By Nick Cremona
The Under-17 International Development Week kicked into full-gear Saturday evening as the U.S. and Swedish National Teams practiced mini-camp style in preparation for a week chock-full of drills and scrimmages.
Like their Under-15 and Under-19 counterparts, the U.S. players are led by many of the nation’s top high school coaches. Offensive line coach Dave Walsh, who holds the same position at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla., wants his players to treat this week like any other team practice.
“After the first couple of days, all these guys are real close and they might as well have been playing together for years,” Walsh said. “The great thing about this week is the lasting relationships that the players and coaches foster. Camps like this are great tools for young football players.”
As soon as the players from Team USA arrived by bus at the practice field, it was time to work on their skills. After a few quick stretches, players were on the field practicing full speed. Coaches took every opportunity to emphasize fundamentals first during drills.
“I would like to work more on my technique and routes,” said Marquise Calhoun, a sophomore wide receiver from Henrietta High School in Henrietta, Texas. “Hopefully by the end of the week, we will all see improvement and have something to be proud of.”
Like Team USA, Team Sweden split into smaller groups by position, just with a few less players. Head coach Stefan Clavebring, also the coach of the Swedish U-15 National Team, knows his players may have a slight disadvantage as far as size, but he doesn’t see it as a hindrance to his team’s performance throughout the week. Sweden will have the chance to play against all three U.S. teams this week, and its players are eager to showcase their talents alongside Team USA.
“The guys don’t care so much about their size compared to Team USA,” Clavebring said. “It motivates them to work that much harder to show everyone that our players can compete. Once again, we are just here to learn and get better in the end.”
TRAINERS KNOW BEST With temperatures lingering near 100 degrees during the day, it’s important for both the U.S. and Swedish trainers to keep a close eye on players’ health.
“One of the most common injuries players will suffer in the heat are cramps,” Team USA trainer Tommy Anderson said. “Lots of water is important, but also stretching and just being careful on the field helps prevent major injuries.”
A BIT OF HOME When you’re more than 5,000 miles away from home, little things like having family make the trip can make all the difference. And while it’s not legal to bring food items into the States from overseas, one Swedish player still found a way to have his favorite dessert while in Austin for a week.
“In Sweden, we have a dessert called Ostkaka,” said Isak Hohn, a defensive end from Lund, Sweden. “It is a bit like what you would call cheesecake, but my mom was able to make some and share it with the team. It was good to have even though we are not in Sweden.”
SIBLING ASSISTANCE Team USA coaches weren’t the only ones trying to get their point across to players during mini-camp drills. Tyree Davis — the younger brother of Sean Davis, a junior outside linebacker from Clayton High School in St. Louis — was right alongside his brother to offer input as well.
“Sean will always listen to me,” said the younger Davis. “I may not know as much as the coaches, but we always work on drills in the backyard together, and I can help sometimes. I try not to get in the way of the coaches too much.”