SYAA player shows Olympic promisePublished 9:29pm Saturday, December 29, 2012
Twelve-year old Jalen Hollins of Suffolk was recently selected to participate in the Virginia Youth Soccer Association’s Olympic Development Program on the state level.
Jalen is a veteran of the Suffolk Youth Athletic Association and has played soccer since he was in the Under-4 age group. He played this fall with the U-12 Icepacks, a team coached by Michel Bilé.
Jalen explained how the idea of participating in the Olympic Development Program came about.
“My brother did it before I did and he made the district team, but he didn’t make state,” he said. “My dad wanted me to try it.”
Making it to the state pool of players is quite an accomplishment that comes by showing superior ability in many training sessions that take place under the watchful eye of district and state-level coaches.
There is an initial district tryout that players can pay to enter. From this group, ODP coaches form a district pool based on whom they deem worthy.
“Once you made that, you had to go back every week on Monday, for 10 weeks, and the last two weeks were in Williamsburg and in Richmond,” Jalen said.
The first eight weeks were at the Hampton Roads Soccer Complex in Virginia Beach. Jalen and other area soccer players were occupied during this time with non-game activities that helped coaches determine which players were strongest in the group.
“We had to do a whole bunch of drills and some of them were a little bit complicated,” Jalen said. “I think that was sort of challenging.”
But while being under the microscope might unnerve some, Jalen was not burdened by the pressure.
His parents, Glenn and Sharon, have enjoyed tracking their son’s development during this process and have been very supportive, including logging many miles on the road to make it happen.
The last two training sessions in Williamsburg and Richmond featured inter-district scrimmages. Jalen noticed a difference in the quality of opponent compared to what he is used to back home.
“They have way better technical skills and speed and they make better decisions, so it’s harder to play your best against them,” he said.
In Richmond, players were moved to different teams to test combinations. Strong teams began to emerge, and Jalen was on one of them because of his demonstrated ability. He was one of 48 players selected to the state pool.
His father detailed what he thinks the Olympic Development Program coaches noticed.
“The way they do it, it’s like, scoring a goal is not the big deal,” he said. “It’s making decisions, making sure that you pass it, make the right pass, or you make the right decision. That’s basically what they’re looking for.”
“I think that’s what he really excelled at,” he said.
For Jalen, his accomplishment has him already looking to the future.
“It means a better opportunity for me to be seen by college coaches and get scholarships, hopefully make it to the pros,” he said.
The evaluation and possibility for advancement continues in the state pool with 10 training sessions minimum and several events. State teams will play each other, helping coaches determine who belongs on a regional team.
Inter-regional match-ups serve as auditions for the U.S. National Youth Teams, though players will not even compete for a national ODP championship until they reach the U-15 age group.
Jalen’s father noted what helped make his youngest son’s success possible.
“It comes from a lot of hard work, working at home, and his coaches, working with him,” he said. “And playing against his older brothers made him a lot better.”
Training requires him to be in Richmond every weekend in January, February and two weekends in March.
The next event Jalen is slated to compete in is the North Carolina Friendlies on Jan. 5 and 6 in Winston-Salem, N.C.