October 11, 2021 dscavuzzo

FC Schalke 04 Integrated Academy Blog

tidiane keita

Week 7 - Tidiane Keita

The week begins… For me, each week is unique. Especially in this sport that is soccer you never know what might happen in the future. The first step before starting my week is to look at the calendar. Thomas Caughlin, who is a big brother to me in this journey, makes sure to plan our schedule in detail. What’s special about this week is that there are no games. Usually, we play every Wednesday. We have been in Germany for 1 1/2 months and I think a week without games will give us a chance to recharge our batteries.

Normally, except for Saturdays and Wednesdays, training is always at 10 am. So I wake up at 8 am after a good night of sleep for about 9-10hours. I always start the day with a good breakfast. Usually what I have on my plate are eggs, croissant, yogurt with cereal in it, a fruit and a multivitamin juice. Then I get ready for my practice. I like to take my time in the morning, it allows me to think about my day and organize myself without pressure.

When I get to the field I do some dynamic stretching and warm-up to prepare my body for practice. I take care of my body and it is essential for me. Injuries are a footballer’s nightmare so it’s important to do things right. The theme this week is the counter-attack. We work on a theme because the academy is above all a formation. We don’t change the theme every week but we work with it to improve. We have been working on counter-attack for 2 weeks now. A good counter-attack always starts with the desire to defend to recover the ball. Some teams/players tend to defend and not to recover the ball. The problem that we have analyzed in our games is that if we recover the ball on the right side we force to counterattack on the right side. Sometimes the best way to hurt the opponent is to counterattack from the opposite side. Personally, I feel that the coaches have taught me a lot in the last months. I am a player with a defensive profile but also with good offensive qualities. The knowledge that the coaches have, has allowed me to take my game to the next level. Every day between 2 sessions or after the training I go to the gym to work physically. My ambitions and mentality require me to be on top of my form. This week I have double sessions on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.

On Wednesday, the coaches organized a soccer tennis game with a local German soccer team. This activity allowed us to continue our integration in this country. We had a great time. Another aspect of the International Soccer Academy residential program with Schalke is the German classes. Being able to communicate in German is essential in this country. It is not an easy language but with practice, I am optimistic to have positive results. As mentioned before, taking care of my body is in my priorities. That’s why I stretch every day. There are days that I don’t feel like stretching but I do it. It’s those little things that make the difference on the field. Taking ice baths is also in my routine. I only take them when I need it. I’m in a professional environment now so I have to behave like a professional everyday.

To conclude, the week was light. We felt that the players were tired so the trainings were more technical than intense. Every week is a new mission for me. Every day I do everything to give my best to make sure that I continue to progress. Personally, I am happy with my week and I hope to get closer to my goal…🙏🏾

Tidiane Keita, #28 Defender

tidiane keita
jake chung

Week 6 - Jake Chung

Coming Soon

jake chung
colin mcginnity

Week 5 - Colin McGinnity

One of the most interesting things I have experienced while I have been here at this program is going to the stadium to watch Schalke games. In my hometown, the closest thing I have to a Schalke game would be our minor league baseball team which doesn’t even come close to the environment of the games here. It amazes me how much everyone loves soccer here and how strong their team spirit is unlike what you see in the US. I had never gotten to experience a whole stadium packed with people who are all cheering as loud as they can when we score a goal, it’s amazing! It just makes me want to become a professional soccer player that much more.

Another thing I have loved while I’ve been here is the quality of the training sessions. The training here is always very intense and technical which makes it much more challenging than in the US, which is great when you are striving to be better. Our training never gets repetitive because we are always changing up drills and working our brains. In my time here I have also noticed that the coaches seem to analyze the game much better than my previous coaches which is very helpful because they can give you specific advice on what you need to be doing better. It is also very nice to have video analysis so we can really learn from our mistakes which really helps with improvement.

Lastly, it is very nice to have the freedom we have here. It makes living here a lot more interesting when you can go explore, meet new people, and just have fun. I find myself often going to our local market to buy snacks and other things I might want. I have also taken the train to other towns to see what it is like there and just to find something to do in our free time. Overall I have had a great time here and am very grateful to be a part of this program.

Colin McGinnity, #4 Forward

colin mcginnity
alec laible

Week 4 - Alec Laible

As my team and I end the first month since our arrival in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, I am reflecting on my variety of emotions and our constant activities. I, Alec Laible, want to give you an insight on what happens during a week at the Integrated Academy at Schalke 04.

