22 players and 6 staff were privileged enough to spend 2 weeks in Spain recently thanks to the Erasmus plus programme. Erasmus plus is the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport. Erasmus plus aims to modernise education, training and youth work across Europe. It is open to education, training, youth and sport organisations across all sectors of lifelong learning, including school education, further and higher education, adult education and the youth sector.
The group set off from Gatwick airport to Valencia at 7.30 in the morning, an early start for all! On arrival, the boys and girls teams checked in to their home for the week before a short walk to L’Alqueria, Valencia Basket’s state of the art training facility which has eleven, yes eleven full size basketball courts, as well as a huge gym/fitness centre, and a restaurant!
Here, the group were able to watch multiple Under 18 Euroleague games in the Adidas Next Generation tournament which included our very own former JMA Rocket, Matthew Marsh, who is in his second year playing for FC Barcelona and doing very well! To end our first day in Spain, we watched the Valencia Women’s first team play in La Fonteta, the main arena. They lost to a very impressive Girona team but it was awesome to see Carmen Segura’s sister Lorena back in the squad!
The following day was pretty similar, watching a variety of games which culminated in Valencia’s ACB team hosting Tenerife and recording a 98-91 win in front of 8,000 orange fans! What an atmosphere and such a great opportunity to see some of the highest quality basketball on show.
After 2 days of intense basketball, it was time for a change of scenery as the group had a guided tour of the beautiful city of Valencia, learning about it’s history and traditions. After watching the Valencia Women train, it was the boys who would play their first game of the trip as they beat academy side Ferran Pizcueta 76-56 despite being a bit rusty from the Christmas break!
The group watched the ACB team train (so privileged!) and talked with Head Coach Jaume Ponsarnau as well as having some practice of our own, it was time to see 2020 in Valencia style! We went outside the town hall with probably thousands of other people but it was a really family orientated atmosphere as midnight struck with lots of music and fireworks. The behaviour of all students (and staff!) was exemplary so we were really impressed with their conduct and representation of JMA Reading Rockets.
The following day was preparation day for the main basketball event of the trip as both teams were getting ready to play in the Valencia Basket Cup. After their sessions, the group were hosted by a Spanish academy players parents for the afternoon as they put on a quite magnificent spread (sounds very English I know) including the traditional Spanish food, paella! A really nice afternoon was had by all and we were most grateful for that time together.
Tournament time soon came upon us and it was to be a very busy couple of days. The girls team faced some very high level opposition and were able to claim 7th position, a very respectable achievement considering who they were playing and their ever-growing injury list! The boys did incredibly well winning every game including beating Valencia Basket B in the final to lift the trophy and cap off a fantastic experience in the city of Valencia. The group also managed to fit in watching a Euroleague game on the Friday night as Valencia secured an impressive 91-77 win over Alba Berlin!
It was time for the group to move to their second destination of the tour as they embarked on the four hour coach trip to Madrid! As we arrived to Aristos, our new home for the next five days, we were greeted by a former Rockets Coach and our friend Raul Lozano who was hosting us during
our time in Madrid. The first day in the capital city was however quite a calm, relaxed day for everyone having just played 6 games in three days but the group did travel to the Wizink centre to watch Real Madrid v Valencia in the ACB, a game narrowly won by the hosts.
The first ‘proper’ outing for the group was a trip to the city centre where the players were put into mixed groups and set various challenges for the three hours they were given. Tasks such as eating tapas, asking someone a question in Spanish, doing a group dance in front of a famous building were just three of the nine tasks set which was done so well by all involved. To cap off this trip, no fewer than 5 former players of JMA Rockets visited us which was great as it showed us the impact we had during their time in England. The day was completed with the boys back in action as they played Aristos Under 20s and recorded a narrow win.
Wednesday saw a trip to Real Madrid’s iconic football stadium, the Bernabau, which was an amazing venue to go and see as well as learning all about the history of one of Europe’s best club’s. Some individual practices as well as some studying and resting completed the day before the final full day of the trip was upon us.
On Thursday, the group had one to one meetings with staff about their time in Spain as well as presenting their tasks from Tuesday, a very funny hour looking back at what they had managed to achieve! One final trip for the group was back to the Wizink centre to watch a Euroleague game between the hosts and BC Zalgris before heading back to the accommodation and getting ready to fly home.
The trip ended with the arrival back to JMA around midday in what was a fantastic two weeks for everyone involved. A huge thank you must be given to Erasmus, the John Madejski Academy, and Reading Rockets for all their help and support in making this trip happen as well as all the staff for their tireless commitment and organisation! Finally, a big congratulations to the players for representing themselves, the school, and the club so well over the two weeks as everyone involved gets right back to work with their respective teams as the business end of the 2019-2020 descends upon us!