There may not be any textbooks around, but make no mistake, SIGMA FC's March Camp in Europe is very much about education.
And as soon as the members of SIGMA's D1 and C1 gather at Pearson International Airport, class will be in session.
SIGMA FC is embarking on a 13-day camp based in Holland, with stops in Belgium and Germany this March Break for the latest edition of a journey that has become a key plank in SIGMA's long-term soccer development plan.
It is the goal of SIGMA coaches to expose players at a young age to the demands of a professional training environment. And over the past seven years, youth players from SIGMA have gained their first taste of international competition playing professional youth academies in Holland, Belgium and Germany.
This year is no different.
"This overseas camp is a great means of extending the development cycle for the SIGMA players," said SIGMA Technical Director Bobby Smyrniotis. "It is an educational tool that we try and have SIGMA teams experience in their development through the academy."
The schedule includes a series of matches with top clubs in Holland, Belgium, Germany such as AZ Alkmaar, PSV, Club Brugge and FC Koln.
According to Smyrniotis, the players will train almost daily.
"It is important for our players to gain as much international exposure to the game from a young age to help them raise their level beyond the border of Canada and North America as we look to enhance their development of the next level of the game. The two teams travelling will gain valuable experiences both on and off the field important to the culture and discipline involved in being a top athlete."
The C1 squad will be making a return trip to Europe. The boys, born in 1997, are coming off a successful trip two years earlier. The players are excited to measure themselves against the teams they faced two years ago.
"Now I think the boys are ready, there's a different mood, we feel that we are going there to perform," said C1 co-captain Calvin Kurup. "The last time I went, I remember being nervous. I was nervous playing for SIGMA. It's a big club and it was a big move for me to be in Europe by myself. But now, I don't have any nervous feelings, I just want to get out there and play."
According to SIGMA D1 head coach Phil Opassinis, the camp will be the first opportunity for his team to travel together as a group overseas. The experience of being away from parents and with a group will enable the players to grow, both in their maturity and their understanding of how to train at an elite level.
"The trips are very scheduled, you rest when you need to rest, sleep a certain number of hours, eat the proper food, and then they get to see the competition in Europe,? said Opassinis. "They'll play the likes of PSV, Brugge and others and they'll see that these teams are training three times a week, just as we do here. But maybe at a little bit of a higher level, so it will be very good competition for the boys."
For the SIGMA C1 squad, Head coach John Zervos explains that his team will be able to measure their progress against the teams they faced two years earlier, and that will provide a good wake up call in terms of their commitment to future training.
The C1 team will also be able to show leadership for the younger team in the ways of SIGMA travel.
"They've been there before, they know the ins and outs of how we do things," said Zervos. "They can help [the D1s] focus on things on the pitch, instead of worrying about things off the field."
The players are excited at the prospect of facing players from professional academies.
"It's just a really great opportunity to see how everyone else plays," said Luka Kulenovic.
Added D1 co-captain Mohamed Omer: "I think this will be the next step for our team. I think most of all we will be learning. So no matter the outcome, we'll try our best."
And how will the team feel at the opening kick off?
"I'll feel a huge adrenaline rush," added Omer.
The teams leave Toronto on Saturday, March 10 and return March 22