BUSC Abroad program returns from successful trip to England!

Playing for the Ballistic United Soccer Club is about so much more than just showing up for practices during the week, then the games on the weekend.

It’s about the growth of the person as the players develop into young men. BUSC doesn’t just want the development of soccer skills, but the maturation of each player as a person.

With that in mind, Ballistic started the Ballistic Abroad Program in 2012. The trips – always to England – have taken place from 2012 through 2019, with a three-year break from COVID.

This year the trip came back during the recent spring break for the Pleasanton schools.

“The aim is to provide a soccer culture experience that will provide a lifetime of memories,” said Ballistic Technical Director Kevin Crow. “We go over spring break to minimize missing school.”

“The number one goal for us taking the boys to Europe is to get them to fall in love with the game more than what they currently are,” added Ballistic Director of Coaching, MLS NEXT, Jerry Losson.

There were a pair of groups this year with Crow and Losson heading a group.

Losson had the 13/14 MLS NEXT group, with Crow handling the Comp/Rec U-14/17 players.

This year’s trip had 105 travelers including players, parents, siblings, and BUSC staff. There were 47 players that attended overall.

The trip is usually for the Under-14 Competitive age group, but this year it was opened to the Under-15 and 17 groups as they missed the window with the COVID postponement. It was also opened to the Recreation players and six U-14 Rec players and parents attended.

There is sightseeing as well, with this year’s offerings including two-three days around the London area, seeing Buckingham Palace, the Abbey, London Eye, and London Thames River cruise. There is also free time to explore other London sites.

Crow’s group spent 4-5 days in the city of Chester as a base of operations.

There were training sessions conducted by professional clubs, as well as scrimmages against some youth clubs.

Usually, they attend one English Premier League game and one Championship league (the second tier pro league) game, but due to the larger group, they went to a pair of Championship games, seeing Watford against Huddersfield Town, as well as Wigan vs. the Queens Park Rangers.

Crow mentioned that a group of 75 or so went to the Tottenham vs. Everton match on their own.

Losson’s group reached for the stars, watching live the EPL games off Chelsea vs. Liverpool, and four days later, Manchester United vs. Everton.

“We wanted to expose them to the culture and fervor of some premier league matches – it’s something that you can actually feel when present that you don’t get by watching it in front of a television set,” said Losson. “It’s stadiums with storied history and soaking up the environments within both.”

For Losson, one of the highlights of the tour was watching Ballistic MLS NEXT coach Brady Taylor, a huge Chelsea fan, get to attend a match at Stamford Bridge (Chelsea’s home stadium), sitting next to him watching him celebrate, then sit back after not one, but two Chelsea goals were overturned by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR).

There was also tours of stadiums by the groups, including Chelsea, Stoke City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City.

Getting to train at professional training centers was another big piece of the adventure.

“Another thing that they experienced was changing rooms, pre-and post matches and trainings,” said Losson. “It was great to see them have a chance to prepare together, laugh together, joke together, sing together, dance together, etc.”

Part of their guides included a pair of younger Scottish men that taught the boys a song.

“They were great with the boys, helping them learn the culture and learning football songs,” said Losson.

Here is a song the Ballistic players learned from their guides.

“Ballistic, Ballistic

Ballistic, Ballistic

Come on you boys in yellow,

Come on you boys in yellow,

Cali is white and yellow,

Cali is white and yellow,

Oooooh, oh, ooh, ooh, oh, ooh, oooooooh.”

And then there were the scrimmages/games. If anything, the physicality of the games was a new experience.

“We were very competitive in two of our three matches,” explained Losson. “Charlton athletic was a tough ask and they controlled us throughout the match. The matches against Burton and the Welsh side were very competitive and a bit feisty. The boys are not used to being kicked deliberately and bullied a bit, but the coaches and I felt it was a great learning experience for them.”

As has been the case, it was a tremendous time for all.

“We crammed a lot into the eight days we were there,” said Losson. “The camaraderie grown amongst the team, and amongst the parent group was fantastic. Building the Academy through this experience was a positive as the teams don’t typically mingle due to separate trainings, games, and players from coming from all over the “Bay Area.”

Next year’s agendas have been set, with the MLS NEXT group planning to head to Spain, France, or Portugal. Spring break in Pleasanton next year is set for March 29-April 8 so plan on the trip being around those dates.

Keep checking with www.busc.org for more information.

Dennis Miller