Moneymore, County Londonderry - August 2016
In August 2016 Onside Soccer took a group of coaches to work in Northern Ireland to runa week long football summer camp in the village of Moneymore in County Londonderry. Working in partnership with Ambassadors Ireland (http://ie.ambassadorsfootball.org/) this is the story of the week.
A relaxed start to the trip with the group meeting mid morning at Gatwick Airport for the short flight across to Belfast. Six coaches were representing Onside - Paul, Tom and Sam from south London, Harold and Daniel from north London and Churchill, who was joining the group from India. On arrival in Belfast we picked up our hire car and made the journey to Moneymore to check out our accommodation, which was located at Kingsmill Cottages. Paul and Churchill took the opportunity to call in with Edgar and Annie Bailie, long term Onside supporters who have helped fund our work in India. It was fantastic to introduce Churchill to this faithful couple who have contributed so much to the work in Chennai and Churchill was able to give them an up-to-date account of all that is happening there. The evening was rounded off with a trip to the Diamond Fish and Burger Bar in Magherafelt - highly recommended!!
After a relaxing day to get things started we were straight out onto the pitch at Moy Park F.C. on the morning of Day 2 as we held a joint training day with Ambassadors Ireland to allow the coaches to get to know one another and to practice the drills we would be using with the children. Moy Park F.C.was the venue we would be using all week and was great for our purposes. Training was led by Derek Livingstone of Ambassadors. Derek is a very experienced coach, having worked for a long period of time with Coaching4Christ and then moving across to work with Ambassadors as they get established in Ireland. After training the group headed out to celebrate Sam's 16th birthday.
Start of the summer camp. Approximately 40 children in attendance, which was less than we had hoped for but still a reasonable turnout. Churchill and Harold were given the tasks of welcoming the children, with Churchill in particular getting into the swing of things. The children were split into groups according to age and their day started by learning a special move, in this case the Cryuff Turn. Each day had a theme (passing, dribbling, shooting, etc.) which the children worked on until lunch time. Immediately before lunch there was a Bible time session with the coaches and then in the afternoon there were fun games and competitions followed by matches. No matter whether you are working with children or adults and no matter what the location matches are always the most eagerly awaited part of the day! After training we headed to the Giant's Causeway to check out one of Ireland's most iconic landmarks.
Another Irish speciality was visible today as the rain started to fall just as training started. Undaunted, the children turned out in force and started the day with a talk from the Coach of Moy Park F.C. (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Russell Crowe!) who spoke about why he decided to become a christian. Splitting into their groups the children then practiced one of Maradona's special moves (No, not that one!) and then looked at passing. The day was finished off with Bible time and matches. After training today the group headed off to watch an Irish Premier League game as Ballymena United took on Glenavon. Plenty of goals in a 3-3 draw, which was enjoyed by everyone except Sky Blues fan Paul, as United went into a three goal lead only to be pegged back in the final 20 minutes.
No rain today and another good turnout. The day started off with a talk from former Ballymena United captain and Northern Ireland Under 23 International Aaron Stewart, who gave his testimony and then had a Q and A session with the kids. Most of the coaches have now had Q&A sessions with the group with the most popular questions being 'What's your favourite food?' and 'What's your most embarrassing moment?' although there is a growing suspicion that Derek is prompting them to ask this particular question! Some very revealing responses from the coaches - ask them for further details!! Another good training session today with the children who have worked really hard and responded well to the coaches. After training the group headed for what was meant to be a brief visit to the Junction One shopping outlet in Antrim but what actually turned out to be a marathon shopping session. Whoever said that guys don't like shopping had obviously never met this lot! Without naming names there were two of the group in particular who enjoyed themselves to the max as the rest of the group (Daniel, Tom, Paul and Churchill) waited patiently with a coffee!
Competition Day for the kids as the week draws to a close. A skills competition starts things off with prizes for shooting, dribbling and penalties followed up by the eagerly anticipated World Cup tournament. Some great games and some great goals! At the end of the tournament there are prizes for the winning teams and also for individuals who have excelled through the week in performance and effort. Quite a few parents present for the prize giving ceremony, which is great to see. As the day comes to a close it is a time of mixed feelings - very happy that everything ran so smoothly through the week but also sad that we won't be working with the kids again for a while as they were such a great bunch. We round off the week with a meal out with the Ambassadors team at Moe's Grill in Magherafelt and then home to pack for our journey back to England the following day.
An early start as we get the car packed and head north east to Belfast for a day of sightseeing. The group splits up with some of the guys staying around the newly built Titanic quarter while the rest go on an open top bus tour. The tour is interesting as, with it's troubled past, Belfast is not your average UK city and visiting the Falls and Shankill Road are stand out moments, particularly as the bus gets hit with a few missles thrown by kids at an interface area (turns out the 'missles' are actually just crayons - bit weird but full marks for improvisation!). As a city Belfast is a great place to visit with lots going on and lots to see but unfortunately we don't have too much time to spare and pretty soon we're back at the airport for our flight home.