Moorland School is no stranger to big names and guest coaches across our academies, but they come no bigger than the guest superstar we had the opportunity to welcome in the first week of November. A footballer who needs no introduction; whose accolades include previous three times Premier League, four times African Player of the Year, African Cup of Nations and Champions League winner; whose personality and kindness proceeds him everywhere he goes, we were incredibly pleased to welcome Yaya Touré to Moorland Football Academy.
Yaya Touré is currently taking a break from his professional career to work alongside our partners, Blackburn Rovers FC, during this time he is focused on learning as much as he can in a coaching environment, his visit to Moorland Football Academy allowed him experience coaching at both Under 12’s and Under 16’s level, something brand new to his repertoire.
Originally scheduled for Monday through Thursday, Yaya started the week introducing himself personally to the students, away from his superstar reputation, Yaya is a very knowledgeable and personable individual who immediately clicked with our footballing bubbles. Taking sessions with both age groups on the first day, Yaya spent group time with the students. Working alongside our seasoned coach Charlie Jackson, they lead several indoor drills focusing on two-touch and passing. Understandably, the first day was the day that our students could have been overwhelmed by their company; however, as to be expected, several of our students were also incredibly keen to impress, with levels already increasing towards the end of day one.
During his time at Moorland, it was imperative for our students to take advantage of our guest coach in a mentoring capacity. Together with support from our internal mentor, John Cofie, students had access to invaluable information across the football landscape as well as detailed conversations about life choices, favourites, mistakes and everything in between. Yaya was an incredibly open book on an illustrious career of success, something that eclipses most professional careers, yet conversations were humble, informative and passionate as Yaya clearly developed a great bond and friendship with our student groups.
As the days progressed, Yaya developed a great rapport with both our students and staff, involving everyone at every opportunity. The coaching delivered gave some glimpses of familiarity for anyone who has seen professional footballers during a training session, or before the start of a game. A premier league favourite, the rondo, played key piece to the warming up each day developing a great energy between the players and getting a competitive spirit flowing right from the off. As sessions progressed, more complex movement, passing and shooting drills came to the fore of Yaya’s coaching ability; some even pushing the understanding of our players whilst learning via these new methods. By the end of each session, it was clear to anyone present that Yaya was destined to become a determined and inspiring coach, with all our students leaving each session having learnt a new skill or technique they can take into their game.
The week itself, was a typical first week of November albeit with extra rainfall just to ensure pitches were pretty much unplayable, however on Wednesday afternoon as predicted, the storm clouds parted, and Yaya was able to take the older group out on the 3g pitch. From a school point of view this session was the epitome of what you could expect from a former player. Our students were engaged in several more complex drills taking advantage of the extra space outdoors, this giving scope for our players to work on two touch control, vision, passing and defending within given spaces. As to be expected the students got to grips with the requirement and demonstrated some excellent ball control and vision, impressing Yaya with their ability to pick up drills used at the highest level of professional coaching. Coach Jackson however, was not surprised by the students’ abilities; working closely with them each day has allowed him to work on identifying strengths and weaknesses of each of our students and adapt training exercises to improve any weaker areas, bringing out the best in our students at every opportunity. This means that all students developing under his guidance at Moorland Football Academy leave as well-rounded footballers with great all-round technical ability.
After an intense week of training with Yaya, Thursday was to be his last day with the Academy students. Observing the first half of these sessions really showed how much impact he had on the students in such a short time. Global circumstances and the cancelling of competitive games had understandably led some of our students to be a tiny bit disheartened – fully committing to their training as always, but not being able to make their mark on a pitch was missing. Yaya’s infectious enthusiasm and keenness to make a difference was personified in the attitude of all our players by Thursday. The day started with some of the most intense training drills the Academy had seen, reflective of pre-game day training of old, smiles temporarily discarded and replaced by gritted teeth and determination. The students gave everything they had to impress on the last day with our guest, and this didn’t go unnoticed! Yaya commenting on how magnificent the students had been, working so hard to ensure he achieved what he needed to in a coaching environment. To reward the older group for the efforts of the week, he introduced them to an often seen on social media challenge. In groups the boys had to juggle the ball the length of the indoor pitch without letting it touch the floor, upon reaching the other end the ball then had to be controlled carefully into a bin scoring a point for their team.
This stark change in approach demonstrated Yaya’s connection with the students, taking them from grit and determination, through to laughs, smiles, concentration and outburst of joy and passion. After several failed attempts with pressure understandably getting to some of our students, they were all able to complete the challenge with huge levels of encouragement from Yaya and our whole coaching team. Topping off what was to be a highlight reel worthy week, this team bonding exercise with Yaya at the heart brought what we thought couldn’t have been a better experience to an end… or so we thought…
Driving Yaya back to his accommodation, in discussion with Coach Jackson, Yaya requested that he could come back and spend a few hours on Friday with the students as he had personally promised them some outdoor shooting drills that he hadn’t been able to complete because of the weather. Not one to deny Yaya this great showing of kindness and generosity, Coach Jackson set the wheels in motion and Yaya returned to the Academy for an additional few hours before he had to leave to catch a train.
