Academy Manager Tom Pell gives an overview of pre-season for Cambridge United's Youth Team.
A few days after the first team returned for pre-season, it was the Scholars turn to get back into full swing and start our preparation for the 2018/19 season.
A weekend of fitness testing, functional movement screening and cardiac screenings was followed by the first week of training. For the new first year scholars, just getting used to full time football and the demands of it are pretty tough and everyone knows that pre-season really is a test both physically and mentally.
The boys carried out several inductions throughout the first week, including health and safety, safeguarding, equality and diversity, well-being, rules and regulations, apprenticeship reforms as well as drugs awareness. The Apprenticeship is now an extensive program.
Obviously the area they enjoy the most are when the balls are rolling and we work extremely hard in preparation for the season, to ensure they are pushed not just physically in the traditional sense but technically, tactically and psychologically. This includes a variety of sessions, from group sessions, unit sessions, position specific sessions, gym sessions, group and individual workshops. This ensures we challenge them appropriately and means that they all have to really pushing themselves.
As part of our pre-season schedule, we always do our best to get away as a group in Week two and this year we took a short trip to the Crown Plaza, Five Lakes Campus in Colchester to embed some of our key principles as a group.
Being away all together really gives the players and staff a brilliant opportunity to interact on and off the pitch, free from day to day distractions the players. They can focus on increasing their performance level as they get fitter, faster and stronger each day.
Our new U18 Lead Coach Jimmy Unwin, Adam Bridgeford (Head of Academy Coaching) and I all had the time to plan and deliver a number of workshops with the group that included team and unit analysis, a motivation presentation and our psychological project – FORGE Ahead. The old days of standing up in front of players and talking them through 'what we expect' are over in my opinion. The modern teens in my experience nowadays have so much to offer the collective group. Having the ability to voice your opinions in front of your peers and have a large input to what the group want to achieve, is pivotal to creating an environment where the players feel empowered to carry out what THEY have set out to achieve.
The current group of scholars have a really good blend of players who have grown up wearing black and amber pretty much all of their life, as well as a small group of new players who have experienced football at other clubs. We hope these mixed early experiences give them the opportunity to play in a variety of systems and styles and therefore, enhancing their chance of performing if and when required to step up a level or go into a new environment.
All the training, the gym sessions, the workshops and even the time spent together supporting England and watching Love Island, will hopefully give the group a good platform to take forward over the coming weeks when the fixtures begin to come a little more frequently. We continue preparations for the first game of the season away v AFC Wimbledon.
The trip was finished off with a game v AFC Sudbury, which was a nice introduction for the players to implement certain aspects the staff have tried to encourage them to do throughout the week.
We have a mixture of fixtures in the coming weeks against Mildenhall Town first Team, Ipswich Town, West Ham United and Mansfield Town at U18 level, so we will do our upmost to keep you posted with all the news on our young U's.
You may also be interested to know that Harvey Steel, first year scholar won the obligatory 'Sing off' and his performance can be seen below – tremendous vocals!