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No. 44: Willian, Chelsea

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Youth soccer tourneys provide everlasting memories

Every year millions of children play soccer in the U.S. and around the world. Today, with child obesity, various diseases, and the high demand of exercise for young and old people, soccer has evolved as one of the primary sports. Soccer has an abundance of benefits that youth players can use during and after their careers. In fact, many players have used soccer to help them in various ways such as networking, earning medical degrees, or even landing professional soccer contracts.

Soccer tournaments have also become an instrumental tool in helping promote player benefits. Many players have been able to visit locations that they would have never ever been able to see if they were not involved with soccer. According to 16-year youth soccer coach Myron Garnes of Bowie, Md., "When a player departs to play in a tournament, it brings joy to the player. The benefits of youth soccer are tremendous, it curtails exposure to various parts of the world, it helps to form bonds of people from different countries, and it helps players to be seen by scouts especially through tournaments."

When speaking to youth players, many would agree that traveling to play in soccer tournaments (either in the U.S. or abroad) is one of the greatest experiences they've had. These tournaments can often provide unforgettable memories.

In 1998, Andrew Essey from Columbia, Maryland, traveled with his U-17 youth team, Columbia Santos, to play in the California Cup San Bernadino, Calif. While relaxing on the beach with Garnes, he saw a 16-year-old girl from Sydney, Australia on vacation with her parents. "I was intimidated by her at first because she was so attractive, and did not want to go over to meet her," said Essey.

Garnes decided to leave his beach chair and introduce himself to the girl's parents, and he took Essey with him. As Essey recalled, "We started talking, I cracked a few jokes, and she laughed and smiled which helped me to loosen up tremendously."

After the tournament, the girl went back to Australia with her parents, but she stayed in contact with Essey over the phone. According to Essey, "It was expensive to call her, but she was worth it, and no amount of money is important when it compares to someone so valuable."

Five years after the tournament, at the age of 21, the young lady moved from Sydney to Columbia to be with Essey. They spent two years in Columbia together, and both have since moved back to Australia where the happy couple are set to be married in November of 2008.

These are the type of stories that can happen everyday, and at every tournament, or soccer event attended by youth players. As such, many youth teams should contemplate travelling more often despite the expense.

Justin Reid is a writer for Inner-Strength Grassroots Youth Soccer Magazine.