Signing My First ContractDalton Harris
I started playing football from aged 5 for my local team, before being scouted at the age of 12. I was scouted by 4 professional clubs; Peterborough United, Norwich City, Rushden and Diamonds and Nottingham Forest. I felt great, finally my dreams of becoming a professional footballer started to look achievable! I was Year 8 in school and played day and night, all I wanted to be was a professional footballer!
Before I signed a contract, I was asked by each club to attend a 6 week trial process. However, this became difficult due to a family holiday that was pre-booked and therefore resulted in me training with each club twice, before playing a game for them on the Saturday.
I trialled for each club, fortunately exceeding in each trial and being offered contracts for all 4 clubs. After much deliberation, I decided to choose Nottingham Forest and upon returning from my holiday I signed the contract and started training with them. Training was 3 times a week with a game at the weekend; Tuesday’s, Thursday’s, Saturday’s and a game on Sundays.
It took a lot of adjustment from Sunday league football with friends to professional training sessions run by qualified coaches, who made you think about the way you pass the ball to the movements you do on the pitch in order to create space for you and your team mates. My first season was a huge learning curve to develop my football intelligence in all areas; Physical, Mental, Technical and Tactical. However, performances on the pitch soon improved and I finished the season as top goal scorer, which I was chuffed about!
Also, the travelling and training had an impact on my family. On the nights I had training, I finished school at 3.30pm, was home by 4pm and travelling to training by 5.30pm to make sure I was at training for 7pm. My Mum and Dad were a huge help in finishing work early and making sure dinner and my training kit was ready for when I got in. Once training had finished at 9pm, we had to drive back home and at times, wouldn’t get home until 10.30pm at night and into bed at 11pm. At the age of 12, with this much activity I was often tired at school the next day and my school work suffered because of it. Although I loved playing football, it was often my social life that had to give way because if I wasn’t playing football, I would be doing school work instead.
follow site Pre Season – Year 2
At the end of the season, we were given an off-season plan to work on our fitness and stay sharp, which meant that when we came back for pre-season we were all able to progress physically and tactically further than we had done the previous season!
During pre-season we were placed under fitness tests by Loughborough University which meant that we knew at the start of pre-season our levels of fitness, leg strength, agility and body fat. At the end of pre-season, we were measured again and were expected to have been significantly fitter, stronger and have lower body fat. The dedication needed to maintain a good diet whilst attending school and during the summer holidays was very difficult! We also attended a pre-season tournament in France, which was great to go away with the squad and play against foreign players who had different strengths to the British teams.
follow link Injury Heartbreak
Unfortunately during the early part of the season, I injured myself and tore ligaments in my left ankle. This meant that I required the club’s physiotherapy for a total of 7 weeks. It felt awful watching my team mates playing, training and enjoying themselves whilst I was in the physio room doing rehabilitation on my ankle. Even though I was injured, I was still required at training during the week and whilst the players were playing on the Sunday I was in the physio room. As a 13 year old football fanatic, it was crushing watching the team win or lose without you!
watch Return from Injury
Upon return from injury I excelled and scored several goals in a short space of time and for the back end of the season was asked to play with the year group above me, and a few of the boys were 18 months older. This was a great way to develop, playing with older boys which were quicker faster and better technically, meaning that the learning curve was substantial but my development was faster.
The following season followed the same pattern, pre-season fitness testing (which everyone always hated) a smaller injury for 2 weeks followed by playing up a year for the majority of the season. I felt I became part of the squad and the whole club supported my development and when I moved back down to my year occasionally, I felt sharper, fitter and technically advanced which I saw as a benefit.
My performance was reflected in our assessments that occurred with the coaching staff throughout the season. I was always given constructive feedback with areas to improve, which is where I focused my individual training and during games. This enabled me to understand my weaknesses and to develop as a more rounded player. All the hard work paid off when, at the back end of the season, I was called into the Wales training camp where I trialled for the Wales under 16 squad meeting several other players from clubs over the country.
Through this process with Wales, I learnt far more than I thought I could and combined with my GCSE’s around the corner, and dealing with the travelling, discipline and expectations for my development was really tough. However, my final end of year assessment resulted in being offered another 2 year contract with the club!