The normal anomalies of exercise, commitments, and injuries meant that all of those nominated cold not turn up but 20 fit, healthy enthusiastic girls arrived for training. A normal amount of fear of the unknown and willingness to impress was spread amongst the attendees. Refreshingly there were a large percentage of new faces that were fighting for their place in the squad,
After discussions with the Army Football Development Officer Mr Steve Stone the first day consisted of various practices, 2V2, 3V3, 4V4 and Small Sided Games, all designed to identify strengths and areas to improve upon.. An assessment of their first touch, passing and receiving of the ball, movement on and off the ball, and game understanding was threaded throughout the practices to determine their fitness, ability and level of skill. They did not disappoint!
Of course the practices were spread throughout the week as well as various interest lessons, the first one being on Nutrition, this resulted in the coach feeling the need to remove from the bins the previous days rubbish the wrappers that had once contained the lunch of the players. The findings were interesting, awareness was raised, coupled with the lasting thought of ‘A fit well toned body is not only made in the gym but quiet often in the kitchen’. You are what you eat!!!
Tuesday the team travelled to Bath University for the Match and to link up with the Chairwoman, Lt Col Curnow. The team performed exceptionally well against a good opposition. Considering the amount of time they had spent together a solid team performance resulted in a 5 – 1 victory. Some very good link up play and precise distribution, coupled with excellent finishing led to the goals, every player went on in the game and as requested by the coach gave a very good account of themselves. This was followed by talk with the Chairwoman afterwards which set out the stall about what everyone’s responsibility is in order for us to continue with our success.
On return from the match the team headed to the Golf Course as a bit of relaxation for a game of Foot golf. An excellent evening was had by all, recovering the ball from the lake did at one point turn into a bit of an unexpected command task, no complaints however as we are always keen to inject a little military training into the programme.
The next day consisted of Players Code of Conduct was discussed and signed up to, a look at individual Performance Profiles, to be used as a handrail for the players on areas that they or their Corps coaches can work on to develop them in the lead up to the Inter Service Championships. Again an evening of relaxation by means of a ‘Movie Night’ with low calorie Pizza and Popcorn on the menu!
The penultimate day proceeded with some Phases of Play and culminated in a 10 v 10 match to have a final look at the players prior to selection.
I will leave the account of the last day, organised by Sgt Helen Lee which was a visit to watch a closed door training session with West Ham United at their training ground in Romford to Cpl Barnard (a massive Hammers fan who was star struck upon arrival and smiled so much the players were getting a little nervous of her behaviour!!) to explain in a separate article.
But my last final thoughts as a coach were; what became evident throughout the week which has significantly improved over the years is that the girls who are involved at Army level bring with them a raft of experience. With players past experiences to include caps for Scotland and Wales, many of them having played for previous clubs such as Southampton, Portsmouth, Bristol City and Bristol Academy and School of Excellence, Somerset County, Liverpool FC Ladies, York City, Gloucester City and County, Celtic Ladies and Glasgow City Ladies to name but a few.
This makes selection harder as the standard rises each year. Every single player who attended trials whether successful in their selection or not, should be commended for their commitment of stepping up and being willing to be challenged, being willing to compete against their peers and rivals within the other Corps, merging together as one and putting in a sterling performance on match day.
This has resulted in creating what is likely to be a formidable team for the forthcoming season. Thank you to you all!!
Major Sandra Hodgson MBE