PSA pg 9 8-29-19

A little bit of sun and sand. A lot of soccer. And a whole lot of bonding.

The Putnam Science Academy boys’ soccer teams spent a week in Bermuda earlier this month participating in the Footsail Soccer Invitational, a preseason training tournament that included some of the island country’s top national teams.

The purpose of the trip was twofold. The first was of course to play some soccer, which the Mustangs did, and did well.  Playing against Bermuda’s U-15, U-16, U-17, and U-20 national teams (plus a couple of club teams), PSA did not lose a match. That includes an impressive 4-0 takedown of the U-20 team.

That all is even more impressive when considering there are roughly 30 new players in the program and the teams had zero practices together before they left on Aug. 12. Mustangs First Team coach Sam DeMello, who is in his first year at PSA, used the trip to learn a little bit about his team. He had never seen any of the 34 players who went on the trip play before.

“For me, it was a chance to just evaluate them in match settings,” he said. “It was a chance for me to assess the guys. See where they’re comfortable, see what they’re already good at, what they need to improve on, what they’re aware of.”

DeMello came away impressed, as did Second Team coach Ivan Damulira.

“We played very well against some good teams that challenged us a little bit and we were able to overcome that,” Damulira said. “It sets a huge standard for us going forward. It was a good show for us to see who belongs where and what we need to really work on as we get going toward the regular season.”

Mbongeni Kanyane, a senior from South Africa, said the teams struggled over the first two games but “as we played more, I think we started jelling much better and by the end, I think we were playing very well together.

“We built more chemistry off the field in order to get it on the field. We did a lot of community service, went out on the beach together. So everyone started feeling like a family off the pitch, and then it came during our matches.”

That development of team chemistry and bonding was the second mission of the trip. With a roster stocked with international players, some of whom linked up with the team once in Bermuda, there was a lot of introducing to be done.

“It was a good six days of them getting to know each other and getting comfortable with each other,” DeMello said. “We stayed in army barracks, so 24 beds in one, 10 in the other. That’s a good way to spend some time and learn a little about who they are.”

The new teammates also got to know each other while doing some community service. Among other things, the group did a beach cleanup, held some soccer clinics for the locals, and did some work on a farm for special needs children.

“We didn’t want to go there and just exclude ourselves to football,” said Damulira, who spearheaded much of the organization of the volunteer work. “We wanted to be part of their community for a week and really dig in. We enjoyed being there and this was something we would like to do again.”

Leandro Libiro felt good about the work they did, particularly at the beach.

“We saw a couple pictures of the beach before we went, and it was a disaster,” the senior from Brazil said. “There was just a lot of trash out there. I liked that I was able to help clean it up.”

Kanyane agreed that the beach cleanup was the best off-field activity the team did, though his reasoning was a little different.

“The other one we did was cleaning up horse stables. Oh man, that was hard work, in the boiling sun,” he said with a laugh. “I liked cleaning up on the beach. I mean, it’s the beach. It’s not horse stables in the sun.”

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