The Dynamo Academy U-16 and U-18 team did not train yesterday, as the players all went to The Methodist Hospital System location in Sugar Land to perform baseline imPACT testing. Essentially, the players were put through a series of neurological tests, so if at any point going forward they suffer some type of head trauma, the doctors will be in a better position to determine whether or not the player suffered a concussion.
Since the squads were off, I was left to my own training. After two tough Academy training sessions on Saturday and Monday, I did not mind a day off from rigorous training. Instead, I went out for a jog around my neighborhood to keep the muscles loose and not risk any setbacks before Saturday.
I'm still thinking about the two training sessions that I have participated in. It's been roughly nine years since I participated in some type of organized practice, let alone one modeled after a professional training environment. I expected the sessions to be similar to those of the first team, which I have had the good fortune of watching over the past 18 months while working for the Dynamo. I was fortunate that by Saturday, our DiMaggio-like streak of 41 consecutive days topping 100 degrees had been broken. Although it was still warm, I did not have to deal with the conditions the Dynamo first team does on a consistent basis.
With regard to the actual training sessions, many of the drills were designed to force players to make quick, smart decisions in tight spaces. After running sprints at Monday's sessions, the players were broken into two groups for a game of 8 v. 2 keepaway. The eight players passed the ball around a small grid, while the two players in the middle attempted to steal the ball. Once the ball was stolen, the player who gave the ball away and the player to his right had to sprint 10 yards to a pair of cones before joining back into the circle to try to steal the ball back. This is designed to emulate a game situation in which, if a player loses the ball, he is expected to sprint back on defense to help win it back. Although I found myself running the 10-yard sprint on multiple occasions, I was pleased with my performace in the drill and felt as though by the end of the drill, I was doing a better job thinking ahead to my next pass before the ball reached my feet.
After the drill, we moved to a larger game of keepaway, with four players in the middle and the rest of the team lined up around them in a 20-yard radius. The players on the outside earned one point every time they moved the ball from one end of the grid to the other without interruption. The players in the middle earned a point anytime they managed to get in the way of a pass.
Following the two games of keepaway, we moved from the turf field at the Houston Amateur Sports Park to one of the grass fields, for a game of 11 v. 11. I played left midfield on my team, as both squads lined up in a standard 4-4-2 formation. Not surprisingly, I heard many of the same instructions yelled by James Clarkson as I do from Dominic Kinnear during first-team training sessions. One key that I took away from the session was that as an outside midfielder, I was responsible for pinching toward the middle of the field to help play defense when the ball was on the opposite touch-line. However, as soon as the ball began to transition its way across the field, I needed to get out and provide width to help initiate the attack.
This game also served as a reminder of how much work I have left to do. Although I was 10-11 years older than most of the kids on the pitch, they all have the distinct advantage of training in a professional environment on a weekly basis and playing competitive games against select players on weekends.
Tonight, I'll be back in action with the Dynamo Academy. I have been warned that tonight's training session will involve more conditioning, which I both look forward to and dread at the same time. In tomorrow's entry, I'll go into detail about the various exercises we are put through.