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MSA and Chelsea FC Academies join forces for development day

Britain’s latest Formula One driver, Max Chilton, joined a group of past and present members of the MSA’s Team UK initiative to experience a joint learning day with some of the next generation of young soccer stars at the Chelsea Football Club Academy on Friday 26 April.

MSA Team UK sits at the pinnacle of the MSA Academy which, like Chelsea’s state-of-the-art facility, exists to identify, nurture, coach and develop the next generation of elite athletes.

The day was set up as a ‘job swap’ and divided into two distinct halves. The morning was spent with MSA Team UK training alongside Chelsea’s youth squad at the club’s impressive Academy in Cobham, Surrey. Then, in the afternoon, the young footballers were given a taste of motor sport at the high-tech Let’s Race F1 Simulator Centre located in Horley close to Gatwick Airport.

At Cobham, Chilton together with James Calado, Mark Donnelly, Josh Hill, Jordan King, Alexander Sims, Harry Tincknell, Nick Yelloly, Josh Webster, Jody Fannin and Alex Lynn were put through their paces on the training ground and given a unique insight into what it takes to become a top professional within the parallel world of football. They also met Chelsea first team player Ryan Bertrand – a product of the Chelsea Academy and now a Champions League winner and England International.

As well as learning various technical and tactical soccer skills on one of Cobham’s 37 perfectly prepared training pitches, MSA Team UK members experienced how science and technology is key to both developing fitness and performance analysis. Before being dressed in Chelsea kit, all were fitted with GPS transponders that measured distance travelled, acceleration, bursts of energy and a host of other personal data. This could then be evaluated and compared during a post session debrief much like telemetry on a racing car.

The young footballers were then taken out of their respective comfort zones at Let’s Race, firstly in a Batak reaction challenge and then in a qualifying and race scenario. They admitted to being taken aback by the levels of concentration and reaction speeds required on the simulators.

“The thinking was to have a joint-learning day where we could experience another sport and see how they develop their athletes,” explained Robert Reid, the MSA’s Performance Director and 2001 WRC champion co-driver who was joined by other MSA coaches including 2009 Le Mans winner David Brabham and BTCC front-runner Tom Onslow-Cole.

“It was an opportunity for our drivers to understand just how hard athletes work in other sports; the level of detail they go into, the briefings and debriefings; the analysis as well as their attitudes and dedication... and for them to take some of that back to use in their own motor sport environment.

“On the surface you might think there is little common ground between the two sports but if you start breaking it down, you’ll find there are many strong similarities,” continued Reid. “It is the dedication of the individual and their ability to deliver consistently when the pressure is on that makes the difference between someone with great talent and a great performer.”
Reid was also keen to emphasise just how much he and his fellow coaches had learned from their counterparts at Chelsea. The MSA is in the process of introducing coaching standards and schemes into motor sport for the very first time and it was fascinating to experience the advanced talent development principles that exist in Premier League football.

The joint initiative was equally well received by those on the Chelsea side. “Without a shadow of doubt it’s been a great exercise on lots of different fronts,” said Gerry Harvey, Director of Education at the Chelsea FC Academy. “We always look at all disciplines with an open mind thinking we can benefit others but, vice versa, thinking we can learn from them, too. We’ve found that over the years there are always crossovers in every single field and that’s why we are keen to share with other sports or other industries. Whether from the MSA or Chelsea Football Club, everyone will have taken something from this experience.”

29 April 2013