After a long and winding journey up the Rhodope mountains we arrived at our new base camp, a hotel, 5 minutes from the Chepinci pitch. Currently just a small 5 a-side surface with building work already started on the latest 11 a-side surface.
In the morning session we had a beginner group (ages 7-12), middle (12-14), and most experienced (14-16) group.
With the beginner group we focused on ball carrying through games based learning, ending with a tournament. Local coaches were introduced to methods to encourage young players to make better use of space in open game play. By the end of the session the local coaching team from Chepinci and the caravan team were working together to deliver an exciting session.
We then introduced the shave and block tackle to the middle group. Key words of ‘Block’ and ‘Shave’ started to be used by the players in the tournament which pleased our team and gave us hope that the language barrier was not so much of and issue.
The level of the final group was very high, so after introducing the shave tackle to them we played a tournament where we spoke about game tactics.
To conclude the session the caravan team of coaches were challenged to play a 5-a-side match against the talented youngsters. Sod’s law, we just spent 2 hrs teaching then everything they needed to know to beat us. After being worked very hard by the juniors, the coaches just clinched victory by golden goal!!!!!!
The talented players included Tony from the national Bulgarian U16’s who during the game showed the use of a skill that the coaching team had never seen before. A skill that we later coined the ‘Bulgarian’ dribble.
After a car journey through the mountains to our next club we arrived at HC Zlatograd.
We were greeted by the club Chair and asked to lead two session. One to beginners (12-14 yrs) and one advanced juniors (15-16 yrs). The theme of tackle types continued but approached in a different way to add to the range of methods being shown to the local coaches. 2 national team girls joined us as assistants and thankfully Tanya and Petar continued to assist with translations as we attempted our most advance session aims since arriving in the country, tactics, at the request of the local coaches.
We were so impressed with the level of performance of the second group that after introducing block & shave tackle we advanced to coaching defensive and attacking tactics in the 5 a-side format which they will be playing next year in the National Cup. By the end of the session the players translated our latest Bulgarian words for us. Va-so-co and cher-o-co (Height and width).
Again! At the end of the day the coaching team were challenged to another 5 a-side match. Bolstered by their knew tactical knowledge they were excited to see whether they could do what Chepinci was unable to do in the morning. This time we were very worried! Not only had we taught them block and shave but we also now had to face a very eager, young, fit team that knew tactics and ways to break us down. Challenge accepted. Caravan team-4, HC Zlatograd Team -2.
2 wins /0 losses for the day we returned to our hotel in preparation for an invite to a gathering at a local restaurant. The team were treated to local foods, entertaining speeches and dances. Danny and I are humbled by the hospitality shown to us so far and were honored to be hosted by the Rhodope/Bulgarian hockey family.
We now travel down from the mountain for the final stop in our journey in Sofia.
Day 5 began with a 4 hour car journey back to Sofia. Our first rest day in Bulgaria composed of sleep, pizza and a guest appearance as umpire and TD for the Balkan Club Cup Final. After a post game meal with the national coach and international players in the evening we retired to our student halls to prep for Day 6.
Source Danny Berry & Simon Law