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South African Summer Citrus Honors Eight U.S. Youth as 2012 Soccer Stars
Iowa City girl selected for courage, determination and leadership.
Philadelphia, Pa. – August 14, 2012 – Grace Brown, Iowa City, IA, is one of eight youth across the country selected to receive the 2012 South African Summer Citrus Soccer Star award (www.summercitrus.com). One boy and one girl were selected from each of the four US Youth Soccer regions for the award based on commitment, leadership and a spirit of service, both on and off the soccer field.
The award was established by the South Africa Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum (WCCPF), a consortium of about 350 South African Citrus growers who export citrus to the U.S.
“When we decided to bring our citrus products to the United States, it took courage, imagination, commitment and unbeatable determination and resulted in success,” said Suhanra Conradie, CEO of the WCCPF. “With our ongoing partnership with US Youth Soccer, we have seen these same characteristics exhibited by many of the players involved in this sport.”
Soccer and oranges go hand-in-hand, with citrus products being the snack of choice at soccer games across the country. WCCPF has been a long-time supporter and partner with US Youth soccer, supplying fruit for regional and national tournaments each summer.
Soccer Star award winners were selected from nominations submitted in the form of essays. Entrants were asked to share personal experiences demonstrating how they have displayed courage, imagination, commitment, unbeatable determination and success. Entries were received from all regions of the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.
“We are honored to recognize these eight youth who represent the best of American spirit, courage and leadership,” said Suhanra Conradie, CEO of WCCPF. “The South Africa citrus growers have shown these qualities repeatedly by not only exceeding but also maintaining the rigorous U.S. standards for quality and safety. In like fashion, these eight youth have maintained rigorous schedules and demonstrated incredible determination and commitment to achieve their goals and a great deal of success as athletes and students.”
Ms. Brown, 13, is the daughter of Kristen and Greg Brown. She plays for the Iowa City Alliance Soccer Club Speed and will enter eighth grade next year at Southeast Junior High School. She displayed courage and compassion recently when she came to the aid of fellow classmate with a learning disability. When other classmates were tricking the girl into giving away her lunch, Ms. Brown stepped in to stop the behavior.
She said commitment and determination are extremely important as a soccer player. Recently, she displayed unbeatable determination when her team had few subs and she played an entire game at her coach’s request.
“When you make a commitment, it is like making a promise,” she said. “I have had to miss a lot of parties in order to keep my commitment to my soccer team. It’s hard to make those decisions, but I really do like soccer a lot. I don’t feel bad about it because I know it’s the right thing to do.”
Ms. Brown recently traveled to Europe to play soccer with her team, raising the money for her trip by selling raffle tickets and other items.
According to Paul Dayrell, coach of the Alliance Speed, Ms. Brown is an integral part of her soccer team and has the ability to play at almost any position.
“She really is a fantastic player,” Dayrell said. “She plays with a lot of heart and determination. She’s very athletic and plays with a lot of skill. Grace is the most versatile of all the players I’ve coached. She truly adapts very quickly and is very comfortable and always seems to do what’s asked of her.”
Other Summer Citrus Soccer Stars are:
Northeast, Region I (CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, VA, WV):
Taylor Ross, 15, Burrillville, RI, and Carson Ruhland, 10, Poughkeepsie, NY
Midwest, Region II (IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI):
Ms. Brown and Christopher Gibson, 13, West Des Moines, IA
South, Region III (AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX):
Shelby Meckstroth, 17, New Orleans, LA, and Hunter Henry, 13, Warner Robins, GA
Far West, Region IV (AL, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, WA, WY):
Julian N. Carvajal, 9, Fresno, CA, and Bianka Parrish, 13, Lakewood, WA
The South Africa Western Cape Citrus Producers Forum is a consortium of 350 South African growers eligible to export summer citrus to the United States. WCCPF facilitates logistical, marketing and sales support coordination of their products. Its mission is to maintain and expand its role as the preferred supplier, and to grow and ship the best summer citrus in the world to the U.S. marketplace. The WCCPF meets and exceeds USDA and USFDA protocols by rigorously adhering to its self-imposed Seal-of-Approval Guidelines, guaranteeing its citrus consistently provides superior quality that is easy to peel, seedless, nutritious and safe. For more information, visit www.summertcitrus.com or find South African Summer Citrus at www.facebook.com/summercitrus.
High school seniors Tyler Chavez of City High, from left, Jacob Vollstedt of Regina and Alex Troester of West High pose Tuesday at Kickers Field. West and City are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Class 3A. Regina is ranked second in 1A. / Benjamin Roberts / Iowa City Press-Citizen
Iowa City Press-Citizen
Two years ago, this city’s boys soccer prowess seemed to reach a zenith with Regina capturing a second state title and West High winning its fifth overall and second in a row by beating in-town rival City High in the final. But the train hasn’t stopped rolling.
Last year, Regina won its third championship in a row. West High was third while in a rare “rebuilding” mode, and this season, all three teams along with three other area teams qualified for state. West and City are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Class 3A. Regina is ranked second in 1A.
West is tied with Cedar Rapids Xavier for the most state championships (five), tied with Bettendorf for most victories in state-tournament play (26), and tied with Valley for most state title game appearances (eight) while Regina is tied with Xavier for most state titles in a row (three).
