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This summer, we were delighted to host the first ever UK Football Escapes break. After two fantastic camps – with training from the likes of Jimmy Bullard, Anton Ferdinand and Olly Murs – we were keen to catch up with Sam Hubert, ex Chelsea FC coach, and co-founder of Football Escapes.

What is your background and how did you get involved with Football Escapes?

I was a football coach with the New York Red Bulls for 2 years, I came back to renew my visa and Chelsea offered me a job. So, as a big Chelsea fan I went to work there for three and a half years. Along the way I met a few footballers and Bobby Zamora, Rio Ferdinand and I decided to set up the company. We noticed that families who go away to 5 star hotels and resorts had nothing structured for their children to enjoy, apart from maybe a kids club. But children get to that age where they need a bit more structure, they need to be learning while on holiday. We learnt that families really love the opportunity to be coached by ex-premier league footballers – it creates memories that last a lifetime.

The Grove was your first UK break. How did you find our estate worked for the camp?

The Grove was an incredible destination. The football facility is amazing, the reason we actually approached The Grove in the first place was the fact that it’s where England train. We were very fortunate in August to have two professional football teams training and staying while the camp was going on, which really added to the experience.

In terms of The Grove though, we loved the family experience. There was lots going out outside of football, including archery, Segway tours, a spa for the parents and the golf course. So families who couldn’t get away this summer felt that they could still have an amazing break at The Grove. It’s nice and easy to get to, a 5 star resort with high end rooms, so we just felt that The Grove catered for everyone in the family.

What was your highlight at our last sessions?

For me, the highlight at our last session – and really it’s the same at all of our academies – was seeing the kids grow in confidence across the week. That fun element when the kids see the ex-professional footballers turn up on the day in their kit – it’s that excitement the kids have when they’re on our courses. My job is 1) making sure they are having fun and 2) teaching them a new skill to take back to their school or club back home to develop.

Who has been your favourite celebrity coach to work with?

Well that’s a tricky one – it’s like picking your favourite child! Anton Ferdinand and Marlon Harewood were great – their energy and enthusiasm and the way they interacted with the children really inspired them. They were able to pick up on what the children need and give them some points to take back to their teams that they play for. Olly Murs brought the X-Factor, Jimmy Bullard brought the comedy and Billy Wingrove brought the skills!

With children of all ages and abilities, how do the coaches tailor the training?

The children are always split up into age groups and abilities. On the first day, the coaches will monitor them and decide which child should be in which group. If there is an 8 or 9 year old and they are very good, we will push them up a group to challenge them. It’s also important that we focus on giving everybody something to go home with. So it’s all about watching and analysing each child and making sure we’re giving them something to learn and take home.

What do the parents usually enjoy most about a Football Escapes break?

I think what the parents love is that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see their kids training with ex-professional footballers and seeing them have so much fun while on our course.

Secondly, from our point of view, it’s the personal concierge service we provide. When families book a Football Escapes break, we look after them right from the moment they book until they come away. We ensure their itinerary has been sorted for the week, the restaurants are booked and any additional activities are scheduled. The families really feel comfortable that we’re delivering great service, not just around the football but their whole holiday experience.

But obviously, the highlight of most of the parents’ trip is the parents football game that we run at the end of the week. These guys all think that they’re the next David Beckham running up and down the sidelines getting warmed up for the match… so that’s always fun!

Ultimately though, it’s that valuable time with their family both on and off the pitch.

And what about the children’s favourite parts?

For the children, it’s the overall experience… from turning up, receiving your kit with your name and number printed on the back, to all the activities revolved around football. They have fun, meet new friends and often end up travelling to other destinations with those new friends. It’s also gaining that expert knowledge that they go back to school with.

You must have travelled to some beautiful places. Where has been your favourite place you’ve been to so far? (aside from The Grove, obviously)

Yes, I have been to some amazing places with football. Obviously we set up Football Escapes in Dubai, Portugal, Cyprus, Crete and Spain, but for me the most amazing place I’ve been to is the Maldives. We actually run a Football Escapes over the festive period so my last three Christmases have been over in the Maldives. It’s an incredible place. There’s so much to do for families, there is an 11-a-side football pitch on the island, golf course, water sports, snorkelling, you can go out to see the dolphins. It really, really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For any family who have never been to the Maldives, I truly recommend it.

What and where is next for Football Escapes?

So, we have an amazing safari that we are planning next year, which is going to be a very exclusive trip as only 15 families can join us. You’ll get to train at the World Cup stadium out in Cape Town and then fly off into the jungle to train… I don’t think anyone has ever done that before! Alongside the big 5, and that’s the big 5 animals, not players!

But I suppose in terms of what’s coming up next… following the huge success of our summer staycation at The Grove, we are now launching another one from 28 to 30 October. We’re expecting some big names to pop along, some surprises along the way, so yes… hold on to your hats and book now because there is limited space!

Join us at the next 2 night Football Escapes break at The Grove from 28 to 30 October.

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