Scotland U17 player-development camp: Valladolid updates

As part of the Scotland U17 player-development camp to Valladolid, part-funded by Erasmus+ and New College Lanarkshire, the players have been tasked with documenting their experience.

The second week review comes from Tom Banatvala, who attends Fettes College, Oscar del Priore, who attends Hermitage Academy and flanker Tim Brown, who attends Lathallan School.

Sunday 8 July

On Sunday morning we started our first rest day of the camp after a week of intense training. We had a much needed lie-in until 9am and after a cooked breakfast we were allowed to go into Valladolid city centre in groups to do some shopping. For lunch we had a classic Spanish dish, paella, and it was delicious as most of the food has been.

After our siesta in the afternoon, the recovery day continued as we made a trip to the Zaratan pool just outside of Valladolid. Half the boys tried to get a tan whilst the other half took a dip in the freezing pool. Some of the lads tried speaking Spanish to some of the locals but any attempt to break the language barrier failed. After returning from the pool we enjoyed some tapas which again were extremely tasty. After dinner the lads went to bed and we rested for another day.

Monday 9 July

Day eight started with an early breakfast before we set off on our cultural day trip to Salamanca. It took two hours to get to the city and on arrival we had a guided tour around the ‘golden city’. After visiting the famous university and cathedrals we had a three course meal. Following lunch, we were allowed some free time to explore and visit the shops.

When we got back to Valladolid we had another good meal then sat down for an important team meeting to plan targets for the following week’s training. After talking through our goals in attack, defence, set pieces and contact area we headed to our beds as we looked forward to another week of training.

Tuesday 10 July

We went into training this morning feeling refreshed and ready to go after our few rest days. We started the morning with a rugby session at VRAC Rugby Club, working on our NABs (Nuts and Bolts) which focused on basic skills such as tackling and rucking, before going into a bigger team game which focused on contact and the breakdown. The defence was also working on applying greater pressure with two defensive calls’ drift and blitz. Today’s focus was on when the defence were numbers down so had to compensate by drifting to push the attack out wide. We were also working on keeping connected when moving across the pitch, and pushing the attack to the widths to then rush-up on them after.  

After a nutritious lunch and two and a half hours of off-feet rest we headed to the university gym. The forwards were developing a line-out maul and the backs were practising running lines. At the end of the session we had one of the biggest mental challenges we have faced so far - a Bronco Test. If you don’t know what a Bronco is, I don’t recommend looking into it. The coaches did not let us know we were doing a Bronco until the minute before we had to start which was to measure our mental strength and see whether or not we can cope with fitness after a morning and afternoon session. The thought of the test is very daunting for a lot of the boys, and the anticipation of the test is usually worse than the test itself, which meant that for most it wasn’t as bad as it usually is at home. Most of the boys managed to get a personal best or if not, equal their most recent time, showing some character and determination from the lads on this trip and the effort required to get to this level.

Wednesday 11 July

After having a good night’s sleep from the double day of training we woke up tired but ready to push on. We headed down at 8am for our daily monitoring, breakfast and then into a team meeting which filled us in on what to expect for the session. The forwards started the session with scrummaging which was individual process at first before the loosehead prop and hooker, accompanied by a second-row and a back-row, faced-off against a tighthead prop alongside a lock and a flanker. The backs worked on their kicks, exit strategies and counter-attacks from kicks. The rest of the session was focused on the aftermath of kicks and getting the defensive line set. This was made especially tough in the conditions as there was thunder and lightning above VRAC training ground with heavy wind also affecting the reach and power behind the kicks.  

After the session we headed to the university pool to recover, doing stretches and mobility work in the water and some lengths to promote recovery. These rehab sessions are extremely valuable to the players, as it can help prevent injury and make the lads not sore for the next day of training. After some off-feet recovery, we did some yoga on the balcony which focused on covering the big muscle groups that were hurting after today’s session. After a big feed for dinner, we had an analysis session where we watched some clips from the U18 Home Nations tournament and had to come up with our ideas on what they did well and what can be improved. This is good for the boys as it can help pass on knowledge from player to player as well as picking up new tips to develop into our own game.

Thursday 12 July

The morning began at 7.50am for forwards and 8am for backs where we did our daily monitoring. Following breakfast, we had a team meeting which discussed the session ahead. The lads then arrived at the ground and had a solid session which focused on kick defence and attack. We came back to the hotel to have a very nutritious lunch and then rested from 2pm to 4pm. At 4pm we began our rehab and mobility session which reduces the chance of injuries. We then had a snack so that we were hydrated and fuelled enough to do well at the evening session which consisted of the gym and skills at the university. The forwards focused on line-outs and attacking pods while the backs focused on kicking accurately. In the gym we focused on basic movements. After the gym we went to the team barbeque outside of Valladolid at one of our VRAC guides’ homes. There was a nice pool which all the lads enjoyed. The barbeque itself was great with lots of ham, cheese, cooked chorizo sausage, scrumptious black pudding, pork and lamb kebabs. After saying thanks we headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep.

Friday 13 July

Friday was one of our rest days, however, we had to do a lot of off-field work. We were given an opportunity to analyse the Scotland U18s game vs France and we were looking at different aspects of the game - attack, defence, contact, set piece. We also had the chance to fill out our log books and have one-to-ones with the coaches - speaking about our time in Valladolid and our goals for the next 6 months. After lunch was our off-feet time which was followed by mobility and prehab. Right after snack we departed to the University pool to relax and have a leisurely swim, as well as sunbathing and buying ice creams. Arriving back from the pool we had a good dinner which was Salmon with potatoes and a selection of vegetables. Overall, I think all the guys thoroughly enjoyed the day as it was a well-deserved break from the hard training.

Saturday 14 July

We came down for our daily monitoring at 8.30am to have breakfast at 9am as we didn’t have a session in the morning. After breakfast we were allowed to go out into the city until lunch. After lunch we presented our analysis of the Scotland U18s match vs France in our groups and each group focused on a different aspect of the game. Straight after the meeting we did our mobility/prehab exercises to make sure our muscles were in the best shape for the evenings session. We had our rugby session after snack, which begun with the backs doing a kicking test while the forwards did lifting and scrummaging. We then moved onto 12 v 12 games which were really hard as it was 31 degrees. After this we played touch games as we were split into 3 teams. The tough conditions really tested our skills as a group. We had a lovely final dinner which was steak, chicken and chips, after we packed our bags and then went to bed for a well-deserved sleep.