was played to his part of the field and he was forced to make several long runs. The size and speed of his opponents were as announced and the greater field along with the pace of the game tested his endurance. Again he wondered if he was in over his head. The game finally settled into a less frenetic pace and the Wilmington boys realized they could compete with their stronger opponents. That first game ended scoreless in regulation time and Wilmington won on penalty kicks. They played the balance of the schedule in similar fashion, and while they didn’t make the tournament finals, they clearly earned respect. Their confidence grew with each match, both on and off the field.

Alex Gianoplus, 12, heard people in the crowd chanting his name, but who were they and how did they know his name? Did they cheer for him or against? Invited to be a guest goalkeeper playing for an Italian team, he didn’t understand the words his teammates were saying to him, but he got the general idea: keep the ball out of the net.

Even though the weather was warm, over 90 degrees, Alex was equipped with a long-sleeved sweater and his socks were pulled up above his knees. The artificial turf, which was 10+ degrees warmer than the air temperature, gave his knees and elbows a nice layer of raw skin. That was the price he paid as he spent the week during practice and games throwing his body in every direction making acrobatic saves.

But now he was playing in the semi-final as guest goalkeeper for Italy and he could hear his name being called from the stands. As the opposition skilfully advanced the ball towards him on the attack, he was amazed at the accuracy of their passes. As he followed the play to the left, he sensed that the ball was going to be passed to the other side. In a second the ball was redirected to the right and out of nowhere one of the attackers rushed the goal in perfect time to deflect it with his head towards the net. Alex instinctively threw herself to the right and held out both arms. The ball appeared to be already in the net when Alex’s outstretched arms punched it to the corner of the field, where one of his defenders cleared it to the ground. As he landed on his tender elbows he heard the rhythmic chant of the crowd: ALEX! ALEX! ALEX! “Hmm. I guess they’re rooting for me” he thought.

When the game was over, Alex came to the stands to watch the next game. He learned that his new fan club was a group of players who had a vested interest in victory for Alex’s team. Alex sat among his new friends getting to know each other, joking around, watching the game and exchanging sweaty jerseys as souvenirs. Although there was a language barrier, they clearly knew they had a common bond.

Then, after the top two teams played for the championship, all the teams and their parents went down to the field for an awards ceremony. The host of the tournament stood in front of a table of magnificent trophies for the winning teams. He thanked all the participants and then gave the prizes. The first, he announced, was for the ‘giocatore piu giovane”. Jack Sordellini did not know what was said, but he understood his own name and went up to accept his trophy for being the “youngest player” of the tournament.

The tournament director continued and then held the next large cup which was inscribed “miglior portiere”. Alex Gianoplus heard his name called and discovered he had been named the tournaments “best goalie”.

The next day Jack and Alex waited patiently at the airport to go home. They checked all their luggage with the exception of a small carry-on and, of course, two huge trophies. As they waited for their flight, they sat and talked about their week that seemed to have started so long ago.

Somehow their recollection of the week had changed slightly. The Monday and Tuesday practice sessions didn’t seem so stressful in retrospect. In their minds the opponents were not as great as they once seemed. The field had shrunk a bit and any cramps from sprinting in the sweltering hot sun could not even be recalled. Sod-burned knees and elbows were little more than a faded memory…

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