Local boys tryout for Olympic Development Program

By: 
Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

Last Sunday, (from left) Abe Friesen, Daniel Thackeray, and Elias Morris tried out for the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program in Billings.
Photo by Doreen Heintz

For 13-year old Daniel Thackeray and 12-year olds Elias Morris and Abe Friesen, soccer is their favorite sport. They like to play the game year round, whether on a regular soccer field or in a gym playing indoor soccer. They like the game so much one might call them soccer “junkies.”
Daniel, Elias and Abe took the game to a new level when they went to the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development try-outs in Billings last Sunday. The three play on Lewistown’s U15 spring travel team and earned the right to try out for the Olympic Development team.
Elias tried out for the team last year and wasn’t picked to advance to the state of Montana Combine tryouts but thought he would try again this year.
“I wanted to see if I had improved some from last year,” said Elias. “I worked hard to get better to try to make the Montana team.”
Elias tried out as a goalkeeper.
“Elias talked about trying out a lot,” said Abe, who tried out for a forward or striker position, “so I thought I would give it a try this year. I wanted to test myself on how well I play against other Montana kids.”
Daniel, who tried out as a midfield player, said “I heard about Elias trying it last year, and I wanted to see how I measured up as a soccer player against kids my own age.”
For Elias and Abe it meant trying out for the 04 team, while Daniel tried out for the 03 team. The team numbers are the soccer players’ birth year.
According to the Montana Olympic Development Program website, the philosophy of the program is “to identify players of the highest caliber on a continuing and consistent basis, which will lead to increased success for the U. S. National Teams in the international arena.”
The purpose is stated as: “The U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program was formed in 1977 to identify a pool of players in each age group from which a National Team will be selected for international competition; to provide high-level training to benefit and enhance the development of players at all levels; and, through the use of carefully selected and licensed coaches, develop a mechanism for the exchange of ideas and curriculum to improve all levels of coaching.”
The Montana program expanded just this year. For the first time there were four tryout dates and five different locations for the tryouts. The three Lewistown boys estimated there were around 150 players in each age group that tried out in Billings. Tryouts were also held in Bozeman, Helena, Missoula and the Flathead.
Both Elias and Abe were selected to the 04 team and will now advance to the state combine on Nov. 5 and 6 in Helena. From the combine, a state team will be selected to attend the ODP championships in January.
“I really like the competition,” said Daniel when asked what the best part of soccer is.
“There are just so many different things that happen,” said Abe to the same questions. “It is about running and strategizing at the same time.”
“I really like the adrenaline rush I get right before I fly out to stop a ball from being scored,” said Elias.
The three all attended the British soccer camp held in Lewistown in early August, and all three agreed,  “The coaches were really good.”
All three also said soccer is a great sport and the more one plays the game, the more one enjoys it. For Elias, Abe and Daniel, soccer is definitely their sport.

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