Pre-season training is often a time to forget for footballers, dominated by high-intensity sessions designed to get players back to a high level of fitness quickly.
Not so for the professionals of Manchester United Women’s Team. Reformed after a long absence, the Red Devils took on the challenge of the British Army just days before they played a historic fixture against local North West rivals - Liverpool.
In an event designed to build team cohesion and communication, the team visited Fulwood Barracks in Preston where they met their Army counterparts.
The Army Women’s Football Team hosted a variety of challenges designed to test their own players just as much as their guests.
Leadership events such as a gun run – adapted to include an oil barrel, two large tires and a log for the gun – were accompanied by the challenge of extracting equipment from a cordoned off area before an assault course awaited both teams.
As the challenges got underway it did not take long for the professional nature of all the footballers to shine through as Corporal Nikki O’Donnell from the Army Women’s Football Team and Royal Military Police explained:
“The characteristics of both sides were very similar, team comradery comes on different levels and we can boost team cohesion through other avenues other than just football."
As well as providing physical and mental challenges, the day was also a chance for both teams to gain an appreciation of each other’s daily routine.
The side from Manchester was given the opportunity to learn about the everyday life of the Army soldiers’ - while also experiencing how they integrate football with the Operational needs of the service.
As for the Army players, they had the challenge of adapting their leadership skills to fit the needs of professional footballers while still keeping an eye on the overall aim of the tasks at hand.
The Army Women’s Football Team get their season underway in mid-October with a Southern Counties Cup match against Middlesex.
They will be hoping their fortunes match that of Manchester United, who started their campaign with a one-nil win against Liverpool in the FA Women's League Cup.