12 Cal South ODP teams competed with regional rivals at the Far West Championships this weekend, taking home three trophies
Youth players from all over southern California are reliving a weekend for the ages as they return from a phenomenal showing at the ODP Far West Championships in Mesa, Arizona. More than 600 Cal South representatives made the trip, including over 230 players and coaches, producing an electric atmosphere throughout the entire weekend. At times, it felt as if the games were taking place at Kern Country Soccer Park, with frenzied support on the sidelines from parents, siblings, friends, family, and other Cal South teams.
When not giving their all on the field, our players weren’t hard to find. Squads mingled on the sidelines and cheered on other Cal South sides, offering encouragement and celebrating the combined 175 goals scored by Cal South during the tournament. To a number, each and every Cal South player behaved impeccably, on and off the pitch. They are a credit to their families, coaches, teammates, and themselves. Character goes a long way in sports and life; thankfully, these players have it in droves.
The esteem of the Cal South players can be exemplified in a post-tournament message from Samantha Merella of Eagles SC:
“It was an unforgettable weekend. I had a great time getting to know the other girls and an even better time on the pitch. I was really honored to be chosen as Captain with Sienna and Leena, both incredible players.”
The Far West Championships are always a stern test for our ODP squads. Coming up against the best talents in the region, players must step up their game and compete against high-level opposition. Newly appointed Head of Player Development, Bruno Pereira, spoke about the importance of facing adversity on the field and learning to overcome it with bravery and expression.
While winning is always nice, Pereira noted that in the development phase, it’s more important for players to experience difficult moments in pressurized environments. Cal South players were encouraged to express themselves on the field, try new things, make mistakes, and ultimately, learn from every encounter. Soccer Director, Diogo Gama, added that these are the ingredients for the resilience needed to succeed not only in soccer but also in life.
“We took big steps in the development of our boys and girls through this tournament. This was a very good opportunity that helped us take things in the direction that we want. What we saw this weekend was kids dealing with what was given to them on the field, handling mistakes, and keeping going…fighting adversity and finding lessons in the difficulties”, said Bruno Pereira.
Elaborating further, Gama said, “our goal is to aid their development and bring them back to their clubs even better than they came to us. That’s the aim of ODP, to improve them as players and give them further opportunities to progress in soccer or get scouted. This platform also raises the level of soccer for everyone. Kids return from ODP and become more influential teammates”.
The ODP program is all about improving individual players in a team game. Individually and collectively, Cal South were the stand-out performers of the championships. Five teams made it all the way to the finals, with the 2008, 2009, and 2011 Girls all taking home gold. The 2009 and 2010 Boys came away with silver in their respective finals, which is an achievement that should not be understated.
Cal South ODP coaches recognized huge improvement among all teams over the course of the tournament. As an association, we recognize that these occasions are critical for all involved and will help them continue on their development paths for years to come. After such a remarkable championship weekend, Cal South is extremely encouraged and excited at what the future holds for all our talented youngsters.
As a final word, Cal South expresses its gratitude to the tournament organizers for putting together a top-class event. The facilities, pitches, organization, and officiating were outstanding. The hard work didn’t go unnoticed and it was a pleasure to participate.
2023 looks set to be another unforgettable year for Cal South ODP. Follow our Instagram, Facebook, and website for further updates and content over the coming months.