Last week.

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After our day off yesterday we were back to work today, starting with an early morning session with the Junior and Senior groups at the Moti Bagh School, after focusing on passing and moving in our first few sessions with these groups Ali and I decided to shift our attention onto dribbling for the next few weeks, starting with another ‘skills corridor’ session which had to be tailored to take into account the group’s ability level, which was considerably higher than the ones we had done the session with before. After breezing through the basics of dribbling with the group we were soon at the zig-zag stage of the drill, which is normally towards the end of a session. After this we progressed the drill so that players were dribbling from both ends of the corridor, dropping a shoulder to beat their man before adding passers to play the ball across the corridor whilst the remainder of the group dribbled through it. To end the session we played a ‘run the gauntlet’ game in which these passers became saboteurs, trying to knock the dribbling players’ ball away from them with their pass, the kids really enjoyed this, so much so that me and Ali had to get involved! This session once again proved what a good drill skills corridor is, displaying its versatility both in the range of abilities you can do it with and the amount of activities you can do with it, we got a really good 45 minute session in which the players’ awareness displayed a marked improvement out of a single corridor without ever having to change the set-up.

As we were leaving the school we were invited to the Annual Day Celebrations which were being held later that morning and held the promise of songs and Bhangra dancing after ok-ing with Arup we gratefully accepted the invite. When we arrived we were immediately shown to the VIP seats at the front of the hall where we waited for about ten minutes before the chief guest, some sort of Indian celebrity (although not, as one the kids said to wind us up, the President!) arrived and the festivities could begin.  Opening up were the senior boy’s bhangra team which contained a few of the boys we coach in the mornings, who were awesome, the energy on display coupled with the length of time the dance went on for confirmed to Ali and I that we definitely don’t need to do any work on fitness! After they were finished some of the kids were given awards based on both academic and sporting achievements. In the lull that followed we were approached by the MC of proceedings who asked if we had ever played against Barcelona, after we reluctantly informed him that we were not professional footballers the reason for his question soon became clear as minutes later we were invited up to the stage and presented with a bouquet of flowers each before being asked to make an impromptu speech, something that is becoming common in India! The event was headlined by the junior boys Bhangra team, which contained Gatu, Aditya, Pradeep and Sohail, all of whom we coach at IYSA. This show was just as impressive as the one before with the kids displaying as much enthusiasm for dancing as they do for football! Just before the closing speeches Ali and I thought we would duck out early to get back for lunch, this plan did not work in the slightest as we were stopped for by dozens of kids, parents and one security guard who wanted to have a picture taken with us, including a load of kids who we have never coached! Anyway, half an hour and about eighty pictures later we finally managed to get a rickshaw leaving behind us a school assembly the like of which I had never seen before!

Later that afternoon I took the under-14 special group at IYSA whilst Ali worked with the rest of that age group. This session was easily the worst one I’ve taken so far in India and I left really disappointed. The group, who are normally so keen and attentive seemed very distracted and unmotivated which meant a drill which should have taken half hour, lasted over an hour without ever really hitting its key objectives. After getting over my surprise at the behaviour I let the group know that this wasn’t good enough and had to improve, I think this session was just a reaction to them getting over their initial shyness over us but I still left pretty disappointed.  Not for the first time in India this demonstrated how the way a session goes can have a real effect on your mood after it, So that was Tuesday, a day of ups and downs but definitely not one im likely to forget in a while!


On Wednesday morning we were back with the open group at Moti Bagh, after covering passing and turns we have decided to switch our focus to dribbling for the next week or so and introduced this topic with a coaching classic, ‘the cone road’. Now I’m sure anyone who has ever played football has taken part in this drill at some point in their training so in order to make our session a bit more interesting and fun we opened it with a couple of unorthodox races, asking our players to keep the ball up with it balanced between their foreheads, backs, and finally with each team member having to touch the ball at the same time(a tactic borrowed from our Kenyan Colleagues Danny and Sam) these variations had the desired effect; getting the group laughing and setting the tone for what was all in all successful session , although one leaving us with plenty to work with for next time! After returning home and partaking in my now well-rehearsed ‘one episode of friends then nap’ ritual we were finally back to our class at Literacy India for another English lesson, after a week off the kids seemed very glad to see us (one of the teaches even saying they had told her they missed us!) and greeted us with a couple of flawless performances of ‘I’m a little teapot’ complete with all the actions! After the success of nursery rhymes in our last lesson we decided to follow this up with the absolute classic ‘wheels on the bus’  featuring three verses, one including the wipers on the bus going ‘swish, swish, swish!’; a verse we had more trouble with than the kids! After their mastery of this rhyme we moved onto common phrases one might use on the metro followed by my now traditional last fifteen minutes Hindi lesson which followed the pattern established during previous one- I point at a phrase of picture, all of the kids shout out the translation over each other before bursting out in laughter as I spectacularly fail to pronounce it. Wednesday’s lesson also finished a writing component as Ali and I were taught how to write our names in Hindi, a task that still took me 2 attempts to get right! (p.s. I thought a part of Ali’s looked like a willy, this cracked me up and absolutely nobody else, obviously the kids are too mature to laugh at such nonsense)

That afternoon at IYSA I took the under-11s in a turn’s session whilst Ali took the special group and focused on control. After the warm up, in which we played a game called colours (featuring ecstatic celebrations from the winner) the session was essentially ‘tag with turns’ as the session was all about accelerating out of the turn in order to get away from a defender. To encourage this the turners were all given tails (bibs in the back of their shorts) which chasing players had to try and take after they had made their turn, although on some occasions this game meant the kids were far more focused on getting away from the chaser than their turn, the ball or their own health in general  it worked really well with the kids able to identify and perform four types of turn (inside hook, outside hook, drag back and cruyff) and having a good time doing it! To finish the session we played a variation of the chaser game in which every kid was given a tail and Dunveer, one of the IYSA coaches, and I took on the role of catchers. What followed was absolute madness, with kids running all over the place as more and more joined us after being caught and took to their new role with relish! Soon, and after me and Dunveer had to sacrifice our role as catchers in order to make sure the new ones stayed back long enough to give the remaining participants a chance to make the turn!, we were left with two players left having gone through all the turns with both feet. This left us with a sudden-death play off, one turn, winner takes all, after a number of false starts as Dunveer and I failed to hold back the chasing hordes we were left with one Champion; Hemant, a great kid and really talented footballer who always stays behind with us after sessions as the six o’clock finish time inevitable becomes quarter or half past. Anyway, after his victory I promised him an Arsenal prize on Wednesday as long as he reminds me, something I’m pretty sure isn’t going to be a problem!

After our sessions were finished Ali and I decided to celebrate a good day with a trip to the Priya complex where, after a browse around I was able to get a real slice of Indian culture, the spice, the colour, the vibrancy  ….yes, that’s right, I finally had a Maharaja Mac, and it fully lived up to it’s billing! Flushed by this success and the subsequent McFlurry all that was left was a rickshaw home and bed!

P.S- finally managed to take some videos, after seeing how long it took to upload them on here when we get the time Ali and I will be putting them on his youtube channel..


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