BANGOR – Reaching the English Premier League is the pinnacle of soccer success, and several local players were given a small taste of what suiting up for a squad of that caliber might be like.
“Anytime that players see other players getting an opportunity to go and play at a higher level, it’s going to create a buzz,” River City Athletics director of coaching MJ Ball said this week.
A select group of teenagers were brought in, invite-only, to participate in Wolverhampton’s U.S. Academy clinic at Dorothea Dix Park in Bangor. There, they had their skills evaluated through several intense drills by members of the Wolverhampton U.S. Academy staff.
“We’re really fortunate,” Bangor’s Mackenzie Harvey said. “And it’s super exciting as a club to be able to experience to have people come in and play for us, and coach us, and help us learn and become better soccer players.”
If the players reached the criteria Wolverhampton is looking for, they may be selected to fly to Georgia and train at Wolverhampton’s U.S. Academy. If they stand out there? They’ll go to England to work hands on with Wolves coaches. Ball said that while competition may be limited in Maine, if the training and development begins early enough, players could be destined for stardom.
“What we’ve found in the past is if we have a good 16, 17, 18-year-old, once they get over to England, they’re a dime a dozen. So they need to find those kids early.”
Oliver Pannell, the development coach on hand, agreed with Ball’s assessment that location does not hinder a player’s potential, as long as they demonstrate the necessary skillset.
“There is a clear pathway, and it’s proven, it’s happened before,” he said during his first visit to Maine. “So it’s great for me to be somewhere I haven’t been before, to meet some new players and kids.”
Even if they don’t make the big leagues? Participating in the camp still demonstrates an advanced commitment to the sport.
“it gives them a great understanding of who they’re coming up against and what level they have to be at,” Ball said. So I think it’s great for them. They’ll see, not from this week, but if they do get invited, they’ll see what level they do need to be at.”