Bright and early at 7:30 AM, a fresh new Monday makes it appearance on our schedule. After a tiresome 20 minutes of preparing for the day, we all head down to the lobby for the buffet-style breakfast, which is open from 6:30 AM to 10 AM every day. Beginning with crispy croissants and fluffy breads, to the cold, refreshing selection of cheeses and meats, and the assorted vegetables and eggs — you can become overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of food. Plus, add in the variety of juices, yogurt, and fruits — there is an enormous amount to chose from. Once I grab my plate and pick a seat, I prepare a warm tea and do some light reading before our training, which begins at 10 AM.

Around 9:50, the team will walk half a mile to today’s training grounds, greet the coaches by saying “Good morning,” and get physically and mentally prepared for practice. Trainings could be tactical plays, defensive positioning, offensive attacking plays — anything that will make us better in game.

Afterwards the soccer training session ends, the team takes the equipment back to our Schalke Academy storage room and we head back to the hotel for lunch, which begins right after training. Our chef, Anna, provides us with a variety of proteins, carbs, salads, vegetables, and fruits, making sure that we are staying fit but can also enjoy the meal at the same time. Before our second training at 1:30 PM, players can relax and enjoy a little down time.

For me, I unfortunately must ice my shins and elbows from previous injuries. At 1:15 PM, we begin our journey back down to the fields to have the second training session of the day. A much more intense and driven practice, filled with tactical plays and scrimmages. Once finished, we can do whatever pleases us until dinner which is at 6 PM. For my roommate and I, we prefer playing video games, watching movies, or working out. Dinner is served with a new variety of food, such as chicken or beef, ranging from carbonara to curry. We talk, listen to music, laugh, and then head back up to the rooms to watch movies. Although it is early, we hit the hay around 10:30 PM to be responsible for the next day ahead.

As you can see, that is just one day in the life of a player here in Germany on the Schalke Integrated Academy U18 team from the USA.

It certainly does take a toll onto your body after constant training and workouts, which I think is good. You eventually become adapted to the constant work being put in and the drive and thirst for more increases. On some days, about twice a week, there will only be one training session. This allows players to go to restaurants, travel to nearby cities, or train more on their own if they would like. Sundays are always available for traveling, if there isn’t anything that has to be done. For example, a group of us went to a nearby zoo called ZOOM Erlebniswelt. We spent the whole day exploring and learning about new animals and then went to a restaurant afterwards. While we did have to walk a little bit, trains are available anywhere that you would like to visit. Some of the other players tend to visit Dusseldorf and Essen frequently. All these trips can be made possible through the transit cards we were given. They allow us to travel anywhere around Gelsenkirchen for free, which is a good thing, or else we would all be going crazy.

While some players came here to play around, others came so their dreams could be achieved. To be successful, players must have constant grit and drive at every practice so that they can become their best. To even be close to having my dream become possible, I must work every single day to be me best.

Even when the weather changes from sunny to rainy instantly, or you must walk half a mile to the turf hall, you constantly remind yourself of what must be done to achieve what you want. Thankfully, I am always face-timing and talking to my family so that I don’t go crazy being here away from everyone. It does affect you and becomes shocking — but slowly you realize that this is it — this can be the first step to something great.

And, outside the hotel, during practice, in the city, anywhere you go, we represent Schalke. How amazing is that?

Alec Laible, #1 Goalkeeper

alec laible
x hafer

Week 3 - X Hafer

My 3rd week within the Schalke04 integrated soccer program was fantastic. the coaches in Germany are much more knowledgeable about fussball compared to back at home in the USA and have taught me already so much about the game.

In my free time this week, I spent it mostly stretching and doing schoolwork however, I did have some fun events with my teammate — like movie night, walking around my new hometown of Gelsenkirchen, and watching other Schalke 04 matches. Overall, it was a great, and productive week.

At first, it was hard living in a new country and adapting to new customs without any family by my side. Now, I am well situated and quite enjoy being in Germany learning more about soccer every day. I was disappointed on Wednesday because I did not start the match against Schermbeck, but when I went in, we turned the match around and ended tying the game. The team we played was not very technical but they worked much harder than us, and I think this is why the game ended in a tie.

