Thank you to all our Columbia United FC families, players, coaches and volunteers for making our first season such a rewarding experience! While mergers are never pulled-off in glitch-free fashion, and ours was no exception, the patience and perseverance expressed by our membership every step of the way is most appreciated.
One year ago, Columbia United FC did not exist. Today it is the second largest youth soccer club in South Carolina and due to our successes and the efforts of hundreds of dedicated people, Columbia United FC is now well recognized by all in state and regional youth soccer circles. Adhering to our "All Youth-All Soccer-All Levels" mindset, in 2007 Columbia United FC will continue to grow its recreational youth soccer program and improve its operational processes, its community outreach programs and its coaching education opportunities--all important to insuring our recreational players are having the best recreational youth soccer experience possible. In 2007, Columbia United FC will also continue to grow its Academy Soccer Program under the leadership of USSF "A" licensed trainer, Greg Vallee. Fielding 22 quality U9, U10, U11 and U12 teams, the Columbia United FC Academy is the largest compilation of quality U9-U12 youth soccer players from any one club in the Midlands. Indeed, as more and more players are developed from within our recreational and Academy programs, the overall competitive strength of our U13 and higher Select teams will continue to improve.
Our Select Soccer Program, its players and its coaches are to be commended for the manner in which they all have come together under one new club banner and congratulated for the early successes achieved thus far, especially in the face of having to endure the tragic death of Ashley Nicole Dent, a member of our U16 Elite Girls team in August, as well as other misfortunate events for other players and their families. To outline their success:
13 of 15 possible Select teams qualified for the State Challenge Cup playoffs in Fall 2006
6 of 13 teams advanced to the semi-final round.
4 of those 6 advanced to the Championship match in their respective age groups.
Our U16 Elite Girls team was fittingly crowned State Champions.
Our U16 Challenge Boys were crowned State Champions in the Presidents Medal Cup Championship.
In June 2007, these 2 teams advance to Regional play in Oklahoma and Tampa, respectively.
Following a successful fall season, our U15 Elite boys, Champions of the Disney Showcase Qualifier in September, competed during the Christmas break in the highest bracket of the prestigious Disney Showcase Invitational Tournament in Orlando, Florida where they lost 3-1 to the Dallas Texans (the then #3 ranked U15 team in the US), then beat the CASL Elite 1-0 (the then #7 ranked team in the US) and tied the Potomac Internationals 1-1. Equally impressive, our U16 Elite Girls won their bracket at the 10th Annual Orange Classic Invitational Soccer Tournament in Fort Lauderdale where our U18 Elite Girls were also showcasing their talents in front of scores of NCAA Divison I, Division II and Division III college coaches at this annual college recruiting showcase tournament held in South Florida over Christmas.
Looking ahead, as was announced at the Club’s Fall Awards Banquet last month, and commencing with tryouts in May 2007, roster sizes of Columbia United FC Select Elite and Challenge teams will be limited to a preferred size of 15 players (maximum 16), depending on keeper flexibility. By adhering to this approach, all quality players will get more match day touches and it is anticipated that our Challenge and Elite level teams will prove to be even more competitive across the state and region as a result. Aside from the South Carolina Challenge League, our U16 Elite Girls, our U17 Elite Girls and our U18 Elite Boys teams will all be playing in the USYSA Region III Premier League competing against state champions and finalists from across the southeast.
Again, thank you so very much for making our Club what it is today and having the confidence to continue with us as we take it to further heights in the months and years ahead. Columbia, its families and its businesses, your support is indeed greatly appreciated.
In closing, I think it is fitting to cap off the first half of the year’s highlights by including what was read aloud at our Fall Awards Banquet to the four special recipients of the club’s first Annual Ashley Nicole Dent Memorial Scholarship Award.
The Ashley Nicole Dent Memorial Scholarship Award
The Ashley Nicole Dent Memorial Scholarship Award will be given each year to a current Columbia United FC U15 through U17 male and female soccer player who exhibits an unyielding determination to achieve excellence in the classroom, to obtain success on the soccer field and to foster genuine love, support and friendship amongst his and her teammates, coaches and club leadership. The recipient will have all of next year’s club fees, training fees and administrative fees paid by the Club in Ashley’s memory.
While indeed in a club of our size there are scores of young men and women deserving of such an award, it is our hope that by making this award on an annual basis to just two of our many deserving players, it will serve as a reminder to all that scoring goals, winning 50-50s and in the case of a keeper, making great saves, are just a few of the reasons why it is Columbia United FC exists.
When all is said and done and you hang up your cleats one day and look back, I assure you it will not be the individual effort you exuded or the great play you made in any one game that will put the biggest smile on your face. Rather, it will be the memories of your teammates with whom you laughed, with whom you cried and with whom you extended encouraging words when times were tough........for in the game of life, success is best measured by one’s willingness to work hard to be the best you can be and one’s ability to bring people together through the simple expression of a smile.
In this, the inaugural year of our Club, I have taken the executive liberty to award four such scholarships to two very deserving young women and two very deserving young men. It is both an honor and a privilege to announce this year’s recipients of the Ashley Nicole Dent Award:
Current U15 Player Ms. Sarah Haacker
Current U16 Player Ms. Haley Hutchens
Current U15 Player Mr. Davis Powell
Current U17 Player Mr. Tyler Dunmeyer
Please come forward.
Beyond soccer ability, the common thread that runs through each of these young men and women is a thread consisting of leadership, dedication and hard work in everything they do, a willingness to sacrifice themselves for the success of the team, the ability to extend a helping hand to others and practicing the stead fast habit of simply saying “thank you” to people who have made it possible for them to be where they are today. Congratulations to each of you…..you represent, on behalf of scores of other players in our Club, what is right about youth soccer today.