Posted by Team, 30th April 2018
Some of our favorite stories here at GIS are when players progress through the levels of our programming. We love hearing about when players don’t receive an invitation to National Camp at their ID Camp, but train hard and are selected at the next ID Camp; Or when players don’t qualify for the Elite Player Trip, but use the Experienced Player Trip to grow their game and make the Elite Player Trip the following year. Adversity is just part of the journey and we embrace that. It’s not easy for players to hear that they’re not as good as they may have thought, but we hope that this expanded perspective helps motivate them to train harder and grow as players.
One such player who has made tremendous progress is Nik Ford. Nik lives in Nashville, TN and plays for GIS partner club, Eagle Express SC. At Eagle Express he plays with the 05 Boys in Division 1 and also plays for the varsity team at Mount Juliet Middle School. Nik first came into GIS programming at a 2016 Eagle Express ID Camp. There, he caught the eye of the Academy coach in attendance and was invited to the 2016 Wolves National Camp that July. Based on his performance at the National Camp, Nik qualified for the Experienced Player Trip. Obviously, he had hoped to make the Academy Prospect or Elite Player Trip, but he didn’t let that deter him. Instead, he took full advantage of the opportunity and used the lessons learned to grow his game. At the 2017 Wolves National Camp, that growth was on full display and Nik jumped 2 levels to make the Academy Prospect Trip! An incredible achievement.
We caught up with Nik’s dad, Chris Ford, to learn more about Nik, his experience with GIS, and how he was able to make the leap to Academy Prospect.
You’ve been on a couple trips to England now, what was the experience like and how did the Experienced Player trip differ from the Academy Prospect trip?
“Experienced Player” Trip 2017 - Great introduction to English soccer; the “life” an academy player might lead; and the Wolves’ coaching philosophies. The Stadium tours and the trip to London were a great international experience for any kid to learn a bit more about the world, while also getting some solid training at the Wolves’ Academy.
“Academy Prospect” Trip 2018 - After a good showing on the “Experienced Player” Trip to England in 2017, and at the National Camp in Georgia that summer, Nik was privileged to be invited to participate in the “Academy” Tier One Prospect trip to Wolverhampton in March 2018. Unlike the “Experienced Player” Trip, where there were about 25 very good players attending from North America, the “Academy” Trip was a small group of 6 excellent players from multiple countries (USA, Canada, and Australia). This trip was much more focused on training and assessment. During their time with the Wolves, they got to train with Wolves’ Academy players their own age, as though they were Academy players themselves. They got to experience the high level of training and play, as well as the advanced skills, tactics, and techniques the Wolves’ players have achieved, as they pursue their dream of becoming professional soccer players.
How has Nik benefited from the various GIS Events he’s attended?
At the beginning (Summer 2016), Nik had an opportunity to see how he compared to other local kids his age range, in an “assessment” environment, through the Regional ID camp. Then when invited to the national camp in Georgia, he was able to see how he stacked up against very good players from around the country. This was a great confidence-builder, especially when he was subsequently invited to the “Experienced Player” Trip at Wolverhampton in March 2017.
Making the jump from Experienced Player to Academy Prospect in just 1 year is really impressive. What did Nik pick up during the Experienced Player trip that helped prepare him to make the leap?
The coaching and drills were tougher and more disciplined than what he was used to. Although fun is always important when playing a game, these sessions at National Camp, and in England, were about serious soccer. Going to the first National Camp, and then to the first England trip, helped him mature as a player; mentally, technically, and tactically, not because he learned a bunch of new skills, but because he learned a different way of thinking when on the field. This has helped all the other aspects of his game.
How has the English Style/System benefited your son and does it differ from US Club Soccer?
The English system has given Nik a much broader and more mature understanding of the game on a world level. He has been able to see the level of focus, commitment, and strategy the Academy players have for their future goals. It’s their way of life!
How does the coaching level differ from Nik’s other experiences in soccer?
Having an opportunity to train at the National Camp and in England with the Wolves’ coaching staff, gave Nik a chance to experience training that is focused on more advanced players, and what helps them understand how to prepare for the game at the next levels.
In what ways has GIS impacted Nik’s development as a soccer player?
GIS has helped Nik better understand the game, and what it takes to succeed at a national and international level, rather than just what it takes to be good at the local level. Through this experience, Nik has gained a broader perspective and understanding of the game, on and off the pitch. This has made him better prepared to grow, develop, and play. Overall, we have been very pleased with our GIS and Wolves experiences. It has opened Nik’s eyes to soccer on a world scale, and given him international travel experiences he would not have had otherwise, and that we would encourage anyone with a passionate soccer player to pursue.
Special thanks to Nik and Chris for chatting with us!
If you want to attend a Wolves ID Camp this summer and have a chance at making the National Camp like Nik, click HERE
Lastly, if you think your son/daughter has a cool story that should be featured please email firstname.lastname@example.org