Vardar Boys U14: Life and Winning is Never Guaranteed
July 24, 2012
Wow – what a year for us!
The Vardar Boys U14 team has worked hard this past year and that hard work paid off with a trip to the Nationals. The emotions surrounding our trip to South Carolina have ranged from very low to the highest of high, and our boys have learned many life lessons in the recent months. 11 of our core team members from regionals departed the morning of the 23rd from the Pontiac Silverdome, outside of Detroit, for their long bus ride to Rock Hill. Another six will not make it to South Carolina until late in the night on the 26th, as they are currently playing in the Manchester United Cup World Finals in Shanghai China as the USA representative.
What did our guys learn on the way to Nationals? Overcoming adversity and a realization that life and winning is never guaranteed. Cherish every opportunity you have and play with joy at all times.
Our trip through Regionals was one of pure joy and emotion. We played the Grand Rapids Crew Juniors in our State Cup final, and although our two teams are big cross state rivals, once we leave the pitch the boys are actually fairly close, as the respect level among the teams are tremendous. A week after State Cup, at the Crew’s season ending party, one of their players, Christian Ouding, drowned in Lake Michigan. You can imagine the horror and disbelief for the Crew team. Christian’s death also affected many on our team. Our boys banded together and made the two hour trip to Grand Rapids for Christian’s viewing and funeral. To say we were proud of them would be an understatement. To further congratulate both the team and the organization for their class and caring, they met with and asked the Crew if they could wear Crew t-shirts to remember Christian at Regionals. CKO 21 t-shirts were worn by both Grand Rapids Crew and our team during pregame warmups at Regionals. We did this to honor a young man who was adopted from Liberia and overcame much adversity of his own in his young life, who was an example to many of our players for his love and joy in playing the game of soccer.
A large chunk of our team is in China July 18-26, but our team is scheduled to play in the US Nationals from July 23-29. What are we to do? Make the best of it!! We will seize the opportunities given to us and go out and play the game to the best of our ability. This week we will cherish the opportunity, be thankful we are well enough to participate, and know that if we give it our best the outcome will be as it is supposed to be. Never underestimate the underdog, great things come to those who work hard and it is not always an immediate reward!
I have been around what feels like a lifetime in the soccer world and this is truly a special group of boys who are fun to watch on the field. These guys come from far and wide to play on this team. Many of them rarely see each other except at practice or games. They will all be going to high school in the fall, seeing each other even less in the coming season. They will continue to love each other on the field, play hard for each other, and never give up. They support each other and you can see it in the way they play during games. I believe this is why we have been successful this season and will continue to be so in the future.
Bethesda U14 Lions: Light at the End of the Tunnel
Submitted by Gonzo Jouan, Parent
July 24, 2012
After a torn ACL playing football at the age of eight, my son, Collin Jouan, started playing soccer at a relatively late age of nine. After a grueling six months of rehab post-injury, he started playing travel soccer and fell in love with the game.
Two years later while playing soccer he tore his other ACL, making him the youngest documented person having a bilateral reconstructive knee surgery. After yet another six months of rehab work, Collin was determined to get back to where he was before his second reconstructive knee surgery. He tried out for the club he was playing for at the time of his injury but was rejected. This did not deter Collin from doing what he loved the most. At that time we contacted coach, Emile Mbouh, head coach of the Bethesda Lions, to see if he was interested in offering Collin a try-out with his team.
Collin was, for the most part, behind most of the Lions players; the team had just completed an undefeated season in the very competitive NCSL D I League. After three months of practicing on a try-outs basis with the team, coach Emile saw something that others could not, and decided to take a chance on Collin even after two knee reconstructions at the young age of ten.
After one year, multiple follow-up doctor visits, many hours of rehab, a slew of personal trainers, and six days of training per week, Collin was able to claim a starting role on the U14 Bethesda Lions team. His next goal: to compete for a youth soccer national championship.
Collin is now the starting center mid for the perennial Region I champions, the Bethesda U14 Lions. He is the captain of the 98 MD ODP and was recently selected to the 1998 Region I Pool. Last year Collin was invited to a national ID 2 camp in Frisco, Texas for a national team consideration.
Collin is certainly my hero and my inspiration and I’m so fortunate to have him as my son. I hope his story will help other parents and players in similar circumstances to rise above adversity. There is light at the end of the tunnel.