Soccer academy building on summer success |

Soccer academy building on summer success

Members of the 2016 Scandia United Soccer Academy team pose for a photo while in Iceland this summer.
Courtesy photo |

Playing as many as four soccer games a day was an exhausting experience for eighth-grader Riley Puckett. But, considering the stage, it was all worth it.

“It was a life experience because it’s pretty amazing to play with people all over the world. I just thought it was really fun,” said Puckett, who attends Aspen Community School in Woody Creek. “I definitely improved on my soccer. I got to see a lot of things that I hadn’t seen before. I hope to go back.”

Puckett was part of the Scandia United Soccer Academy team that traveled to Europe this summer to compete in a couple of international tournaments. The academy, based out of Glenwood Springs, provides a unique experience for talented youth soccer players — boys and girls — from across the country.

“It’s based in Glenwood, but it’s really a national academy, if you will,” said Brad Jordan, a longtime soccer coach in the Roaring Fork Valley who is the co-director of the academy. “Our academy is more for the youth in America to have the opportunity to travel abroad, sightsee, and play a lot of soccer, and for the cultural exchange.”

Jordan and the academy took 29 kids — ages 11 to 17 — to tournaments in Denmark and Sweden over the summer. Of the 29, more than half the players came from the Roaring Fork Valley. Scandia United also has academies based out of Hawaii and Denmark, with players from those clubs helping round out the tournament teams, along with a few others from California and Nevada.

“It’s really cool to see the different ways they’ve learned how to play soccer from this way of playing soccer here in America,” said Glenwood Springs 10th-grader Malia Baltzer. “When I went the first year, I definitely improved. I gained more confidence. The second year just boosted that confidence even more and I’ve grown so much as a soccer player.”

Baltzer didn’t join the club overseas this past summer, but did compete the two summers prior and hopes to return for a third trip next year. The two tournaments the academy competes in each year include Denmark’s Cup No. 1, considered more of a warm-up to the second tournament a week later, the prestigious Gothia Cup in Sweden.

And this summer, Scandia United’s 16s girls team had one of its best showings, winning the smaller Cup No. 1, before taking second out of 81 teams in the Gothia Cup. The team it lost to had four Swedish national team players competing for it. Scandia United had one Danish national team player competing for it.

“Gothia was the real deal. It felt like the World Cup to me. We got to play with so many different players and so many different skill levels,” said Delaney Card, a Basalt eighth grader who competed on the second-place team this summer. “I’ve always wanted to play with national players and experience the different levels of play everywhere in the world. Two years ago I saw this camp and I was really interested. I was setting my sights on going.”

Jordan has already started making arrangements for the 2017 trip — complete with the usual sightseeing adventure to LEGOLAND and a tour of Iceland — and is in the process of finding players. Scandia United hosts a camp each summer as well as other training opportunities throughout the year.

Becoming part of the traveling team is by invitation only, but Jordan does encourage anyone interested to reach out. Sunday from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Basalt Regional Library, Scandia United will hold a meet and greet where interested players and their parents can learn more about the academy.

“We are not looking for just the recreational player; we are looking for someone who wants an experience,” Jordan said. “For us, it’s about the kids. Everything we do revolves around the kids. It revolves around their health; it revolves around their diet; it revolves around keeping them healthy during training.”

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