Posted by Team, 7th May 2018
In this GIS Blog Series, we talk with families to get a closer insight into how they have benefited from GIS related programming from a soccer, experiential, and family perspective. We are nothing without our all-star families and hopefully, these blogs will show our immense appreciation for the trust they put in us.
We are pleased to introduce you to the Holmes Family!
Tell us a little bit about your family and your involvement with soccer.
Our two boys Aidan (15) and Kellan (14) were born on the east coast, and we moved to Southern California when they were in elementary school. They have loved soccer from a very young age and have each been playing competitive soccer since they were 5 years old.
At what ages did they start attending GIS related events & what events have you all attended?
Aidan first attended a WHU ID Camp through his local club at age 10. He has been invited to and attended the WHU National ID Camp for six years (2012-2017), and he has been selected to travel to England to train with the WHU Academy on the Elite Trip five times. Kellan began his relationship with GIS and WHU at age 12. Kellan has been invited to and attended the WHU National Camp two years (2016-2017), and he was also selected to travel to England to train with the WHU Academy on the Elite Trip. They have both been invited to the 2018 WHU National ID Camp again this summer.
In what ways have you seen these GIS events impact their development as soccer players?
The relationship our boys have with the WHU coaches and training methodology has been instrumental in their player development. The WHU Academy focuses on four key areas of player development: technical, tactical, physical & social. Aidan and Kellan have a very clear understanding of their strengths and development areas within each of the four areas, and we have been able to see and track their improvement over the years. Having exposure to and a relationship with a long-standing and proven Premier League Academy system like the WHU Academy is an invaluable development experience to any aspiring player and not something they can find in this country.
In what ways have you seen these GIS events impact them personally?
Player development models in the United States vary from club to club, and from coach to coach - even within the USSDA, where our boys have both played. There is also a big focus in the United States on winning games and being on a winning team from a very early age over individual player development. Our boys have both been fortunate enough to have some incredible coaches over the years and be on some fantastic teams. The GIS talent identification relationship with WHU has been an opportunity for them to step away from the soccer culture in the United States and gain access to the soccer culture in England and the rest of the world, where individual player development is the sole focus of all player training and development at their respective ages. To this end, they have personally gained a huge amount of knowledge and insight about where they stand developmentally and their player potential.
What has been the most valuable thing your kids have gained from these events?
Through their on-going relationship with WHU, the most valuable takeaway is an objective critique of their player abilities and potential evaluated through a proven player development model. They know and understand their strengths as players, they know and understand the areas where they need to improve, and they know and understand the things that make them unique and special - the things that differentiate them from other players. There will never be any one player who checks every single box technically, tactically, physically & socially. However, if you know and understand what you can and can’t control, and what makes you individually unique, then you can create a pathway for individual player development to get you to the next level. This information builds CONFIDENCE to believe in oneself through all the ups and downs that come with playing and competing at a high level. The boys have absolutely taken what they’ve learned at these events back to their individual clubs and teams and used this information to improve their individual game and make them better players.
What has their experience been like on our Elite Trips?
The WHU elite trips immerse the players into the training curriculum of the WHU Academy players in England. They have access to the Academy training facilities, wear their training gear, and even wear their real player kits on match day. They get a true taste of what life as a WHU Academy player feels like and, just like the players in England, players on the Elite Trip are treated like professionals. The trips are organized around the training schedule first and foremost, and players typically train twice a day. GIS does an excellent job building sightseeing opportunities into the trip around the training schedule, and there is always an opportunity to see a professional match. Our boys have loved every minute of the trips. Over the years, the boys have built lifelong friendships with other players from across the world, and they have built a relationship with GIS and WHU leaders and coaches who we consider extended family. The experience has been fantastic.
What are some of the more memorable moments you’ve had either on a trip or at a camp?
Every time one of the boys returns from England, we always ask them their favorite part of the trip. Without exception, the answer is always the same: the training. Having the opportunity to train directly with long-time WHU Assistant Academy Director Paul Heffer is the best part of the trip year after year. That said, over the years there have been a few very special moments that stand out. In his early years with GIS, Aidan had the opportunity to meet and train with the legendary and former WHU Academy Director Tony Carr while he was still at the helm of the WHU Academy. Incredible. Another year while training in England, Aidan had the opportunity to meet former WHU Academy and First Team player Sebastian Lletget who was ID’d by WHU through the same GIS/WHU relationship. Soon after meeting Sebastian, Seb was transferred to the L.A. Galaxy and made his first appearance for the USMNT. Aidan reached out to Seb via social media after his move to L.A., and they have exchanged a few messages over the years. Seb even offered Aidan some personal advice when Aidan was experiencing a challenge with a coaching change. Invaluable. While the new WHU stadium in London is modern and beautiful, the old stadium is also extremely memorable. The old stadium housed a hotel, and the players on the elite trips woke up each morning to a professional pitch right outside their window. Inspiring. Finally, watching WHU play Manchester United in the FA Cup at Old Trafford in March 2016 was unforgettable. The WHU crowd was electric, singing and chanting louder than the Man U fans the entire game. Then in the 67th minute, Dimitri Payet buried a free kick to put WHU up 1-0. The crowd erupted. The atmosphere was incredible. It was the type of Premier League goal every boy dreams of seeing live and aspires to one day make. Amazing.
If there was a parent who was nervous about traveling to a national camp or skeptical about the value of traveling to Europe with GIS, what would you say to them?
GIS owners Jacqui and James Abrahart and their staff are true professionals. Soccer is their passion, and logistics are their specialty. The itineraries are carefully planned around maximizing the training experience for the players. Players have three healthy meals each day, there is time for rest and recovery, there is a strict curfew in the evening, and the players are always chaperoned. The elite trip training experience is invaluable to any serious soccer player. Our boys never want to come home.
And lastly, a fun one… Who is your favorite pro club and why?!
Kellan has always liked Tottenham (sorry Paul!), and Aidan of course loves WHU because the culture of that club is forever part of him. Thank you GIS!
If you’d like your family to be in the next GIS Family Spotlight, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.