Once you have worked in a field as long as I have coached soccer, you become connected with enough people to connect you to other people. This was how I became involved with UK International Soccer and the Copa Coca Cola. After helping run a San Antionio tournament, one of the ten regional events across the US, I was invited to LA for nationals. To qualify to attend, the teams had to win their respective regional. Over the weekend of April 16 -18, I flew with a team from Houston as a chaperone/coach to the Copa Coca Cola National Tournament. Coca-cola, Delta, McDonald’s, Walgreens, and Starwood Hotels sponsored the tournaments. The regional champions were flown out (expenses paid) to LA for the weekend.The games were held at the Stub0hub center, an enormous soccer mecca that hosts the LA Galaxy. The national champions were entered into a drawing for the Grand Prize, trip to the opening ceremony and a week-long camp in Brazil for the World Cup this summer. Former players Marcelo Balboa, Shannon MacMillan and Kevin Hartman were there throughout the weekend – encouraging, coaching, hashtagging and signing autographs. I was very impressed, encouraged even, to see their level of involvement. All in all it was a great opportunity for the kids and I hope to help with similar events in the future.
The girls’ team from Houston flew out early and home a day late so I did not travel with them but was pleased to work with them throughout their stay in LA. They made it to the semi-finals on Sunday morning where they faced a composed, patent and highly-skilled team from Seattle. At the weekend’s end, I relayed to the girls that I felt they represented the Houston area well, on and off the field. The boys faced tough competition as well but came away from the tourney with a 1 – 2 – 1 (win-loss-tie) record. I also enjoyed experiencing the flights with them; it was a first-time flight for five of the eight. We also had a short layover in Salt Lake City making it the boys first time to see mountains and snow. In addition to the wonderful soccer played the weekend also featured the World Cup Trophy Tour. As tournament participants we were VIP’s and enjoyed a special viewing of the trophy. Additionally, we were front & center at LA Live that night for a concert from David Correy, Aloe Blacc, and Wisin. I often take my many concert experiences, and flying experiences for that matter, for granted so it was really cool to see the kids get to experience such an event.
Back here in Austin, my soccer season has just wrapped up. Girls and two of the boys will move up to select while the rest of the boys will return to the academy next year. I had debated putting my name in the hat for a select team but think for now I would prefer the flexibility to work for UK Soccer again. Events like the clinic I’ve been asked to work in Dallas on Friday, May 30, with Marcelo Balboa.