For the kids on the Yorkton United FC U14 Soccer team it was the trip of a lifetime. The team travelled to Scotland recently, spending nine days training and playing at the Rangers FC.
Coach Andy Wyatt describes the trip as a packed two weeks, with teams taking time to train, tour facilities and play games against teams.
“It was a great soccer experience, a great experience visiting a country, lots of fun life experiences for the kids.”
The first games were on the second day. First, they played two mini-games against a team from Detroit, and a game against the Elite Performance Group from the Rangers academy. Both teams were slightly older than the Yorkton squad, presenting a challenge.
“We were in it tough, there were some real big boys,” Wyatt said.
The Yorkton squad didn’t win the games, losing 3-0 both games against Detroit, and 2-0 against the Rangers academy.
“There was a big size and age difference, but the boys handled themselves quite well,” said Wyatt.
The next evening, the team was at Celtic Stadium to attend the Old Firm game, between the Celtic and Rangers. The two Glasgow-based teams are the top Scotland teams, and have a long-running rivalry.
“It’s the biggest game of the year. The city and all of Scotland goes crazy for it... It was a fantastic game, there was a lot of passion.”
The second set of games took place against a local team, St. Andrews. The team was at the top of the second division, and will be promoted to first division next year. Wyatt said the boys played well, but made a couple of costly mistakes, losing 5-1.
“They capitalized on some of our mistakes and there were 3 or 4 chances where we could have scored but just didn’t. It was a pretty close game, the score just didn’t indicate how close it was,” Wyatt said
The final match was against Sons of Struth Academy. They had a really good second division team, said Wyatt, which was in the final 16 in the cup competition. The Yorkton squad was at the end of a long and busy trip, and Wyatt attributes the eventual 6-1 loss to fatigue.
“I think we could have done better against them at the beginning of the trip.”
The trip wasn’t just for fun, but for the learning experience. The weeks involved training sessions throughout the week, sports nutrition information sessions and the experience that a high-level soccer player in Scotland would experience.
That meant two practices a day and having to be a bit on their own, using their hotel as the residence and getting themselves ready.
“That was the experience for them, to live the Academy lifestyle,” Wyatt said.
The other experience was to be in a place where soccer is the sport. Wyatt compares it to the importance of hockey here, but increased tenfold.
“The passion that the kids have for soccer there is incredible. The knowledge that they have, the tactical awareness, it was all something that was an eye-opener for our boys, and something we wanted them to experience.”
It was a learning experience for the adults as well, and Wyatt said they learned from the coaches at the academy.
“They helped give us some information. It was nice for us to watch them at work and learn some things tactically as well. It’s going to benefit our programs kids, and they will pass it on to our other kids as well. Us, as coaches, are going to pass it on to other coaches some of the important things that we haven’t focused on in the past, hopefully help our soccer program here.”
The trip will also see Yorkton partner with the Rangers for the future. They plan is to bring the Rangers out to Yorkton to host a camp for local kids, and there is a chance to send individual kids or entire teams to Scotland in the future.