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Staying on top of the game with celebrity-endorsed sports academies

Whether kids want to learn to play football like Rio Ferdinand or ace their serve like Rafa Nadal, there’s a celebrity-endorsed sports training academy to suit.

Football Escapes’ camps are led by ex-Premier League players
Football Escapes’ camps are led by ex-Premier League players

Sports training academies at overseas resorts help prise youngsters away from their screens while letting adults enjoy some relaxing time alone, and unsurprisingly these have boomed in recent years.


Many are now endorsed by sports stars, or even taught by them, and few parents would not be excited at the prospect of rubbing shoulders with household names like Rio Ferdinand or Michael Owen.

“Our young players who join get to train like professional footballers for a week and get up close and personal with ex-Premier League legends, learning from the best,” says Sam Hubert, managing director of Football Escapes, which last year tied up with ITC Travel Group.

Many such holidays are Med-based and football camps predominate, but there are choices further afield and sports from squash to surfing on offer. Here are a selection to recommend.

His name is Rio

Football Escapes’ camps are led by ex-Premier League players supported by Uefa coaches. Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Hotel has Michael Owen this Easter, and Owen and Jamie Redknapp in October half-term, while a Maldives Christmas special on Kuredu Island Resort will feature Rio Ferdinand.


Five- to 15-year-olds receive two hours’ training daily for five days, with a kit, certificate and medal all included.

Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas in Crete has teamed up with Football Escapes to host sessions with Rio Ferdinand, Luis Garcia and Wes Brown this April, July and August.

Jenny Peart, head of product at Caribtours, says: “These camps are an amazing opportunity for young footballers to polish their skills under the expert guidance of some prominent players, while the whole family can enjoy the wider resort.”

BOOK IT: Caribtours offers seven nights’ B&B at Elounda Beach Hotel & Villas from £2,129 per adult and £1,299 per child, based on two adults and two children sharing, including five days kids’ coaching, flights and transfers.

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The Chelsea FC Foundation Soccer School at La Manga in Spain
The Chelsea FC Foundation Soccer School at La Manga in Spain

Sun, soccer and squash

Wellbeing Escapes has introduced family- focused holidays for 2020 in response to demand.


“Millennials come to us, have their kids then come back and say, ‘have you got anything [for us]?’,” explains founder and managing director Stella Photi. Among the specialist operator’s suggested resorts is Sun Gardens in Dubrovnik, a Leading Hotel of the World offering several sports academies.


A five-day Campioni Soccer Academy for six- to 15-year-olds is new for May, July and August 2020 with former Premier League players including Andy Cole and Emile Heskey.

A squash academy also debuts this year, while tennis, basketball and swimming camps for seven- to 15-year-olds are offered between May and September.

BOOK IT: Wellbeing Escapes has a flexible Family Connect package from £5,602 per family of four in high season for a week’s B&B at Sun Gardens, excluding flights.


The Campioni Soccer Academy is around €550pp including kit and medal, the squash academy around €250pp.

Rafael Nadal has won multiple Grand Slam titles
Rafael Nadal has won multiple Grand Slam titles

Ace it

Sani Resort in Greece unveiled the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre last year, with courses for both adults and children.


While the star himself won’t be teaching, the programme covers the technical, physical and mental training methods that helped him become world number one.

The resort also offers a Chelsea FC Academy. Dr Andreadis, chief executive of Sani Resort, says: “Here at Sani, we pride ourselves on offering our guests unique experiences; what could be greater than leaving with skills practised by Grand Slam-winning tennis legend Rafa Nadal himself?”

BOOK IT: Sovereign Luxury Travel has a week’s half-board holiday at Sani Dunes from £975pp including flights, departing on 21 April. A five-day course at the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre starts from around €360pp. There’s another such centre on Majorca.

Blue is the colour

Bookings for the Chelsea FC Foundation Soccer School at La Manga in Spain were up 50% last year from its launch in 2018.


It’s back for 2020 for selected weeks in summer for ages six to 16, with three hours’ daily coaching, a kit and certificate.

Nick Montgomery, La Manga Club general manager, says: “Having the chance to be associated with the Chelsea FC Foundation has tremendous appeal to our guests.”

La Manga has eight Fifa-approved grass pitches, a 28-court tennis centre plus three 18-hole golf courses. Forte Village in Sardinia (offered by Kuoni) and Thanyapura in Thailand are among other resorts with Chelsea camps.

BOOK IT: James Villa Holidays offers seven nights at La Manga’s Villa Casa Mimosa for two adults and two children for £1,009pp travelling in August, including flights. The 2020 Chelsea schools start from around €295pp.


Thailand’s Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort in Phuket
Thailand’s Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort in Phuket

Thai training

Thailand’s Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort in Phuket offers impressive athletics facilities, multiple tennis courts and an Olympic-sized pool, and has hosted the likes of Jenson Button and Maria Sharapova.


Besides its Chelsea FC Foundation Soccer School, it has 2020 summer camps for 10- to 17-year-olds for one to three weeks covering tennis and swimming, the latter incorporating video analysis of technique.


There are also bootcamp-style multi-activity weeks offering zip lines, climbing walls and ropes.

BOOK IT: Camps at Thanyapura cost about £407pp for a week excluding accommodation, or from about £705pp for the Train & Stay package; 10% off bookings before 15 March.

Try these too

Sovereign offers several hotels with sports camps in Greece and Sardinia, plus Pine Cliffs in the Algarve, managed by former British number one Annabel Croft.

Football Escapes weeks are back at luxury Parklane in Limassol, Cyprus, with Wes Brown (July) and Michael Owen (August) lined up.

Quinta do Lago in Portugal’s sports centre The Campus opened last year. Jamie Redknapp and Owen are among stars hosting in August.

Paradis Plage at Taghazout in Morocco has a surf school for anyone aged over eight. Beginners have one-and-a-half hours’ daily tuition across two- or five-day packages.

Butlin’s has a football academy with training from FA qualified instructors. Sessions aimed at five- to seven- and eight- to 12-year-olds are available on many breaks (£8 an hour).

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