By Courtney Clark
The U13 Florida Elite Soccer boys’ team, comprised of North Florida boys around age 13, worked and played hard to become the next champions for their age group. Making the team is competitive: the boys tried out in May of 2015 and only 20 are on the roster. According to Eric Lentz, the team members played for Creeks Athletic Association, the Jacksonville Youth Soccer Club or other clubs in the area.
The team is an extramural program, not affiliated with any school, and is a developmental competitive program.
Lentz said, “The players are all athletes who excel at soccer and desired to participate in a competitive program against similar teams throughout the region and state.”
And the players sure are getting their fill of competition: they won the State Cup, organized by the Florida Youth Soccer Association, which means they advanced to compete at the Southeastern Regional level. This is no small feat. Lentz explains the process consists of a 64-team tournament, and each team played two rounds of three games against teams in a bracket. Winning teams advanced to an elimination tournament over the course of two weekends.
“In total,” Lentz said, “our boys went undefeated in group play, and undefeated in the final, single elimination tournament, winning 10 consecutive games.”
The games weren’t all in Jacksonville, either. The boys traveled to Orlando, Melbourne, Gainesville, Plant City, Naples and Auburndale.
The boys have certainly worked hard for their achievements. On average, they practice three nights during the week and play one to two games every weekend for the fall and spring seasons. Lentz says they also participated in tournaments in Jacksonville, Weston and Walt Disney World.
The Southeastern Regional Championships were held at the end of June. Although the U13 Boys Elite team will not advance to Nationals, more Florida teams placed than did other competitors. The U14 Boys, U14 Girls, U15 Boys, U16 Girls and U19 Boys hold Region III Champion titles – more titles than North Carolina, North Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina hold.
Regardless of results, Florida Elite Soccer is an excellent opportunity for youth. Some players even give back to the team.
Lentz said, “Several players on the team became certified as soccer referees when they turned 12 years old and assist with training and mentoring the younger children.”
And although the team is mostly funded by parents, the Jacksonville community can also help support the team by donating to travel expenses.
Visit www.floridaelitesa.com for more information about the Florida Elite Soccer Academy.
Photo courtesy Eric Lentz
The Florida Elite Soccer Academy U13 boys’ team