It was out of the football boots and into the ballet shoes for junior football club Hamilton Panthers under 12s.
The Panthers are preparing for a tournament in Barcelona later this month, but have been unable to train on their Knavesmire home ground due to waterlogged pitches.
Never fear – En Pointé Classical Dance School stepped in to save the day.
[arve url=”https://youtu.be/SA_ZbMFBK6A” mode=”lazyload” title=”Watch: Young York footballers get ballet workout ” /]
The school, based near the Energi Trampoline Park on Rose Avenue, is already the team’s shirt sponsors. And Principal Donya Keys agreed to put the boys through the sort of fitness classes which are usually reserved for her ballet students.
It’s fair to say the boys were less keen than the coaches – but the ballet school could play a huge role in the team’s fitness levels as they prepare to meet Spanish opposition acclimatised to the hot conditions.
No pain no gain
The first time the juniors teamed up with their sponsors was last year, when the team collaborated with the En Pointé dancers in a ‘keepyupy meets ballet’ dance routine at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre.
No footballs were involved this time though, as Donya put the boys through a series of gruelling work-outs, with cries of agony being met with “my seven-year-old girls can do better than this!”.
Panthers’ head coach Scott Backhouse is confident that the ballet training will be worth it:
As you can imagine, these are ‘lads’ lads’, so when you bring ballet into it they think, ‘hang on a minute, I want to play football not dance!’.
It’s taken a lot of explaining! But with the boys, it’s all about creating a competitive atmosphere and everything is a competition them.
So to put the gauntlet down that seven-year-old girls are doing this, there is no better competitive edge for them.
Donya saw parallels between ballet and sport. “People think they can go and play football and be great at it and that’s all they need – same with dance,” she said.
“But fitness is a massive part of it. Because the competition for professional footballers, professional dancers, is massive.”
A team effort
Junior football clubs often take part in overseas tournaments. It’s a great way of helping young players understand the game better and its various styles of play from around the world.
The trips don’t pay for themselves, however. The Panthers players have spent the last two years raising funds for the trip through various community activities, and now it has all paid off.
Head coach Scott said they had put in a massive effort to make sure the trip goes ahead.
“For 18 months, the boys have done lots of different activities, such as bag packing and performances, to raise funds for the trip, so they’re all going to Barcelona through their own hard work,” he said.
“All the hard work that the parents and the boys have put in, it will all pay off when we get to Barcelona, because these memories will live with them forever.”