One of the reasons that this class stands out is that it is a real special group that came through together. At the same time, we saw this group scatter all over the place, primarily because it was one age group that never really developed, in terms of the stakes. So, we saw this age group have a lot of talent dispersed all the way to about 17, 18 years old.
At 11 or 12, they never really kind of came together: They were playing up, they were playing down. Most athletes that are in the Hall of Fame struggled earlier on in their journey through youth soccer, primarily because they’ve struggled finding quality coaching, but eventually, they all started playing together. Several players that came out of this age group have gone on and will have a good college career, at the same time had a good high school career.
While we look at this group as a whole, we have some really special players come out of it. There’s been some great relationships and families that have come through the Academy.
Let’s start off with the Great Players nominees. We have:
- Grace Maxwell
- Meredith Haackenson
- Luke Hauritz
- Vivian Shinall
Grace was a player who was really quick and fast. She loved coming to LeftFoot and being challenged with athletes of all ages. She usually had a talent-first perspective—she was very talented. As we were asking her to do new things, especially the speed touches or low and subtract, she mastered it well. She struggled later on balancing all of the demands of high school, and while she wanted to be an intern, she couldn’t find the hours to put into it, primarily because she was so busy with premier soccer and all the other sports that she would do.
She had a great high school career; I’m not sure how she ended up or where she’s playing. I haven’t seen any of those notes quite yet, but she did have a special opportunity to go through a club, as she kind of consistently played out. She never went to the ECNL program, primarily because she felt loyal to the high school team and club teams that she played for, for years.
Meredith Haackenson was a very special player. She was one of those athletes that came through the Academy, 11, 12, 13 and 14. She completed about half of her internship as she continued to play ECNL. She got too busy with soccer and high school. She came back into the Academy this last year to follow my guidance on how to become Ms.Soccer, making sure she could shoot and win.
Meredith will be playing in Michigan for college: She was Ms. Soccer, and she led her team very far in the state tournament this year. I definitely see her as one of the great players to come out of LeftFoot and be highlighted in our Hall of Fame, primarily because she was one of the all-round players that led, inspired, tried new things, and constantly pushed herself. Additionally, what I saw in her as well as what I heard from other people, she was a great teammate and really helped develop her team.
Luke Hauritz came through the Academy at about 12-15. He was one of the athletes in boys who was able to tolerate being with all girls, and so it was really special to kind of see him come through the Academy. Luke was very passionate—always trying and struggling. I remember him learning volleys, and boys learning volleys was kind of one of my favorite things to watch, primarily because of the patience element, as well as the technique. You have to have that patience to wait for the ball to come below you and at the same time follow through with your technique, and constantly do that right.
I think he had a whole summer of about three to four sessions that he would tolerate that and I had given him coaching points. And he finally was able to do it and kind of looked at it like, okay, fine, sure and got it right. And then I think he just really loved technique after that time and mastered techniques. I know he had a very good high school career and club career. He was one of those players that everyone looked to and say, “Wow, he was pretty good!”
Vivian Shinall came through the Academy around 11 years old. I think she cried in her first session because of course I was asking her to keep the ball lower driven and she couldn’t, she just couldn’t. When Viv was in the Academy, she was really a lion, she relied on speed and power to do most of her game. I think she just struggled with kind of making sure that she knew that technique was kind of a pathway through to a better opportunity, but then also struggled sometimes doing it. I think for some of us technique comes naturally, and it didn’t come naturally to Viv but she consistently tried and made up for lack of technique with the passion, speed, power, drive and really the things that make us all successful later on in life. I think that’s one of the reasons that you’ve got to try again.
There’s the great player nominees.
Watch out for our nominees series this weekend. Don’t forget to get your votes out through this link or hit the link below to buy your tickets. See you tomorrow!