Maturation: U19 College Cup Showcase Recap
Our U19 Men had their first taste of regulation play in 8-40 minute halves of learning, growth, trial & error, adjustments, trust, and belief this past weekend in the College Cup Youth Showcase tournament in Santa Barbara, California. Of course, these young men are seasoned competitors from years of youth and high school soccer, but this was the first time they officially donned an FC Denver jersey to take the field with their newly formed team. On the field, the tournament proved to be an ideal trial-by-fire for our young men and coaching staff to learn who we are and how we want to work together. Off the field, the tournament served as a powerful opportunity for team bonding and rapport-building. The weekend was a success in the maturation of our team.
The coaching staff led by Peter Bunting and assisted by Nick McKeller has done an outstanding job of working with these young men over the course of this fall; building the initial framework of a team foundation and identity, while often needing to pull back on a full gung-ho effort to work the young men to ensure we properly respected the boys fall High School soccer seasons. And as important as preparation is, from that were organized, to the focused training sessions we held this fall, it takes the actual heat of competition for identities to form and responsibilities to be accepted. This forging of this team's identity, this team's playing style, and this team's individual player roles, grit and responsibility is what we witnessed being formed over the course of the eventful weekend in California.
A moniker I try to live by is to enjoy the successes and learn from everything else. The successes of this past weekend were plentiful. First and most basic, is that the weekend existed in the first place. The program in it’s nascent stages getting the buy-in and organization together to compete in an impressive out of state tournament is a success. A massive kudo’s to U19 Team Manager Bob Boyle in his efforts to bring this tournament vision to reality. Secondly, our successes were evident in the short span of the weekend as seen through our teams consistently improved play over almost every half of the tournament. Over our final 2 games, we were a team playing at or near the level we would expect from a talented and organized, albeit newly formed, group of young men, to be playing at. That improvement absolutely required the tough first couple of matches to work through the expectations, the tactical adjustments, and the personal resolve to get us there. The team took the initial challenges presented and rose to the opportunity.
Soccer, as in all sports, is (or at least can be framed) as a results-oriented business. Our club didn’t get to where we are today (multiple Colorado State Cup Championships, multiple Colorado Premier League titles, and two consecutive US Open Cup qualification berths), because we glossed over our losses with moral victories. No, we face them and we learn from them. As far back as our club’s foundation, we took serious bumps and bruises on the field and kept learning and rising to the occasion. And with that goes the understanding that any new enterprise has a natural maturation curve where it is faced with defining what it represents, what it doesn’t, and who in the group is ready to do what it takes to make the next step (buy-in). This past weekend was an expedited exercise in getting our young men maturing as individual players and as a team for what lies ahead of them. We are grateful for the courage of our players, coaching staff, leadership, and all stakeholders of the program that made this last weekend possible. Now, with this learning and experience in hand, we confidently look ahead to our next opportunities to prove ourselves and our team.