Friday arrived, and the storms from the week had not been kind to our grass pitch. With trepidation the promised shooting drills might not be able to take place, Yaya arrived. Upon being told about the poor conditions on the grass, Yaya responded by changing into his boots and declaring, we work with what we have got today. His connection with the groups showing through as he was not willing to go back on his promise.
After a quick set of rondos with the older group and passing drills with the younger group, Coach Jackson and his team pushed the goals out onto the waiting pitch and began to set up alongside Yaya for his fabled shooting drills. The time of year and the pitch may not have been ready for Yaya, but our students were. No matter the conditions, this is where our students really came into their own and opened the taps, delivering pin point passing and shots hit with venom bulging the net time after time. After running a few long range shooting and crossing drills, Yaya alongside our coaching team, had delivered upon their promises.
Yaya again, as seemed to be a running theme throughout the week, kindly asked Coach Jackson for ‘5 more minutes’ with the students, much to the dismay of some of our teaching staff who have been very understanding this week with our students getting extra football hours. With the younger group having said their goodbyes and heading back to class, our senior boys had one last activity with Yaya, one in which we are sure he was determined to leave nothing left of the grass on the pitch. Bringing the smaller goals from within the indoor pitch, Yaya set up a ¼ sized pitch with a defined middle line and split the students into 3 groups once again. Showing his competitive spirit that led him to be such a serial winner on the pitch, Yaya had the students playing quick fire games against each other in which to score a goal that counted, all the players from the team had to commit to being in the opposition half, encouraging extensive team communication, trust in each other and a commitment to winning together. Upon completion the whole group and coaching staff gathered together to take a photo to mark the closure of this exciting chapter in their footballing journey, just as it looks like Yaya would be rapidly moving towards starting the next in his career.
Yaya has been the greatest professional, showing everyone he came into contact with just what an amazing character he is; and what a determined and inspiring coach he is destined to become. Pairing this with the ambition shown by Moorland School and its Football Academy to deliver more for our students; with the Academy committing this to just another small step towards regular experiences that will go down as life-long memories and invaluable in their growth as players.
On his last day Yaya was kind enough to share a few words from his time at Moorland School, declaring: “Moorland is a magnificent school, I am very grateful to share this magnificent experience with the kids and the coaches. It has been a decent week at the School and I have had a lot of fun, hanging out with the kids, it’s been brilliant and I’ve really enjoyed it. Charlie and John were really good with me. To be able to have this experience with the kids is really special, they’ve been really nice with me, I’ve just tried to share my experience as a footballer with them, that time was brilliant. I really appreciate it and I hope they appreciate it as well and I hope to be able to see them again soon.”
Academy Director, Coach Charlie Jackson added: “Having known Yaya briefly from his time at Manchester City, I knew he was a great guy and that his attitude and ethos would be ideal to help develop the students here at the academy. Our training at Moorland School develops each player extensively on a technical level and as individuals, and being able to give them the opportunity to meet their heroes works wonders to inject a huge boost of confidence and passion into the sport they play every day. I can’t thank Yaya enough for his time and professionalism every minute we spent with him. As an example of guest coaches to come, he couldn’t have been a better representative of what we are aiming to achieve with this programme within the Academy. On behalf of the school and all its staff we would again just like to extend our thanks to Yaya Touré for what will be a memorable week for years to come.”
As previously disclosed, this is just the kick-starter in an extensive programme of activities we have planned for our Football Academy; delivering trips, guest coaches and once in a life time experiences as Moorland School demonstrates its dedication to delivering a Football education that eclipses that of any other offering. Keep an eye on the Moorland Football Academy social channels for glimpses of our future guest coaches from all levels of the footballing globe.
Our aim has always been to embed the correct techniques right from the outset, encouraging young footballers to play and develop naturally. We believe football should be fun and refreshing putting these experiences and guest coaches into the mix creates an educational environment that Moorland School believes can only lead to more rounded and successful football graduates. Those aspiring to become professional footballers, can also take advantage of our contacts at the highest level meaning we offer genuine through-routes and pathways for those exceptionally talented players.
Moorland School provides a unique education option for potential future football talent including pathways to professional CAT 1 level Academies. With on-site boarding Moorland provides a safe haven for students from all over the globe, as well as a high level of academic education for all students. Having the superstar that is Yaya Touré as part of this ongoing delivery of footballing excellence only adds more strength and depth to the offering from Moorland Football Academy, whilst giving our students opportunity to gain an insight into the life they are progressing towards and instil them with more ambition to grow and develop into the footballers they have the potential to become.
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