RDS 05's: Pre-Season Orientation

Signing Day: Sunday, August 28th, 2016

A warm and sunny day at Red Bull Arena was the scene as the New York Red Bulls proudly launched their first ever Regional Development Schools year round team. A group of highly talented 2005 birth year players, selected after an extensive tryout period that saw the top youth prospects in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania all tryout, gathered at New York Red Bulls’ Home in Harrison, NJ to embark on their team orientation and signing day.

The day began with the players and parents going ‘backstage’ at Red Bull Arena, just as the buzz of game day was starting to spread through the stadium as the Red Bulls prepared to face Eastern Conference rivals New England Revolution. As the stadium was being prepared for the MLS clash, the young RDS players sat through their team orientation in the first team interview room, as RDS Manager Simon Barrow took the team and their parents through everything that the upcoming season would entail.

After a detailed briefing, each player then had their signing day photo taken, complete with Red Bulls Jersey and scarf, as they were welcomed to the team by coaches Gareth Tyack and Zach Herold. At that point each player then received their team kit bag, complete with Match day kit, training gear and warm up uniform.

From there the players embarked on their first team building exercise together, as they prepared themselves to be ball boys for the days game, giving the future MLS hopefuls a chance to experience a top level match from pitch side. For the parents, a trip to the Beer Garden and some light refreshments before kickoff.

The young RDS players showed a first glimpse of what will hopefully be a sign of things to come, as they demonstrated great focus and worked well as a team throughout the game, performing the ball boy duties wonderfully.

Once the game was done, the day was still only just beginning for the newly assembled team, as after a swift farewell to their parents the boys all boarded the team coach, heading north for Fort Ann, NY and the Golden Goal Tournament park, where pre-season team camp awaited.

Golden Goal: Monday, August 29th

Day one of pre-season camp began on the field, with perfect soccer weather to practice in. An intense ninety minutes session ensued, as the boys were put through their paces by coaches Tyack and Herold. And the afternoon didn’t get any less challenging, as the boys were led through the Golden Goal ‘mud run’ by New York Red Bulls Mental Skills Coach Gary Pritchard. A couple of miles, several obstacles and a lot of mud later, the boys completed the run with smiles on their faces and a great feeling of accomplishment.

Each evening at Golden Goal was used to put the players into action on the field, as the new recruits played out a series of 7v7 games, each one filmed by the Golden Goal drone, a tool that would provide the players the opportunity for some video analysis – from an aerial perspective - later in the week.

Tuesday, August 30th

Yet more fantastic weather greeted the players on the second morning of camp, but rather than being put through their paces with the ball, this morning’s session was used to put the players through the T4 tests - a series of athletic tests that measure speed, agility, vertical leap and endurance. Each test provided the players and coaching staff with a baseline measurement of where each individual lies at the season’s outset and will provide the measuring stick for improvement, when the players are retested at the conclusion of the fall season.

Tuesday afternoon was another busy one for the boys. First up was another session with Gary Pritchard who ran the players through a series of team building activities, and following that the players hit the field, before enjoying some well-earned down time, utilizing the Golden Goal facilities to see who the resident FIFA champion was, as well as who was could claim the label of table-tennis king!

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Another busy day for the players, with a practice session and a classroom session either side of lunch. This time it was program manager Simon Barrow who took the lead in the classroom, taking each player through the self-evaluation form that they would complete. Each player was asked to think about various technical, physical and mental aspects of the game, rating how important they felt each one was to their own game, and then rating their current perceived competency in each attribute. This self-evaluation would not only get the players to think about what sort of player they see themselves as, and in what areas they feel they have strengths and areas to work on, but would also provide the basis of each player’s mid-season evaluation. Coach Herold then took the players for the morning session on the field, with Coach Tyack still recovering from Tuesday morning’s Beep Test exertions!

After an enjoyable lunch, where the players all ate together and continued to bond as a group, it was back into the classroom, this time for a video session using the drone footage from the previous evening. The players went over what the aspects of the game that they would be working on during the upcoming afternoon session, and how it would relate to the game, and then hit the field to put the theory into practice.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

The final morning at Golden Goal, and the last day of pre-season camp week. The day began with a healthy breakfast, before the boys put their team building skills to use again and grouped together to make sure that their team bunk was clean and tidy and ready for their afternoon departure. Before hitting the field for the last time, the team made once last trip to the classroom, this time to devise their very own ‘Player’s Code of Conduct’ as well as to run their eye over the Parent’s and Coach’s Codes of Conducts and make any changes that they deemed fit. A healthy discussion ensued, with players split off into small groups to discuss the topic and then report back to the group. It did not take long at all before the players had drawn up an all-encompassing list of standards by which to represent the team by. They were also not shy in suggesting changes to the coach’s code of conduct as well as the parents code of conduct, with the squad unanimous in the decision that ‘No parents should be allowed to scream and shout on the touchline’ be added to the list.

A high-tempo session on the field completed the boys week of pre-season, before showering and changing into their brand new Red Bulls training gear to board the coach and make the drive back to New Jersey. For some, the drive was spent watching Harry Potter on the bus’s TV, and for others it was a chance to get some well-earned sleep after an intense week on the field.

After five days spent together, the group of 16 highly talented individuals had made their first steps towards becoming a team. The road would be long and challenging, but a great start had been made, as proven by the goodbye’s to each other that the boys made as they stepped off the bus at their new home of Red Bull Arena.


Photos by Nina Broeer

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