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What’s it like to play travel soccer?

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Have you ever thought about playing travel soccer? It is a huge commitment. Many girls at GBMS play for the Gulf Coast Texans 05 Black team. They dedicate many hours a week to play at such a high level. The students that play include Molly Clark, 7th grade, Holland Davidson, 7th grade, Maggie Feltenberger, 7th grade, Amelia Jacobs, 6th grade, Ava Matherne, 7th grade, Neysa Misita, 7th grade, Meredith Pugh, 7th grade, and Meghan Thacker, 7th grade.

Fortunately for the 05 Girls, there are enough people to make two teams–a black and a red team. Both teams have about 14-18 players. The teams are divided by skill level. The black team tends to travel more for harder competition and the red team typically stays more local. The black team practices two days a week for over an hour. They are almost always busy on weekends with tournaments. Tournaments normally consist of two games on Saturday and one or two games on Sunday depending on how the teams do. The Texans black goes to tournaments in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana.

The team also has to go to qualifying games–these are normal games but they help determine placement for State Cup. State Cup is a big tournament for all the top teams in Florida. It begins in April, and any team can sign up if it qualifies. To be eligible, a team must play several games and join in leagues. Therefore, they have to drive nine hours to south Florida for games. Once qualified, a team plays by regions, also known as round 1, then winners go to round 2. The Texans tied one of their games and won two of them in the region play. After that is the final 16, which is a single elimination round. Sadly, this year the Texans lost their game in this round, but it was still a huge a accomplishment for them to be one of the top 16 teams in Florida. 

Amelia Jacobs has played for the Texans since she was 6.

Many of the girls on the team have played with each other for four or more years. Amelia Jacobs, 6th grade, says, “I play soccer because it’s always been a part of my life, it makes me feel amazing and all the people on my team make me feel like I have not 1 but 2 families.” She also says, “I play travel soccer because I love going to new places and sometimes even though I love them, it can be nice to get away from my crazy family.” She chose to play for the Texans because when she was about six her sister played, and Amelia got to meet some of the girls on the younger team and they were all nice to her. Amelia says, “If you don’t work hard you’ll never know what you are capable of.”

Lillie Golden a more recent player for the Texans.

Lillie Golden, a 7th grader at Holley-Navarre Middle School, loves to play soccer because she says, “I love the sport and it is fun and competitive.” She decided to join the Texans because she thinks they have good teams. She loves to travel and go places to compete against hard teams. Lillie’s advice to younger players is to “put in your all and soon enough it will pay off.”

Whitney Taylor after one of her tournaments.

Whitney Taylor, 6th grade at EDS, had a more difficult season since she tore her ACL as a goal keeper in one of the first games of the season. She says, “I am so excited to get back.” She has missed her teams so much and can’t wait to get back on the field with them. She also says, “I play soccer because I love the sport and meeting new people.” Sadly, soccer has been difficult for her with her injury. She says, “I have lost a bunch of things such as my stamina. It is also very hard to watch everyone compete from the sidelines. As much as I wanted to go out and play sports, I knew one wrong move could damage my ACL again.” She was also on crutches for over three months, so that limited her from even walking.  

Holland Davidson, 7th grade at GBMS, plays soccer because, “I love the sport and I enjoy the friendships and opportunities to grow personally and physically soccer provides.” Holland says that she plays travel soccer because the competition helps her grow as a player. She also says, “I chose the Texans because of the skills and coaching.” Playing with the Texans has let her have the opportunity of being coached be Joe [Bartlinski] and UWF players. She loves playing with the same group of girls and having good friends. Holland says, “If you work hard…your dreams (not just in soccer) could become a reality.” 

Holland Davidson another player on the Black team.

The 05 girls coach is Joe Bartlinski, and he has been coaching for about 40 years. He also coaches the UWF women’s team. His favorite things about coaching is, “watching the youngsters embrace the excitement of soccer and watching them develop both on and off the field.” He also says that his team advanced “because of our overall skill and soccer tactics developed by their previous coach, Colleen.” His players say they love that he always gives positive feedback and manages to balance silly with serious. 

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