Boys Varsity Soccer Team Travels to Europe


The boys varsity soccer team in Ireland.

At the close of summer, while other fall athletes prepared themselves for preseason, the boys varsity soccer team packed up their bags and embarked on a 13-day adventure to England and Ireland. The itinerary included sightseeing, bonding, and preparing themselves on the field for the upcoming season. The trip was led by coaches Dave Pedreschi (who grew up in Ireland), Ted Goodrich, and Chris Wade, as well as athletic trainer Art Cheeks. The entire team from last season, as well as three new students, came on the adventure, travelling from London to Liverpool to Dublin.

Upon arriving in London at 7 AM after a long overnight flight, the team was tired yet enthusiastic about the long journey ahead of them. First on the schedule was a tour of Stamford Bridge, home to one of England’s largest and fanciest soccer (or football as it is called there) clubs, which was conveniently right next to their hotel. The team toured the stadium, got a behind-the-scenes look at the home locker room, and even got to walk out beside the pitch and sit in the coaches’ seats. Henry Hodde ’20, a long time Chelsea fan, said, “it was awesome to go experience something that I had only previously seen on TV.”

In the following days, the boys went on the London Eye, the renowned Ferris wheel overlooking the entire city, experienced a traditional fish and chips dinner, scrimmaged a local soccer team, and explored the city of London. On their final day in London, the team got to watch the Tottenham vs. Fulham match, two teams in the Barclays Premier League. Patrick Kenyon ’20, an incoming fifth former, observed that “the atmosphere was unlike any sports game [he] had been to in the US.” Around the stadium there was a contagious spirit of pride coming from the 70,000 fans cheering on their team. Their team loyalty runs so deep that one Groton student who was wearing a Chelsea jersey was told by a security guard he must wear a jacket for the duration of the game to cover up his shirt. The Tottenham fans were so passionate that he could be in danger if they saw his opposing shirt.

Next, the team travelled to the nearby city of Liverpool, England, a port city around 200 miles from London. The team toured both the Manchester United and Liverpool stadiums, learned about the birthplaces of the four Beatles, and explored the waterfront of the city. The boys also had the opportunity to train with an academy coach from Manchester United, one of the most well-known soccer clubs in the world. “Training with a coach of such a high level of play was intimidating at first, but also very beneficial and productive for both the individual and the team as a whole,” said Jack Pedreschi ’21, a goalkeeper on the team. He enjoyed both the “energy” and the “unique ideas” that he was able to take away from this session as a goalie.

The team was able to experience professional soccer in this city as well, with a Liverpool match on one of the nights of their trip. Despite watching the game on TVs around the city instead of attending the game, the passion and enthusiasm for the match was just as evident.

Finally, the team finished their trip by crossing the Irish sea for a stay in Dublin, Ireland’s largest city and the center of its culture. Here the team played three matches against Irish clubs and schools, and learned about Irish culture and the history of the city. The boys saw St. Patrick’s cathedral, learning about the origins of St. Patrick and St. Patrick’s Day, as well as history behind the Vikings and colonization of Ireland.

In between soccer games, the boys also got to experience traditional Gaelic sports. They learned both Gaelic football and hurling, sports unique from those in America and other parts of the world. Most of the students were less familiar with Ireland than with England when the trip started, but it was interesting for them to learn more about this country’s traditions and games.

The team returned to the US excited to prepare for preseason and the ISL season to come, having taken lots away about the lifestyles, playing styles, and soccer culture in these three cities. Captain Walker Davey ’19 commented, “We are all so lucky to have had this opportunity to travel to England and Ireland, and I’m sure it will be an experience we will all never forget.”