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Teams converge for soccer showcase

POSTED: January 24, 2008 5:03 a.m.
GAINESVILLE— Mary Mancin and Tess Patton know a good deal when they see it.

Both of these North Hall High soccer players were among 800 girls on hand at the Allen Creek Soccer Complex on Saturday morning for a special opportunity to take part in an Olympic Development Program soccer camp right here in their own backyard.

This weekend’s camp brought in players from Olympic Development Program teams from Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee for a subregional girls soccer camp to show their skills in real game time in front of coaches from colleges all over the Southeast.

Mancin, a sophomore, took part in this same camp last year in South Carolina. So she jumped at the chance to show her skills in front of college coaches who work hand-in-hand with training the Olympic Development Program teams. Among coaches in Gainesville this weekend were those from Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Marshall, Vanderbilt, Florida State and North Georgia College & State University, among many others.

"Since the ODP coaches are usually college coaches, they look at you a lot more," Mancin said. "It benefits me because it’s given me more looks. College coaches look for the top level players that have played with ODP and it shows a lot of loyalty if you are on the team for more than one year.

"The college coaches don’t really go to high school games and stuff, so being in ODP, it gives me a better chance to be ready for soccer at the next level."

According to Olympic Development Program administrator Melissa Brooks, Allen Creek Soccer Complex, with its nine outdoor fields and seating for 2,500 spectators, is only one of two venues in Georgia large enough to hold such a large scale event.

The Olympic Development Program started in the 1980s to identify a district pool of players in each age group to represent their respective states at the national level.

Brooks also added that college coaches tend to scout heavier from club soccer programs and the Olympic Development Program for future talent.

"For this event, and all the participants we have, we wanted to make sure we had it one venue," Brooks said. "We had to find a place in Georgia that could host this program, and there were two that fit: Allen Creek and Woodruff Farms in Columbus.

"We chose Allen Creek because the fields are outstanding, the facilities are great and there are three concession stands and bathrooms."

As a result of her participation, Mancin said numerous college coaches have been in contact with her, though she doesn’t know if the bigger schools would be a perfect fit.

"It’s always been a dream of mine to go on a scholarship to a great school academically and hopefully help their soccer team do really well and make a difference wherever I go," she said. "Right now, I don’t know if I want to attend a D-I (Division I), D-II or D-III school, because I don’t know where I fit in with that size-wise."But I am looking at Mercer, South Carolina, UNC-Charlotte, Kennesaw State, Columbus State, Georgia State and maybe even North Georgia."

Both Mancin and Patton agreed that playing on their home field gave them an advantage over players just visiting for the weekend.

"Allen Creek is where I started soccer," Patton said. "When you first start soccer, and you play on a new field, your first games usually aren’t that good. But I’m already used to these fields, so it was a lot easier for me to get into the game."

North Georgia College and State University women’s soccer coach Chris Adams said that camps like these are extremely beneficial to everyone.

"It’s almost like Christmas out here," Adams said with a laugh. "These girls are the best of the best. Any player out here can play at any level.

"It’s just a great event."

Vanderbilt coach Ronnie Hill concurred, saying these camps are great because each girl presents something unique.

"Each university wants something different," Hill added. "Sure we like athleticism, physicality and the ability to mix it up, but every school is out here wanting something in particular."It’s just neat to think that some of these girls will be playing in the Olympics one day."

And with such a influx of visitors to the area, hotels were filled to the brim, according to Gainesville-Hall County Convention and Visitors Bureau president Stacey Dickson. By her estimate, this event brought in 1,000 tourists for the two-day event.

"We do a room-night survey as people come in to register," Dickson added. "We had some tourism research done, and we estimate that each tourist averages about $250 spending each day.

"For the visitors to be here for two days, and you figure 1,000 people, then we estimated about $500,000 in direct spending.

"We just want people to realize that events like these are not only great for the athletes, but for the community as well."



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