The practices here are very different than back at home, the Schalke 04 coaches always have a new drill, training many different aspects of our bodies. Some of the morning and afternoon soccer practices are focused on position-based training, other days we train to become stronger physically — and we also have cognitive sessions where we have to think very fast and we do extremely technical drills. Additionally, we had tests done to calculate if we biologically developed later or earlier than our actual birthdate.

Every day I learn something new … getting me one step closer to my dream of becoming a professional soccer player. It is a blessing to be here.

X Hafer, #3 Defender

x hafer
andres lopez

Week 2 - Andres Lopez

This is the beginning of our second week being in residence in Germany and training with our two Schalke coaches. We are living within walking distance to the soccer fields and the professional stadium.

On Monday, August 16th, our team had 2 trainings with our Schalke coaches. The first soccer training was very different compared to a typical “normal” practice.

This practice was about discovering and recognizing our “bad” eye. We were each given an eye patch to cover our dominant “good” eye so that we could strengthen our “bad” eye. We then did some passing drills and I found it challenging as it was hard to measure the distance between the player and the ball. This soccer training was focused on eye-hand-leg coordination and we all need more practice.

Our second practice later in the day was pretty fun, we got to scrimmage and work on our positioning as a team. We have another match this week and we are preparing.

On Tuesday, August 17th, we had soccer training in the morning and a German language class in the afternoon. The German class was difficult because our teacher was teaching us way too much the first day. And the class was entirely in German, and as a player training at Schalke, I am eager to learn how to speak the country’s language, I do not know more than a few words.

On Wednesday, August 18th, we had 2 soccer training sessions. practices, our first team practice was incredibly intense. We did a 3v1 rondo drill and then scrimmaged shortly afterwards. Our second training was focused on strength and coordination with Coach Evan. We had 8 different stations set up, all with different equipment. In some stations, we would be squatting with weights and in others, we would be jumping over hurdles.

On Thursday, August 19th, our team had training on defensive and offensive positioning. In the afternoon, we had a second German class that was still very difficult. We started to learn sentences and useful daily words.

On Friday, August 20, morning practice focused on our offense being high pressed by our defense. I feel that we performed well defensively on high pressing and interrupting their gameplay.

On Saturday, August 21, we had our speed test at the indoor facility.

We first started with a warm-up and then got straight into it. We started with the short distanced run and we ended with the beeping test that would calculate how long we could run before giving up.

Later on in the evening, we went to the cafeteria near the fields and we watched FC Schalke 04’s pro team play. They unfortunately lost but it was a cool experience to be surrounded by my new soccer teammates watching the first team play and wearing the same logo as the pros.

On Sunday, August 22, we had an off day so 3 of my new Schalke Integrated Academy U18 teammates and I decided to take the train to Düsseldorf and Dortmund. The city of Dusseldorf was surprisingly empty but we later then found out that nothing was really open on Sundays, so that’s the reason why nobody was there. We then decided to explore our new surroundings and took a train to Dortmund that was only about 45 minutes away. When we arrived, we rented electrical scooters and rode to the Dortmund Stadium. At around 5 we left Dortmund and arrived back at our hotel — just in time for dinner. Pizzas were served, and they were great.

Andres Lopez, #5 Midfielder

andres lopez
christian rodriguez

Week 1 - Christian Rodriguez

Wednesday … day arrival. The night was full of fun and laughter as we were finally all together to meet and get our jerseys. We met our coaches and the personnel who created this program, and over dinner, all the players sat together and we learned more about each other — finding out previous youth soccer clubs and where we came from.

That was really the first bonding moment.

Thursday … The first training was intense and very scrappy, everyone was fighting to show off their abilities. The second training was a stretching workout session which was intense and good for the body, especially as some of the players were just off a plane the day before.

The meals are good and healthy, but also different at the same time compared to what we normally eat in the US.

Friday … We had a morning session that ended in an open scrimmage —The small match had very high intensity and good quality, especially as we have only been together for a few days.
Before training, team pictures were taken on the park Stadion pitch. We also had our first Team Meeting today — It was good and we talked about our team being a family as we go through this journey.

Saturday … was game prep with training to figure out possible starting group since we had a match the next day. This was also a day where everyone tried fighting for a spot with intensity as well as scrappiness.

Sunday … Today was our first game. It was good to see how we played together, despite the result. For being only a few days in, our first game went well knowing we have months to train and play together to get better. We got to see each other’s abilities in the match, as well as how the team gels together. It is all new. And, it is exciting.

Christian Rodriguez, #31 Defender

christian rodriguez

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