Pre Trip, a set on Flickr.
Jonah, Fred and I are off to Portugal in a little over a week. For those of you that don't know, Jonah participates in the Mass Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program ("ODP"). As a member of the U13 ODP Pool, he's eligible to travel to Portugal to train and compete during February school vacation. He's been longing for this trip since he started ODP in 2011. Fourteen members of his pool (all born in 2000) and 33 overall boys up to U17 age are taking the trip. We'll be in the Lisbon area to start and end the trip, but will travel to the Algarve for the bulk of the time. The Algarve is along the southern coast of Portugal and features beaches and warm weather. We are expecting a bunch of snow starting tonight, so sunny beaches will be a nice change.
ODP was started by US Soccer in 1977 as a way to identify and train talented soccer players in each state. The country is divided into four regions, and each state association has an ODP program. In Massachusetts (and, I think, most states), players try out annually for the pool and then train with their age group in the Fall, Winter and Spring (totaling about 25 sessions). Toward the end of the spring and in to the summer, pool players begin to scrimmage other state association teams and attend events in their region to identify the top talent. In this way kids are exposed to other top players, college coaches, regional and national coaches, etc. It's the beginning of a vary long path to national recognition that only a few players will complete. It's also only one of several paths to elite recognition. Either way, Maria and I are very proud of Jonah for putting himself out there and testing himself against the top 12 and 13 year olds in Massachusetts.
Foreign travel is an option for players in the Massachusetts pool. It's not cheap (especially when parents tag along), but from what I've seen, it will be a great experience for Jonah. I plan to post updates here each day, and of course tons of photos.