15 January 2018

Day 1- The day of travel and training

On Friday 14 December 32 pupils from the 4th Year to Upper Sixth departed for an exciting pre-season hockey tour to San Sebastian. With the bags packed and prepped the boys were ready and raring to go. After a wonderful flight (made easier by the excellent customer service at Stansted), we were greeted by Stuart who was going to be our host for the tour.

After a quick turnaround, the boys were ready for our first training session at Club Athletico (San Sebastian). The location of the pitch was wonderful with rolling hills on one side and an almost gladiator type arena created from the terraced houses on all other sides of the pitch. The boys trained superbly, with huge intensity and intelligence in their play! Was this going to be the start of a magical tour?….

Day 2 – Fitness and Culture

The boys were woken by a buzzing Mr Latham, this morning was beach fitness! With Mr Latham in his element the boys were put through some gruelling fitness on the beautiful San Sebastian Beach front, the lads worked hard showing that they were willing to push themselves to the max for the cause. After this, a day of culture followed. We were taken first to the National Centre of Pelota in the Basque region, here the boys were given a lesson by the current national champion. To give you some perspective of the game, it is played in a 60 m concrete hall, you have a wicker basket attached to your hand, and the ball can reach speeds of up to 200kmph, it is like a game of squash on steroids! All the boys turned their hand to it, however Toby Pratt came out on top in the tournament, winning a signed shirt! After this the boys were treated to a La Liga game, Eiber Vs Valencia (who had beaten Manchester United a few days before). After a controversial VAR decision the game ended 1-1. A great cultural experience for all to enjoy.

Day 3 – Game Day for the Easterbrook and Latham Galacticos 

The boys were woken early for a 2 hour training session to hone their short corners and small unit play in preparation for their first games against a local school. The Easterbrook and Latham Galacticos were up first, after some great attacking play and some decisive finishing the team ran out 7-0 winners with goals from Roche – 4, T Jackson – 1, O Paton -1 and Thor -1. It was a great way to start the tour with the boys playing some sensational stuff. 

Day 4 – Surfing and Game day for Deasy and Birkbeck Globetrotters

This was a jam-packed day, the boys started with a lighter training session working on touch and stretching out their tired legs. Up next was a surf lesson on San Sebastian's surfing beach, it was absolutely awesome! The boys took to it like ducks to water (no pun intended!), with many of them showing off their ability to be able to stand up on the board. After this it was game day for the Deasy and Birkbeck Globetrotters, taking on Club Athletico's ladies first team (current Spanish national champions). It was an un-real first game, the boys controlled possession and looked classy in both attack and defence. With chances going begging the ladies had a few opportunities of their own. It was not until the second half when Jamie Lawson popped up with a great poacher's goal to seal the win! A fantastic well fought 1-0 win!

Day 5 – Pintxos/Masterclass and Game 2

Off the back of two wins both teams' spirits were high and this was shown in the masterclass session with the Head Coach of Club Athletico. The boys listened well taking on board slight technical changes that they could make when shooting and ball carrying. After the morning training session we were treated to a fantastic Pintxo restaurant where the boys ate all kinds of weird and wonderful things. After exploring the old town (which is beautiful!) the boys were ready for their 2nd game of the tour against Club Athletico's U15 and U18 team. The Easterbrook and Latham Galacticos were up first, with a spring in their step and buzzing from a win in their first game, the boys started with a pace that the opposition couldn't cope with. With early goals and continuous pressure the boys ran out 9-0 winners, with a hat-trick for Freddie Smith! The Deasy and Birkbeck Globetrotters were next against a very good U18 club team. With some competitive play and wonderful team defending. The boys managed a 4-1 win, with a hat trick from Jamie Lawson and a thunderbolt of a corner from Toby Pratt. 4 out of 4 so far! Not a bad start to the tour.

Day 6 – Bilbao and Game Day 3

With some tired legs the boys had a bit of a lie in and then a quick pack up and they were ready to go and explore Bilbao. Bilbao is an incredible place with some amazing architecture such as the Guggenheim and the Flower Dog! With some time to wander around and take in the sites of the new and old town, the boys had a great feed and were prepared for the last match against RC Jolaseta. If you are going to think about world class set ups, RC Jolaseta is one! It was set in a very expensive sports park. With excitement at high levels the boys were prepped and ready for their final game. The Deasy and Birkbeck Globetrotters were up first against a very fine U18 side (which had 2 Spanish U18 players in it!). With some heroic defending and incredible counter-attacking Abingdon took a 2-0 lead in the 3rd quarter with goals from Jamie Lawson and Freddie Smith. The boys played tremendously to quash all attacks from the flair of the Spanish side and managed to see out a 2-1 win. This was the perfect way to round off an exceptionally successful tour!

The Easterbrook and Latham Galacticos were in action next and played against a very strong U16 side. Jolaseta again had a couple of junior internationals in their team, however this didn't daunt the boys at all. With some stoic defending and brilliant counter-attacking hockey Abingdon were in the game until the very end. The quality of the Jolaseta shone through when they finally managed to undo Abingdon's defence with two late goals. The strides that the boys made over the week were incredible, the pace and speed of thought improved a huge amount in a short period of time.

Overall it was an absolutely awesome tour. Hockey, culture and activities were balanced so that the boys could experience all three during the trip away. Well done to all those involved, bring on next season!

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