USA Tour: Kids from America benefit from expert Villa coaching
Kids across America have benefitted from sessions with our expert coaches - and learnt more about Villa's star players in the process.
As part of Villa's official delegation to Philadelphia, Chicago and Portland, football development manager Joe Hunt and football development officer Matt Cecil ran the rule over USA kids in training camps.
These camps, organised by Union, Fire and Timbers officials helped over 500 children from the three cities showcase their soccer skills under the tutelage of aces Hunt and Cecil.
Hunt even introduced a cool exercise into sessions to help kids across the pond recognise claret and blue stars.
When Hunt shouted Shay Given they had to save the incoming ball, if the words Barry Bannan left his lips they had to pass and Darren Bent prompted a strike on goal.
Hunt believes this fun element set them apart from their American counterparts, who were more concerned with drills and discipline.
Hunt says, on the flip-side, he's learnt a lot of useful tips on the administrative side, with their USA counterparts flourishing at the organisational side of proceedings.
He said: "What we have done on the three-legs of this USA Tour is work specifically with the three MLS clubs on their soccer schools.
"There were two reasons - first for the kids to experience our brand of football development as a different experience from what they are used to coupled with us being able to introduce Aston Villa to them.
"Second we can see what the MLS clubs do and bring that into our own soccer schools back home.
"There were some good ideas out there.
"I think they picked up more from us on the coaching side. Bear in mind, at Villa we have a specific football development department so we are hot on work with the kids out on the pitches.
"In terms of that, we introduced more fun-related games for the kids with specific coaching within them too.
"Our counterparts in the USA, however, are usually very insistent on what I would call more 'old school coaching' - stop, stand still, line drills, things like that.
"One of the examples is our player-related exercises where we shout out a Villa star and the kids have to react accordingly. They're learning about football but also about the club.
"But all three were excellent. We were both very impressed. In Philadelphia, interest was huge, there were about 130 children subscribed to it.
"The organisation was top-notch. It was very slick. That has something to do with them breaking up for longer, meaning they have more time to play. But it was so impressive the way everything was sorted and something we will look at ahead of our new sessions back in the UK.
"In Chicago, they had what I would call 'mini soccer schools' because they were broken up into morning and evening, mainly because the midday heat was tortuous. They worked really nicely.
"In Portland, they used their artificial pitch before the opening training session which was interesting and then we had another session with their elite players too.
"All three were excellent to be a part of and I really feel there's been good feedback on all sides."
Hunt hopes to see some of the kids he coached make it in the MLS in the coming years although he accepts soccer faces a real challenge going forward, as it always has done.
He continued: "At youth level there's a lot of participation and they see a big number of kids but obviously when they get to the older ages it's whether they continue because they're battling against baseball, ice hockey, basketball and football.
"Working with the elite players at Portland shows there's good potential. There's more athleticism in the USA but tactical awareness isn't as good as in the UK. But that's something that can be worked on."
Hunt believes Villa have certainly added some fans to their numbers across the pond, however.
He added: "I like to think we've been good brand ambassadors. We've seen a great deal of interest in Villa and many have said they will be following us from now on in the EPL. That's superb to hear.
"Hopefully Villa will become their English team."
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