How did this happen? Why are Iowa City high school programs so successful? Obviously, the teams have players who are good, dedicated and skilled athletes. That’s the first thing but far from the only thing.
The club soccer programs in town (Kickers, Alliance, ISC) and their professional coaching staffs from several countries are largely credited with developing the skills of players who form the high school teams.
“It’s definitely the clubs. With the small amount of time I have as a high school coach, it’s more about how much skill you can develop and earn before the high school season starts,” West High coach Brad Stiles said.
“You have to give a lot of credit to the club,” City coach Jose Fajardo agreed. “For many, many years, Iowa City has been doing the right things with soccer, especially with the younger kids. It started with Ian Parratt a long time ago, and he deserves a lot of credit because he was one of the first who put together a staff of professional coaches. He is one of the pioneers. You can’t (credit) things to what’s happened in the last two years. You have to go back to what happened in the last 10 years.”
Paul Dayrell, coaching director with Alliance, said the two clubs in town have similar philosophies. They believe in player development that focuses on technical work with younger kids, and he says that’s why there is such a rich talent pool at the high school level.
“As a club, despite parental pressure on youth sports as a whole, we focus little on the actual winning of games at the younger ages,” he said. “Having that bigger picture and broader outlook on the game as a whole actually helps these players develop and become much better players and much more capable of winning games when it’s more meaningful. “It’s good to have two clubs that are rivals and competitors that have that same mindset.”
Attempts to reach ISC director Jon Cook for comment for this story were unsuccessful because he was traveling.
Both Fajardo, a former professional player, and Stiles also coach at the club level, although under state rules neither can coach their current players. They have been involved in the development of hundreds of boys and girls in the area.
“Iowa City schools have a huge luxury in that their coaches are educated, qualified and they work with these kids at the club level, too,” Dayrell said. “Across the state I would say that’s not the norm, and they generally don’t have the expertise that Iowa City has in the high school coaches.” Highly trained, professional coaches at the club level are a huge factor, but Fajardo said parents in the area deserve a bow, too. “Parents have trusted the coaches in Iowa City, which I think is a difference with other parts of the state,” he said. “They’ve given them the freedom and the tools to let them coach the kids the way the club thinks is the right way to do it.”
Regina is in a little different situation than the two larger public schools. The Regals, like most small schools, generally have relied upon multi-sport athletes who are not year-round soccer players. That doesn’t mean they haven’t had some year-round club guys, but it isn’t their bread and butter. Yet even for Regina, the beginning youth programs established basic skills.
“For us, the fact that there’s a strong Iowa City Kickers program is important because a number of the kids who come out and fill out at least a third of our roster never play anything besides Iowa City Kickers,” Regina coach Rick Larew said.
“That’s maybe where we split with the public schools. By the time our kids get to be about junior high, most of our kids can’t play the full club schedules anymore. Most are multi-sport athletes and don’t want to, and we don’t encourage them to give up (those sports).”
Regina has a no-cut policy, but the players entering the program have to be willing to work hard.
“We work very hard in terms of our own program, just in terms of fitness because we feel that we’re not technically good enough soccer players to win just based on technical skills,” Larew said. “So what we try to do is be in the best shape of every team we play against.”
Although the training that players receive at the clubs is crucial in their skill development, the high school coaches don’t stand idly by, throw a ball on the field and say, “Go get ’em guys.” Conditioning is just one area in which the high school coach has an impact.
“My job is to get them fit because we play a lot of games in a small amount of time, and they have to have some endurance, and their bodies have to be ready to take that schedule,” Stiles said. “At our high school, we have developed a system, and we try to plug kids in as best we can. The kids that have developed a little bit more talent, we tweak their roles.”
West has the larger enrollment, and it has had more year-round soccer players than City or Regina. Competition to even make the varsity team is keen. That puts West in a better position to start the season strong, but all three coaches have to mold a bunch of kids of different ages and backgrounds together into a cohesive team.
Fajardo likens the process to putting together a national team from a diverse group of players.
“In high school, of course, you have to use your magic to put things together and to make things work in a very short time to make it work tactically, to make it work with players who come from different mentalities, from different clubs, with different systems of play,” Fajardo said.
“Alliance doesn’t play the same way that Iowa Soccer Club plays. Some American coaches, some English coaches, some Spanish coaches. Everybody has a different flavor, and sometimes you need to put all those things together.”
“We get to spend more on the tactical side of the game, the Xs and Os,” Stiles said. “Where you need to be at the right time. Where the club coaches, if they spend their time on that, they are losing valuable time in players having the ball at their feet.”
Larew, a physician, readily concedes the superiority of the professional coaches at the clubs.
“But I have a different way of coaching that’s worked for us,” he said. “What I try to sell to them is this is just another way to get better.”
Larew also has taken three groups of boys to Brazil in previous summers and will take another to Costa Rica this summer, calling it a “cultural trip with soccer as a focus.” That kind of experience can help immeasurably in building a team and a tradition, not to mention stoking the flames of soccer passion among your players.
The three schools have established successful programs for a number of reasons and there’s no reason to think they won’t keep it going.
“Success is contagious,” Larew said. “Kids get a sense of how hard you have to work in order to be successful. The program we offer is very demanding. It’s demanding physically; it’s demanding emotionally. I’m trying to help boys grow into young men and that’s what our program is all about.”
Reach Susan Harman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 339-7369.