In mid-January, 33 CRYSC high school boys players, representing all five Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club regions, embarked on our inaugural club-wide CRYSC International trip to Munich, Germany. The group was accompanied by three CRYSC coaches, Kristina Corona-Grimsley (Central), Nick Lehning (South), and Daniel Agnew (Fort Collins), and 18 parents, families, and siblings. Jeff Oleck, our Director of Club and International Partnerships, led the trip and summarized the experience below:
“Overall, our 8-day trip to Munich, Germany, was a fantastic start to our 2023 CRYSC International calendar. The athletes, parents, and staff that joined us were able to take in a variety of both soccer and cultural elements, which provided a well-rounded experience for everyone.”
Arriving in Munich
Once the boys arrived at their hotel on the edge of Olympiapark München, the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics, they had the opportunity to eat lunch in the park and suit up for a light indoor training session in the nearby SoccArena. The session, facilitated by Coach Kristina, Coach Nick, and Coach Daniel, allowed players to stretch their legs, shake off the long travel day, and gain some energy to fend off jet lag! After the session, the group called it a day.
The next day, well rested, the boys became acquainted with their “home” field for the week, conveniently located across the street from the hotel. Upon arrival to the field at Olympiapark München, the boys did a walk-through on the pitch. This allowed the coaching staff to prepare the teams for our first round of friendly matches that evening. Since the coaches were putting a group of players from different positions, teams, and regions together, these moments were critical in building team cohesiveness and advancing group objectives.
Once the boys were off the pitch in the morning, it was time to explore Munich! They set out to the City Center for some free time to shop, eat, and go on a guided city tour. The tour allowed them to become acquainted with Munich, learn some of the interesting and relevant history of the city, and further understand Bavarian culture and traditions. This tour was hugely valuable, as Munich would be their home for the next week, and there was so much to see and do!
Two friendly matches capped off the night against our hosts TSV Trudering and ESV Munchen Ost, who both provided our Rapids players with a competitive environment on the pitch and a welcoming spirit off of it.
Visiting Historic Sites in other German Cities and Austria
Over the next few days, the group was treated to an array of historic sites, exploring both Bavarian and Austrian cities. They visited Neuschwanstein Castle (a.k.a. The “Fairy Tale” Castle that served as the template for the Disney castle), Hohenschwangau Castle, and the Bavarian mountain town of Füssen. The group also drove across the German-Austrian border to spend a day in Salzburg, home of Mozart and Austria’s most famous street, Getreidegaße.
Back to Munich
Back in Munich, the boys took a deep-dive into the rich football history of the city. First, they were guided on an immersive tour of the Allianz Arena (home of FC Bayern Munich) and treated to a Champions League walk-out from the locker rooms to the pitch, setting the stage for their second round of friendly games. Later that evening, the boys played against TSV Milbertshofen and SV Olympiadorf Munchen. Once again, the German hosts created a positive atmosphere of fair play, competition, and camaraderie, for which the group was very grateful.
The next few days, the boys kept a familiar pattern of engaging in soccer and tourist activities, allowing the group to experience as much of Germany as possible.
A Powerful Cultural Experience
The group traveled to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site outside Munich on the second to last day. This sobering but powerful remembrance of the Holocaust impacted everyone who took it in that afternoon. Through their middle and high school years, CRYSC student-athletes studied these events related to World War II and learned how they fit into the larger context of world history. But, no textbook can replicate the experience of walking the Camp grounds, reading the detailed exhibitions inside the main building, and touching the physical structures that supported the unimaginable treatment of fellow humans. As the group pondered on this experience, the players were encouraged to think about tolerance and how they can be a vehicle for kindness and acceptance in their communities in Colorado and elsewhere.
Road Trip To Stuttgart
The trip was brought to a close with two more friendly games and a road trip to Stuttgart for a Bundesliga match. In the friendlies, we came up against another team from SV Olympiadorf Munchen and a new team from SV München-Untermenzing 1925. With these final games, an opportunity was created for every player to compete in three games throughout the week against three different teams. The conditions of this game were…interesting, to say the least! What started as a light dusting of snow turned into an absolute blizzard by the end of the second match. Still, our Colorado boys battled through the weather and the competition and took away some fantastic memories (and cold feet) from the evening.
Our last day was spent together on a road trip to Stuttgart to take in VfB Stuttgart vs. Mainz. We arrived early to Stuttgart to allow everyone to eat, explore, and shop around as we waited for kickoff. Upon arrival to the stadium, we were met with vendors, raucous supporter groups, and a lively atmosphere of fans awaiting the start of the match. With bratwurst and pommes (fries) in hand, we were treated to a 1-1 draw on the field and some pretty awesome fan gear to bring home!
Jeff Oleck, Director of Club and International Partnerships Reflection on the Trip
“In closing, our CRYSC International program aims to provide an incredible platform for our players, families, and coaches to explore new places, people, and cultures while becoming better-informed citizens of the world. This trip to Germany allowed players to test their independence, grow in their confidence as they navigated a new and different part of the world in an unfamiliar language, and interact with people who held a different perspective than their own. Through our interactions with our hosts, we found so many similarities and commonalities with one another that it further emphasized that we are all citizens of the same world, passionate about the same things, and share a love for the same round ball (“der Fußball”, to be exact). I hope that this exposure to new challenges on the field will supplement the hard work the players are doing in their own CRYSC regions and reams and will be an experience to draw from in the future.”
Parent and Player Testimonials
“Our international soccer trip was better than I could have even imagined. It was well-organized, enjoyable, and life-changing. Each day brought a new experience that my son and I will remember always.”
- Melanie W. (accompanying parent)
“I thought the trip was an amazing experience and truly a great time playing the sport I love with some of my close friends. I feel this trip brought me closer to my teammates and fellow rapids members and made me a better player.”
- Noah B. (participating player)
“Traveling to other countries to play soccer with international teams is a once in a lifetime experience! It increases your respect for the game to witness humanity come together for the sport no matter what language you speak. Quite amazing!”
- Debbie H. (accompanying parent)
“It was a great experience to further my game and learn from the environment that I wasn’t most familiar with. “
- Ethan A. (participating player)
“This was an amazing trip. It was very well organized and had a great mix of soccer and sightseeing. The tour directors were fantastic, fun, and very knowledgeable. The coaching staff were fun, friendly and so good with the boys. My son loved it. Overall, it was the experience of a lifetime and I’m so glad we went.”
- Emily S. (accompanying parent)
“This was a fantastic experience for my entire family! From start to finish, CRYSC made everything easy and enjoyable for all of us. We are definitely looking forward to the next trip.”
- Ryan H. (accompanying parent)