Bristol teen travels to Kansas for soccer championship
While most of her school-based friends are strolling the mall, or checking out the latest movie, Kerrie Larson, 13, opts to spend time on the field.
For just over a decade, the Bristol teen has been dribbling, heading and passing a soccer ball.
"I like soccer," Ms. Larson said. "I can't imagine my life without playing soccer."
Ms. Larson, who will be an eighth-grade student at Kickemuit Middle School this fall, will be traveling to Kansas July 21 to showcase her soccer skills in the U.S. Youth Soccer 2013 National Championships. The championship is the culmination of a year-long competition consisting of more than 10,000 teams from U.S. Youth Soccer's 55 state associations. Only four teams advance to Kansas.
"It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice," Ms. Larson said. "(Going to Kansas) is life-changing; one of the best things to have happened in my life."
Ms. Larson is one of 17 players on the New England Futbol Club Elite team for girls under 13. Players hail from several south-shore towns in Massachusetts and Portsmouth, R.I.
Ms. Larson and her team defeated New York-based World Class Futbol Club during the Region I Championships held at the University of Rhode Island recently, advancing them to the national championship.
In Kansas, Ms. Larson's team will face off against three other soccer clubs from Michigan, Texas and California. The team with the most points at the end of the week takes home a trophy and bragging rights.
"It takes a major commitment for the girls to play at an elite level," said Ms. Larson's coach, Kerry Baldwin. "The girls train at least twice a week, and attend games on the weekend. Often, they travel up to an hour to get there, and an hour back. Some girls will bring their homework, or study during the ride."
Ms. Larson was recruited to try out for the New England Futbol Club team a year ago. While dedicating most of her free time to soccer, she said she maintains her honor-roll status while in school.
"I always knew she'd play at the national level, I'm just surprised it's this early," said Ms. Larson's dad, Kris Larson. "For her mom and I, we're so proud of her."
Ms. Baldwin, who has been coaching at the collegiate level for the past six years, said that girls who play at the elite level often advance in soccer through high school and eventually college. And that's just what Ms. Larson is hoping for.
"My cousin got a full soccer scholarship to the University of Delaware," said Ms. Larson, hoping her athletic capabilities affords her the same opportunity.
"It's my life goal to make the women's national teams and play soccer at the Olympics."