For 12 days this summer, 35 Deerfield soccer players trained in Spain for preseason led by Coach Flaska, Coach Rajballie, Coach Taft, Coach Pitcher and Coach Davis. The team stayed in Valladolid, which is a small town outside of Oviedo and Madrid.
Every day, the team had morning practices and more often than not played matches against some local teams. “The first day following our arrival, we played a very strong team and they beat us really bad, and then on the last day, we played the exact same team and we tied,” post-graduate Felicius Bucyukundi ’16 recalled. “As a team, we grew and improved, and there was chemistry building, which was something that is crucial for the rest of the season.”
Needless to say, the team experienced much more than just training. “This [was] a players’ trip,” Coach Flaska acknowledged. “We [had] a lot of team bonding, including reading a book together, fun activities in our dorm together and—quite often—out on the field together.”
Not only was the trip one for returners, but for incoming students as well. Bucyukundi ’16 commented, “One thing I liked about the team was that they were very welcoming, and they reached out to me and made sure I wasn’t sitting alone.”
On top of that, the group also took advantage of their training environment to learn about another way of life. Co-captain Brendan O’Connell ’16 commented, “This trip [was] about the experience of living and playing in a completely different country and culture.” The agenda included a guided tour and a tapas tour of Downtown Valladolid, a visit to the Santa Clara Monastery in Tordesillas, a tour of Real Madrid’s “Estadio Bernabeu” and much more.
During the trip, the team immersed itself in the soccer culture of Spain, which included watching two high level matches: a Real Valladolid Match, and a Spain v. Slovakia European Championships 2016 qualifier.
Upon their return to school, the captains are thinking about how best to lead the team into the season. Co-captain Oliver Fair ’16 concluded that the team’s “goals for the season are definitely to make the playoffs and then go on to win the league.”
“Taking this season day by day is most important,” O’Connell stated further. “All of us have to learn something new and strive to get better every day.” He added, “we have the right tools consisting of coaches and players to make a run this year.”