CP Soccer USA, U14 

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In March 2019, CP Soccer fielded a team of seventeen U14 players to compete in the Dublin International CP Football Festival. We called it the Friendship Cup. Our players, each of whom was individually invited to join the select squad, competed in a total of 10 matches against teams representing Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England. The competition on the pitch was fierce, but the experience of coming together as a team and then getting to know and bond with kids from other countries was the real payoff. The day after returning home, our head coach, Ashley Hammond, wrote a letter to the parents of the players. The letter is reproduced in full below, but here was the punchline:

….So what was my favorite part of this week for me ?

That’s an easy one....

It was all of those things and much more, but mostly it was the knowledge that we non-CP players, coaches and families were in the minority this weekend. That the minority got to watch the majority, unabashed; perform, enjoy, revel, laugh, make friends, play, score, pass, tackle, dance, be recognized for their greatness, win, lose, tie, be happy, be upset, be exhausted and most of all seeing so many be among others like themselves for the first time. Finally it was seeing our amazing children have a week like none other that they richly deserve and giving US much joy along the way.

- Ash

 

Eli’s Photos from Dublin

 

Videos of the CP Soccer USA games in Dublin

WAS IT?

As we all try to think about our favorite parts of the weekend far too many things happened to pick 1 or even 100....of our favorite moments. I have attempted to distill my personal recollection into a manageable read.

So I ask you... what was your favorite thing about this weekend? My ABSOLUTE favorite thing about the week is at the end.

Before that however here are a few you may know or not know about this week....

Was it Tucker standing on his head game after game and making goalkeeping look easy and keeping us all smiling with his infectious approach to the game?

Was it the training sessions on Wednesday and Thursday where everyone met for the first time and we all realized that we had a TEAM?

Was it Frankie standing tall, game after game and never complaining about the hammering he took every game from the opposition, leading and imploring his team mates onward with great skill and maturity?

Was it the pure unadulterated joy on Levis face when he scored his first competitive goal or his effort to get up and down the field every play. A striker he is, a defender and a man he became?

Was it the USA Flags everywhere and realizing that you were representing your country not just playing soccer?

Was it everyone, when we walked as a team parade style onto the field on Friday and were applauded on to the field?

Was it our first ever goal scored against Ireland on Friday?

Was it Sam when he scored the equalizer in the 2-2 game on Friday and seeing him rush to a wild and jubilant bench or his attempted overhead kick?

Was it having the former USA National team Captain Kevin Hensley with us all week and inspire us on the field and in the locker room each day?

Was it watching a wonderfully strong young woman named Caroline overcoming her fears and stepping back on the field for the second half of a hotly contested game against Northern Island and making so many great saves?

Was it the atmosphere and buzz that surrounded the fields constantly this weekend?

Was it Diego as he streaked up and down the field tirelessly all weekend scoring amazing goals and fiercely showing the teams that we too in America are tough on the field with more than a few crunching plays?

Was it seeing one of the coolest signs EVER on the side of the field- “Soccer For ALL”

So simply said ?

Was it Colin who said to me “Can I play in the midfield, but I will will do what the team needs first” and then he proceeded to run and dominate in the middle of the field as per his request or his fierce “you cant have it” attitude as he stuck his arm into every player from the other team battling for the ball?

Was it Shea and Gage and Tyler and Austin and Isabella working so hard each day on warm ups, line ups or simply running up and down the sidelines exploding with joy at every goal scored?

Was it Charlie who was SO brave in the first seconds of the game against the giant from Scotland, Charlie at maybe 50 pounds steamed right into the tackle fearlessly and totally committed. Or his first ever goal?

Was it the dinner on Saturday night?

Was it the amazing pins, hats, uniforms, warm up strips, banners, pendants and so much more that Eli, Bob and Carl worked so hard to procure and organize?

Was it Luke who unfortunately missed day one but bounded onto the field during day two practice and simply got on with the job and proceeded to be a total leader and outstanding player on the teams he played for? And what a wand of a left peg.

