We Switched to Valencia CF Summer Academy!
If you are looking for an excellent soccer camp that teaches the Spanish style of play, look no further than the Valencia CF Summer Academy!
We live in Eastern Washington where there aren't many quality soccer camps, so we decided to find a week-long camp in the Seattle area. We found the Barcelona camp through online advertising, registered our three kids and planned our trip to Seattle.
On July 22 we started at the Barcelona Academy with high hopes. The camp had lots of banners, colorful inflatables in Barcelona colors and loud, fun music. The tightly run camp looks good from the outset, but soon our opinions soured. It quickly started to feel like a lot flash without a focus on soccer instruction. Little details were missed. My daughter was placed in a younger group with immature boys who refused to pass her the ball. This was extremely frustrating for her. My older son had a similar experience. On top of that, after two days of camp, the coaches still didn’t know how to pronounce his name. There was a complete lack of fluidity between levels and training groups. As a result, kids were not placed in correctly level groups and no adjustments were made. They only go by age at the Barca Academy and it was rigid. If your child wasn’t in the top tier of their very large age group, they were placed with young (15-17 year old) seemingly local coaches and there was no opportunity to interact with any of the coaches to find out more information or get feedback. There was a lot of downtime as well. The coaches spent a lot getting the kids in lines and marching them to water breaks or other areas of the field. The turf fields made things super hot for the kids. Things were not going well for us.
That's when I noticed another camp going on just across the parking lot on some grass fields. I could see flags and signs with the name Valencia CF Summer Academy and Eagleclaw FC. I walked over to check it out and I'm glad I did! Right away I could see a lot more soccer instruction going on. The energy and intensity was dramatically different and higher here than at the Barcelona camp. The training groups looked even and and the coaches were very engaged. There was definitely less flash here, but it felt like a real soccer camp. They were training on grass, which made the whole environment more comfortable for the players given the heat. I asked if I could
bring my kids over to join the Valencia camp. They said yes, so we switched on the spot!
Night and day, that's how I describe these two camps. On the surface, there are similarities. The quality of players and style of play are very similar, but that's where the similarities end. The quality at Valencia is much, much deeper. The real difference is in the quality of coaching, the high level of instruction, the respectful, personable atmosphere at the Valencia camp and the fact that Valencia CF has a deep partnership with local Seattle club Eagleclaw FC. In fact, I learned that Eagleclaw is one of Valencia's official Soccer Schools.
From the moment we walked up to Valencia, we were people not numbers. My oldest son said that he “liked the coaches better at Valencia because he could tell that they really wanted him to get better as a player and a person.” At the Valencia camp, my middle daughter was easily able to be placed in a group and level that fit her advanced playing style because the Valencia and Eagleclaw coaches take the time to listen to parents and get to know the player. There is constant monitoring of players to adjust challenge levels. As a result, Valencia and Eagleclaw are more fluid in their approach. After one day at the Valencia camp, my daughter was beaming with happiness and really tired because they did such a good job of challenging her. She also received helpful, insightful feedback from multiple coaches as the groups are rotated through different high level coaches and my kids really appreciated that the coaches noticed them and wanted to help them improve their play.
Something else that stood out for me is the fact that the Valencia camp was described as a “High Performance” program. This was a very noticeable difference from the Barcelona camp. Barcelona touts their camp as high performance as well, but that's not what they deliver. At the Valencia camp, they created a high performance training environment. My children trained with high quality Valencia and Eagleclaw coaches and were placed in groups that actually facilitated a high performance environment.
Another major difference is that we were unclear about the qualifications of the Barcelona camp coaches. Many of the coaches were very young American kids,
probably 15-17 years old. There were Spanish people from a marketing company called ISL, but all the other coaches were Americans and did not seem to be connected to a local Seattle club or have any real connection to Barcelona other than the jerseys they were wearing. This was in stark contrast to the Valencia camp which was led by two high level Spanish coaches who are real Valencia coaches and actually coach teams at the Valencia youth academy in Spain. For one of the coaches, Coach Natalia, it was her second consecutive year coming to Seattle for the program.. She was open and engaging with me as a parent, but also got right in with the kids, challenging them and encouraging them. I learned she is the head coach of the U19 women's team at the Valencia CF youth academy. Also, all of the Eagleclaw coaches were really experienced and high level coaches who have been working with Valencia’s methods for years and it showed. For nearly all the Eagleclaw coaches, this was their third year working with Valencia coaches in this camp. The Eagleclaw coaches were approachable and open to questions and conversation. The combination of actual Valencia youth academy coaches and high level Eagleclaw coaches was unbeatable.
At the Barcelona camp, parents were told they were not allowed near the training area. While there may be good reasons for that, it also affected the environment in a negative way for me. Across the street, we could see that parents of kids at the Valencia camp could easily observe everything up close, see the kids training and watch the coaches working. No one was told that we were not allowed on the sidelines. It was just a more transparent environment at the Valencia camp and that really appealed to me. It seemed to me that the Valencia and Eagleclaw coaches were happy to show how they work with the players and it created a more welcoming environment.
Overall the training and education at the Valencia CF Summer Academy was definitely high-performance, instructional, and the atmosphere is one of mutual respect, care, and an obvious love for excellent soccer. We were more than a number, more than a cog in a large machine; my children were valued as students of the beautiful game. We are happy to have made the switch halfway through camp and will definitely choose the Valencia CF Summer Academy first next year!
- Jenny S.