Northfleet Technology College’s Ultimate US Experience in Boston, USA
On Saturday April 6th ‘19 the Northfleet Technology Academy, led by coaches Martin Parry and Ciaran Dunne and assisted by Vicky Parry, took a group of twenty-four Year 8 to Year 12 boys on their Boston tour, which had been planned a year in advance. The boys met early at Gatwick for their Norwegian flight to Boston. After clearing security many headed to Nando’s and other food outlets and took in some of the airport shopping. The excitement was high after the build up to the tour.
After reaching Boston and sorting out our 3 minivans we made the 40 minute drive to our base in Foxboro, 30 miles outside Boston. We arrived in the late evening (early morning UK time) to the fantastic Holiday Inn Hotel where the staff were all ready for us.
The rooms were huge and the boys were super excited about the indoor pool area. We ordered pizza before getting to bed after what was a very long day.
They started their first full day in the US with a coaching clinic from Coach Dan, Director of Basketball Operations at Mass Premier Courts who coaches MPC AAU, US College Division and High School teams in the local Foxboro area. It was a high energy session, where the coach had the boys running on full court drills and getting up a lot of shots, typical characteristics of the US game. After the session we popped back to the hotel for a quick shower and change before heading into Boston for the first time.
We arrived and headed straight to Quincy market, one of the vibrant centres of downtown Boston. The inside of the market has lots of food outlets offering local American classics such as lobster rolls, clam chowder, and mac n’ cheese as well as chicken tenders, burgers and the famous Boston Regina’s Pizza. After grabbing some lunch the boys enjoyed some of the great atmosphere around the market where street performers and musicians entertain the visitors.
Fully fed we took in some of the sites in Boston, a wonderful mixture of old and new. The classic red brick Old State house is set amongst modern office blocks and is part of the freedom trail, a walk that takes takes in many of the sites that were the birthplace of American Independence.
But after a bit of history the boys got to do what many of them had been saving up for, shopping. The House of Hoops, Footlocker and Champs did some good business that day as the boys loved the selections of trainers and bought some Boston Celtics tops in advance of the NBA game we were making our way towards.
The TD Garden is one of the classic American basketball venues. Steeped in the history of the Boston Celtics record 18 NBA championships the atmosphere as we entered the venue was buzzing. The last home game of the season against the Orlando Magic was still important to the Celtics in securing home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Kyrie Irving, Aaron Gordon, Jayson Tatum, Nikola Vucevic and Al Horford were all on show as Orlando took a lead into the 4th. Que the Boston comeback and as Kyrie led the way the crowd got behind the Celtics and helped them draw level with a couple of minutes to play, before Orlando managed to edge the contest down the stretch. This was an amazing first NBA experience for many of the boys.
After another fantastic buffet breakfast at the hotel we arrived to practice at two of Mass Premier Courts beautiful hardwood courts. This typical US 6-court local venue runs AAU teams, hosts many weekend tournaments, runs summer leagues and offers camps and elite basketball development programs from their facility which also has a highly experienced coaching team.
After a very busy start to the tour the boys loved going back to the hotel to have some chill time in the pool before preparing themselves for their first game against US opposition that evening. The 2 teams took on MPC U14 and U16 Select teams. After a positive first half for the older team the running and shooting style of the Americans saw them pull clear of Northfleet. After a slower start the younger group managed to peg back the MPC U14 AAU team before their switch to a zone defence had the boys struggling. These first games were a good introduction to US basketball.
The evening ended with a trip to Jake n’ Joe’s sports grill where the boys enjoyed burgers and chicken whilst watching the NCAA championship game of Virginia vs Texas Tech. The US was certainly delivering as the home of basketball.
The day began with a drive to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. This mecca of basketball history started with an amazing film about the history of basketball. Coach Parry was amazed and delighted when one of his previous students Dan Akin, currently a star at NCAA D1 UMBC, appeared in a clip in the film and this set the positive tone for the visit. The HoF features many star players of the game, as well as coaching, college and women’s basketball icons and memorabilia. The centrepiece of the HoF is a full size court area where the boys loved shooting into different hoops and testing their dunks on different height hoops.
After a subway lunch we headed back to Foxboro and stopped at the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets for round 2 of shopping. Nike. Adidas, Reebok, Under Armour, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger were amongst the most popular stops.
