B'ville soccer player aims high

Erin Smith 08/13/08More articles
A passion and talent for soccer has sent Jackie Firenze to Ireland.

After trying out and being selected at the state, regional then national level, the 14-year-old Durgee student traveled to Ireland this week to participate in the United States Olympic Development Program, which is designed to identify and advance talented and passionate youth players and develop U.S. Olympic soccer teams. There, Jackie will play with the U.S. Olympic Development Region I Team against two Irish youth National Teams in Dublin and several Premier Soccer clubs in Ireland.

“I am so excited and so honored to have been selected to the team and to go to Ireland,” she said. “It is a great experience to play with talented players from all over the country. It has showed me that I need to keep working real hard because there are a lot of very, very good soccer players out there.”

As a center midfielder, Jackie is a member of both the Baldwinsville Varsity Girls Soccer team, which she made as an eighth-grader last year, and the Empire United Soccer Academy (formerly the Syracuse Football Club). This is her third year as a member of the ODP Region I team, which allows her to reconnect with old teammates.

“A couple of the girls going I met at regional ODP camp last year, and some of us went to California together last summer at a national training camp.”

Jackie said her passion and influence lies both with her parents, who introduced the young protégé to soccer at 4-years-old, and the many coaches who have helped train her throughout the years.

“My parents started me young. I became passionate about soccer as soon as I got to play. It is a fast paced game, and its physical and the rules are the same for boys and girls,” she said.

Her father confirmed that it has always been soccer for Jackie.

“Jackie tried other sports like gymnastics, softball, and lacrosse, but nothing compared to her passion for soccer,” Greg said.

Sharing her knowledge
When selected as an ODP Region I team member this year, Jackie was given the task of organizing a fundraiser to cover some travel expenses.

“[We] were asked to think of creative ways to raise money to help with the cost of the trip,” Jackie said. “I thought that it would be cool to have a soccer clinic where I could teach younger players in my community about soccer.”

With the help of her family and coaches, Jackie organized a soccer clinic for girls and boys in first through fifth grades, which was held July 30 to Aug. 1 at the town of Lysander’s Spence Field. Participants were asked for donations to participate ($10 a day or $25 for three days).

“I led the clinic mostly, but I had a huge help from my club Coach Mike Paolini, my sister Emma, my mom and dad and my high school coach Kathy Morse even came to help,” she said.

Jackie developed the format for the clinic, which focused on the importance of ball mastery and creativity with moves.

“I taught the players a lot about skills that I've learned such as footwork, moves, passing, receiving, and shielding the ball,” Jackie said.

With a turnout of 37 players, Jackie’s clinic proved to be fruitful while also giving back to the game she loves so much.

“I had a lot of fun and I think the players had fun too,” she said about the clinic. “I could see the players trying the skills that I taught them. I even picked a “worker of the day” for a boy and a girl who worked on the skills the most that day. I gave them a medal for working hard. That part made me feel good.”

All in the family
Jackie isn’t the only one with soccer in her blood. As instructors for Jackie’s clinic, her mother, Kelly, and sister, Emma, also excel in the sport.

Emma, who will be an eighth grader at Durgee this fall, was named to her second regional team earlier this month and was the youngest player selected to the ODP Region I pool last year. Emma also played with her sister on the 2008 u14 Empire United Soccer Academy.

Kelly, a former Oswego State Women’s team coach, played soccer in college where she became a first team all conference player. She currently coaches the Syracuse Football Club u12 girls.

“Jackie has many supportive family members, coaches and wonderful teammates who have contributed to her overall success and development as a player,” Kelly said.

Goals and pastimes
Jackie hopes to attend the University of North Carolina to play soccer when she graduates.

“We are very proud of Jackie and we always try to instill in her that if she sets her goals high and works her hardest, good things will come,” Greg said. “We remind her that it does take time and that she will have to do extra, and more than the expected to keep developing.”

Her ultimate goal is to play professional soccer.

“I hear that a women's professional league is going to start up again in the U.S. and I'd love to be able to play in it someday,” she said.

On the rare occasion when Jackie isn’t thinking soccer, she’s taking it easy in a rather peculiar manner.

“I love the outdoors and I love to go hunting for frogs,” she said.

CATEGORY: Soccer (Football)
EDITION: Baldwinsville Messenger

Rating: 2.6/5 (17 votes cast)

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