Top Alaska Rush players invited to international soccer tournaments
One of the best things about Alaska Rush is its commitment to seeing its players reach their very best in potential – even if that means leaving their teammates behind. Bec
ause it is part of a national and international organization, Rush is able to monitor all of its players progress and direct them in the appropriate setting to help them achieve success.
That’s how 12-year-old Samantha “Jo” Sees of Eagle River found herself in Italy this past March, playing against some of the best girls her age in the sport.
Getting there was not a simple process. Alaska Rush has an elite-level program called Rush Select. If you get to Rush Select, you play with the very best from all of Rush Soccer – the largest youth soccer club in the world, with more than 40,000 players nationwide and two dozen international partner clubs. These all-star teams are comprised of players who have been identified by their coaches and recommended for the team. Sees’ journey started there, where she played in a type of tryout in Arizona before being selected for the team. She returned a few months later for the prestigious President’s Day Tournament, and then set her sights on Italy.
“I was nervous for the President’s Day Tournament; I wasn’t as nervous for Italy,” said Sees of her rise from local play, to national and now international. “The first thing I noticed is the speed of play. It’s a lot faster and I had to adjust to that.”
Also challenging, Sees said, is adapting to play with an entirely new group of players and taking cues from different coaches.
“Some coaches want you to push in and other coaches want you to stay wide,” she said. “I feel like I’ve definitely had to grow in being able to make changes fast.”
It’s one of the advantages of the Rush Program, said Dan Rufner, Sees’ coach in Anchorage. The more opportunities an athlete has to acquire new skills, the more prepared they will be for better play.
In Italy, Sees spent a week training and practicing with her American teammates, who hailed from such places as Texas, Colorado, Hawaii, Virginia, Tennessee, New Mexico and beyond. Each girl comes to the team with her own style of play, and Sees said she noticed right away the differences.
“We had to talk a lot,” she said of the first few days of practice together.
During her week in Italy, Sees and her teammates carved out time for some fun, too. High on their list of priorities was finding authentic Italian gelato (Sees verdict: “Ice cream is still better”) and scoring a buttery soft Italian leather jacket.
“The coolest place we went was Bellagio,” Sees said. “We took a boat across Lake Como and it was super cute with narrow streets and buildings.”
Now that she’s back home, Sees hopes to practice some of her skills with her Alaska teammates.
“Because I know the speed of play is so much faster and the girls down there know exactly what they’re doing, I can now incorporate that into Alaska play,” she said.
She won’t be alone. Sees plays on the boys team here in Alaska and two of her 04 teammates, Sasha DeVassie and Dewin Vazquez, left in April for Italy’s Montecatini Cup.