Following a late afternoon swim at the hotel, the day was rounded off with dinner at “99” Restaurants where the burgers, chicken tenders and tacos were popular followed by the chocolate cake and peanut butter bites.
Mike Vaughan, the General Manager of MPC and Head Coach of the state high school champions Mansfield Hornets, led the US coaching clinic in the morning. The focus today was on shooting, a core part of the US game. Mid-range pull up jumpers were followed by floaters and step backs as Coach Mike put the boys through their paces.
With some of the boys relaxing at the hotel in the afternoon the others headed off for round 3 of shopping at the North Attleboro shopping mall. More sports shops including Dicks Sporting Goods were mixed in with famous American stores such as Sears, JC Penney and Macy’s.
They returned back in time for the early evening scrimmage with the MPC U15 gold and silver teams. After some initial warmups the boys duelled with the Americans in first to seven pickup games before starting to mix up the teams in what became a fun filled session for the Northfleet and MPC boys alike.
They certainly had worked up an appetite for another American classic restaurant, Applebee’s, where huge racks of ribs and bbq brisket beef were very popular choices.
After a later start we headed to Harvard University for a historical tour led by Max, a Classics graduate. On a beautiful morning, the boys seemed fascinated by some of the world’s top universities quirky historical stories and its amazing list of attendees including Mark Zuckerberg, Matt Damon, Bill Gates and Barack Obama.
After a lunch stop at the magnificent Shake Shack, which many agreed served the best burgers they had ever had, we headed off to our tour of the Athletics facilities of this Ivy League giant. The American Football stadium was like a version of the Coliseum, their volleyball and basketball practice courts were located on the fourth floor of one of their buildings, and the basketball arena was pristine. All of these were topped by the scale of the strength & conditioning facility which housed 40 weightlifting stations surrounding a centre AstroTurf area for conditioning work. The boys and coaches were all impressed, and the friendliness and hospitality of the Harvard staff made this excursion one of the tour favourites.
After returning to the hotel to get wrapped up for the evening we headed to another iconic Boston venue, Fenway Park, to see the world champion Boston Red Sox take on the Toronto Blue Jays in this Major League Baseball (MLB) game. The atmosphere around the stadium was fantastic with music pumping, hot dog stands and a buzzing crowd for what was the Red Sox’s opening home game of the season. They sure do love their sports in Boston.
After the traditional US National Anthem recital, the game started slowly which allowed the boys to sample some of the many food outlets at the stadium as their tickets were loaded with food credits. As the game progressed and the tannoys blared our such classic songs such as ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ and a Fenway Park favourite ‘Sweet Caroline’ the boys really got into the atmosphere. This started to crank up as the Red Sox, trailing going into the bottom of the ninth innings, rallied to level the scores and then went crazy as they hit the winning run. This capped off a great evening at the ballpark and another classic US experience for the group.
After another great breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages and pancakes the boys had their final team practice at the MPC courts before their final game in the evening against local high school opponents.
A Wendy’s burger lunch was followed by a relaxed afternoon where most of the boys chilled by the pool and others popped back to the Outlet village to pick up a few things they had missed the first time round.
The final game was played at the the local high school courts where the younger boys played a strong U14s team and the older boys played the ‘Take Charge’ AAU team who had won their recent 10th grade tournament. The youngers struggled versus the size and strength of their opponents and the olders, after coming back to nearly level the scores in the third, lost out to some sharp shooting in the final quarter.
The games, combined scrimmages and US coaching clinics had given the boys a great mix of US junior basketball, and hopefully have given them an insight into a different style of play by skilled players that will help them learn and develop in the future.
After the game we went to the Longhorn Steakhouse to enjoy some huge steaks, sides and the ever popular bottomless drinks. It was a great meal that rounded off the fantastic variety of classic American dining which the boys had experienced and thoroughly enjoyed during the tour.
After loading up our minivans with luggage we headed into Boston for a final visit before our evening flight back to London.
After another stop at Quincy market, a visit to the statue of Boston Celtics Legend Bill Russell (11 NBA championships) and of course a final round of shopping we made our way to the airport as tiredness started to set in.
By the time the plane was in the air, many of the boys and coaches were asleep, in the knowledge that they had made the absolute most of their time in Boston with a packed schedule on a tour that they will hopefully remember for a lifetime.
Harry EarleyMay 2, 2019
Many thanks to Mark for the excellent experience which most of us NTC boys would agree, we would love to do it all again👍🏼