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