Was it Cat who was everything that we see every week in Clifton, a leader of men and women, a fierce competitor and brilliant soccer player who literally wore a track up and down every field she played on?

Was it the new friends that we have made all over Ireland, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Was it Jackson who offered to go in goal when his team needed it and pulled off a magnificent save along with his incredible effort in the field in the other games or his crazy good split passing that we covet yet see so rarely in the youth game?

Was it that 17+ families who mostly travelled alone not knowing each other yet they became one family within an hour of meeting each another.

Was it that the National team players back in the USA kept posting “support messages” recognizing our young charges as the future of US CP Soccer. Thank you Drew and Mark and Stuart the US Mens head coach for SO Much support?

Was it that our traveling group was 80+ people including support from SO many friends all weekend?

Was it Ramzi who also offered to help the team when we needed a keeper and was thrilled for Jackson when we put him in. Ramzi then proceeded to play the best we have EVER seen him play and he NEVER stopped trying in front of goal, running and throwing himself at anything he could to try and score?

Was it our crazy (GREAT) sibling cheering section?

Was it Landon who I didn’t realize was 8 years of age until Saturday (which I still cant believe) because he was one of our best defenders and a go to player all weekend. We always pencilled him in as a top line player on defense and he NEVER complained once about what we asked him to do... YES HE IS EIGHT and oh so good !! ?

Was it the fact that for 3 days we had warm weather?

Was it the fabulous dinner on Wednesday where I don’t know how these kids kept going?

Was it Cooper who has by far and away the best step over move in CP soccer and spent the weekend leading and pumping up his team every game. He too scored a wonderful goal against Scotland and was fearless in his defensive tackles?

Was it the fact that we went 3-3-3 this weekend ?

Was it Aiden who we love in our NJ program but we had NO idea how fast and talented he would be tackling and running the big field as he became a go to player for the weekend and covered every blade of turf on the complex?

Was it the Bo’s game on Friday as we proudly walked on the field with our Irish friends and saw a standing ovation for our proud team?

Was it Anthony who unknowingly had all of the teams fearful of us before the games because of his amazing video from home and then he proceeded to be even better at what we call being “an out and out striker” and who was and is going to be a lethal striker in US CP soccer?

Was it Elliott who I don’t believe stopped smiling all weekend and delighted his mother who excitedly told me that “this is the best I have ever seen him play” or the fact that he too went end to end tirelessly and OH what a goal and dance moves !?

Was it the bus rides in the double decker bus on the way back to the airport?

Was it that we made history becoming the first 14U CP team EVER to play a game yet alone an international game from the USA?

Was it that the entire group wanted to play ALL together on Sunday morning as one team and gritted out a wonderful 1-1 draw on the big field vs Ireland?

Who knows what else you all saw and experienced - the food the drink the cliffs, the Guinness factory tour, the mummies, the churches, the cows and horses in fields, our indomitable leader Eli taking a dip in the Irish Sea and SO much more....

At Clemson last year many of the players expressed to us that they had a week where everyone was the same, where they didn’t hide their CP arm, and where they were no longer conscious of their limp. They did not worry that people were staring at them because everyone was the SAME and for all it was described as a week of pure fun enjoyment and freedom. Hopefully this week was the same for them as they found themselves among friends.

So what was my favorite part of this week for me ?

That’s an easy one....

It was all of those things and much more, but mostly it was the knowledge that we non-CP players, coaches and families were in the minority this weekend. That the minority got to watch the majority, unabashed; perform, enjoy, revel, laugh, make friends, play, score, pass, tackle, dance, be recognized for their greatness, win, lose, tie, be happy, be upset, be exhausted and most of all seeing so many be among others like themselves for the first time. Finally it was seeing our amazing children have a week like none other that they richly deserve and giving US much joy along the way.

Thank you parents, thank you coaches, thank you Ireland and the Irish CP players and coaches but most of all thank you to the CP Soccer US TEAM of players you made our week one one of the most memorable weeks we each will ever have.

Did anyone say Clemson, Austria, U15 world championship,....hmmm I am sure I heard Eli say something.....

Ash