Earlier in the season, Norwich City Academy’s Under-14s players were paired up with a mentor from older Academy teams, as part of the mentorship programme at the Club.
In a normal season of academic football, the mentors and mentees would communicate with each other to discuss performance and wellbeing, with the current pandemic disrupting that. It then fell upon the pairs to adapt this and support each other where needed from a longer-distance.
Seeing how different it has become, as well as what they are now doing in their programme, some of these Academy players spoke to canaries.co.uk about their time in their pairing.
Gassan Ahadme and Pedro
Ahadme, a striker of the U23s, said he’s been enjoying the responsibilities of being a mentor to Pedro, but knows he always has to be aware of what advice he’s giving.
“Being a mentor has been really enjoyable so far, it’s been really satisfying, because I’ve had a good relationship with my mentee. We’ve got good communication between us, it’s been really good so far.
“It was a little bit new for me in the beginning, I’d never had a mentee before and I didn’t know how it would work. It’s like having a responsibility, because if you give bad advice it might encourage bad choices, which can affect him.
“I have to be aware about what I’m telling him and how I can help him, he’s doing the same thing I did, which is try to get closer to the top.
“I’ve given my mentee different advice. The main thing I told him was to keep faith that this will be over soon, and we’ll be doing the thing we love the most again.”
Discussing their conversations, Pedro made it clear he was keeping Ahadme up-to-date with what’s going on.
“Gassan told me the lockdown in Spain is a bit scary, but he and his family are safe and well. He asked me if I needed anything, and how me and my family are doing. I told him we’re safe and I’ve been able to go for runs to keep myself fit.”
Saul Milovanovic and Leon
Milovanovic, a regular in the U23s, has also been enjoying being a mentor, saying he would have liked one himself when he was at that age to give him advice.
“I’ve been enjoying being a mentor, because I think when I was his age it would have been important for me to have something like that, just somewhere to get advice on what to do and how to behave in a professional environment.
“Obviously, I’ve been in the Under-23s for a while now, so I know how to behave in that area. I’d have liked one when I was his age, someone with an experience in the Academy.”
Recognising the different dynamic of this programme in these times, Milovanovic has given Leon different advice on what to do whilst staying at home.
“I’ve just said what to be doing whilst he’s at home,” He said. “So, keep on top of things and get ahead of everyone else, keep a routine, stay concentrated, stay ahead of his game and enjoy himself. He’s only in his childhood, he’s 14 or 15, so I’ve just told him to do his work and then the rest will follow.”
Speaking on his relationship and conversations with Milovanovic, Leon went on to reveal that he too wants to become a mentor when he’s an older player.
“I’ve spoken to Saul a few times in lockdown, I’ve texted him about how he’s doing and how he’s finding lockdown. There isn’t a lot of football to talk about right now, so we speak probably every few weeks.
“It’s been good to have a mentor, it’s really nice to hear from somebody who’s done it all before and has more experience than me, it’s very helpful for me to hear.
“I think it would be a good experience to mentor when I’m in his position, it would be nice to give people advice and help them if they ever needed it.”
Zach Dronfield and Benjy
For Dronfield, being a mentor hasn’t just been about helping his mentee but seeing self-improvement himself too.
“Being a mentor so far has been really good for both me and Benjy. I’m developing things like social skills, as well as being a better person in general by trying to help the younger lads.
“I was in a similar situation to them, so it’s nice trying to help them along in their journey.”
When asked about his relationship with his mentee, Dronfield said their contact has been regular, especially when his mentee was having a difficult week.
“Me and Benjy have been in contact quite a bit over the past few months. Whether it’s him having a question, or me just dropping him a message to make sure he’s okay, we like to keep in contact.
“My mentee was in a different situation over the quarantine period, he’d had a bit of a rough week, so I dropped him a message and just told him to keep his head up and keep getting through it, and I’m there for him if he needs me.”
Benjy mirrored this from Dronfield, saying having a mentor is a great way to push him forward as a person.
“We talk every couple of weeks over this lockdown period, including when I was recently discharged from hospital after an overnight stay.
“I find it very useful to have a mentor - someone to look up to and understand the process and journey as they have been through it themselves. It pushes you to be like them - disciplined, driven and obsessed”.
Josh Giurgi and Elliott
Similar to Dronfield, Giurgi claims that being a mentor isn’t about just teaching and advising, but learning new things himself, especially when discussing exercises and setting challenges between themselves.
“I found being a mentor a really good thing, for both me and my mentee, as there’s a lot to learn from each other. He learns from me, and I learn from him.
“It’s constant knowledge sharing, you learn something every time you talk to him.
“I’ve been in contact with him a lot, especially since this pandemic started, with everyone being in lockdown. One thing I like about my mentee is that he’s not afraid to ask questions, he asks for workouts and little challenges between me and him.
“He’s keeping well and I’ve sent him loads of workouts to keep him busy! I think he’s doing very well and I’m happy to be his mentor.”
Both Giurgi and Elliott enjoy exchanging tips on exercise especially, with Elliott saying he was told just to do what he loves and keep fit until football returns.
“I’ve been in quite a lot of contact with my mentor, almost daily, we’ve been talking about different exercises in this weird period we’re in at the moment.
“He gave me tips on doing things that you love, like playing football, because that’s what is going to make you feel better. He also gave me good tips on exercise, because if you’re not doing that, you’re not going to stay fit.”