Football Academy Parent Update
I read the most beautifully written post yesterday from an 18-year-old football player, Harvey Steel, just released from his football contract. The link to the post is at the bottom of this post. It has prompted me to write an update on Dylan and his progress in the football academy world.
I have a very popular post on my website where I share the truths of being a football academy parent, talking emotions, financial commitments, the reality. This was written back in 2017 and has been viewed 9000 times in the past year alone! It is time to write an update
Dylan is now an U13 Cambridge United Academy player
Dylan is soon (hopefully, but Covid-19 dependant) to start his 20-21 season as an U13 Cambridge United Academy player. He has been in the academy system since he was 7. He was spotted at a grassroots tournament, and was offered a place in the regional development centre. Within 3 months his talent was recognised, and he was invited into the pre-academy. He was here until he signed a club contract for the U9 season.
20-21 marks his 7th year with Cambridge and his 5th year under contract. He now moves into the youth development stage of football. The academy is split into two levels U9 to U12 is the foundation stage, U13 to U15 is the youth development stage.
Dylan adores his football
He would play it every day all day if he could. But he also recognises the importance of schoolwork and other sports. He goes to a highly regarded local school with top education standards and even higher sporting standards. School of course comes first. His school does not do football (shock horror) but he is in the tier 1 basketball team, he competes in athletics to district & county level and is natural at badminton (I like to think that came from me!). He can turn his hand to any sport (except swimming, I can still beat him at swimming).
The football journey so far for Dylan has been smooth. He has progressed from each year to the next with positive feedback. The coaches at Cambridge are the best, and I feel that they care for Dylan’s mental health as well as his football progression. Of course, he is challenged, but he rises to the challenges and overachieves targets set.
He has spent the last few years playing up a year with the older boys. He gets to go on foreign football tours as a reward for his results and achievement and most importantly gets lots of game time.
We found the transition to secondary school and academy football difficult. Dylan often gets so tired, particularly as he feels like he wants to do it all and give his best to everything. Here is an example of a regular week for him.
Every morning he is up at 7am and leaves at 7:45 to get the train to school.
Lunchtime – High performance PE group session at lunchtime
Afternoon – PE Lesson
Monday evening 5:30 pm to 7pm Newmarket (1 hour away from home) – Football Academy training
Lunchtime- Basketball Training
Tuesday evening 6pm to 7:30pm Academy training in St. Neots (50 mins away)
Day Off sport
Thursday (toughest day!)
7:45 to 8:30am Early high-performance PE at school
PE during the day at school.
7pm to 8:30pm Football academy at Newmarket
Sometimes he has games on Saturday and Sunday, there will be always be one day with a game anywhere in the country, but normally in the South East.
On a regular day he gets home at 4:30pm from school via the train, or I collect him from school to get him to training if its an early session. He can only do his homework on Wednesday and Friday nights. Occasionally he has basketball games, normally every two weeks if this happens, he might miss a football session.
A FULL-ON Life
It is FULL ON. The amount of exercise and schoolwork during the week is intense. And he misses out on lots as well that he would like to do. He is very talented at badminton, but we do not have the time to commit. He is a brilliant long-distance runner, he came 12th in the country championships with no formal running trainers and was not wearing the right shoes. But he cannot commit to this. He is talented at Maths (def his mothers’ son!) and French (I was not so great at French!) but can only do the schoolwork and homework as set, nothing extra.
I do not push him into any of this. He loves it, he is the most focused person I know. When he puts his mind to something it is done and to a high standard. This applies to anything, his sport his schoolwork, helping me at home. I even set him a lesson in personal finance, and he sat down and finished it!
Dylan’s Mental Health
Occasionally Dylan is exhausted. Particularly by the end of Thursday. Friday as a day off everything is a welcome break. When we get a rare Saturday off it is bliss and we take full advantage, going to cinema, going out for lunch, and doing something fun and non-football related.
He finds the amount of homework he gets a challenge, but he powers through. A deadline is never missed and he has earned a ton of merit points. He is on target for 5s- C, 6s -B, 7s -A for all his GCSEs.
And we talk a lot. Those car journeys are golden times for talking and listening to his favourite music from Juice WRLD, Lil Mosey and Lil Skies (Lots of Lils!). We talk about the impact on his school work, how tired he feels, how he thinks everything is going, what his teachers are saying to him, what his friends are saying, what the older boys are doing at school, we talk plan B, plan C and plan D (plan A is always a professional football player)
We talk about jealousy, something that Harvey mentioned in his football academy post (at bottom of this post). Jealousy from friends has been a huge issue for Dylan, he mostly does not play football at school through fear of someone going in for a tackle to hurt him. Yes, this has happened, he was injured for 8 weeks in 2019 when a selfish boy rugby tackled him, nearly snapping his ACL, the impact was Dylan missing a huge Germany football tour.
The biggest struggle for Dylan has been lockdown. Football and school stopped in March 2020 and he will not be back to either until September. 6 months away from the things he loves is a huge challenge. Add to that his dad moved out of the family home as lockdown began as we separated in June 2019.
Dylan has dealt with these two huge situations with maturity and grace. He is beyond his 12 years and is a huge support to me, his mum. Dylan plunged himself into decluttering the house, he cleared out the entire garage into a skip. He sorted out multiple cupboards of doom. I moved him into his own bedroom with a double bed and desk, which he is loving. We made the bed together and did not argue.
He is trying so hard to help his middle brother who is struggling hugely with the afore mentioned situation. And he plays with Jack the youngest, all the time, their bond is incredible.
I am so proud of what he has achieved, and I know he will go on to achieve great things with his life. In football and beyond. Watch this space for a future talent in football.
Here are the three boys, with Dylan in the red and white, playing for Stevenage district U11 in 2019.
Read the post from Harvey Steel here.