Stars share inspiration with young footballers

Indi Cowie helps a young camper with some freestyle skills.

Young footballers were given words of inspiration, as they got to interact with three professionals from the United States, who were on island for the Dinner for a Dream and Arie Smith Football Camp hosted by the Dream Out Loud Foundation this week.

The specially invited guests were Allie Long, the US national women’s team and fellow professional, Sofia Huerta. Also joining them was Indi Cowie, a Guinness World Record-holding freestyle footballer.

“I always wanted to give back through football,” said Smith, a Cayman Islands national women’s team player, who recalls starting early attending Scholars International camps as a child.

“Football has given me so much, from friendships to university and travelling…so, for me to be able to give back through the sport that I love is great.”

L-R: Sofia Huerta, Allie Long, Indi Cowie, Arie Smith.

Long said she was delighted to return for a second straight year. “You always want to give back. Just remember where you started. I was just one of these kids growing up. What Arie is doing is really special and I think it is a great thing to be a part of.”

At the Dinner for a Dream on 17 December, the invited trio spoke intimately with those gathered for the event, including a number of young female players.

“You’re going to hit a point in your life where you feel like things aren’t going the way that you planned or that you might fail, but I think that those are the moments that you need to define who you are – they will either make you or break you,” said Long, who plays professionally for the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League.

“Not because a failure happens, never let one coach’s opinion define you and not let one failure stop you from going after your dreams and what’s in your heart,” she encouraged the youngsters.

Campers were filled with questions for the star guests.

Meantime, Cowie, who would wow nearly 100 campers with a display of skills and tricks at the Ed Bush Sports Complex the following day, explained how setbacks are all part of the process to achieving their dreams.

“The best thing about failing is that once you actually get to your goal is that the feeling is so rewarding. If you’ve got that every time or the first time, there would be no reward or no gratification from it. So, if you keep at it…then the feeling that you get it will be amazing,” the 23-year-old Nike-affiliated athlete said.

Also, offering words of inspiration was Huerta, who famously made the switch of national teams from Mexico to the United States earlier this year. She’s from Idaho but with a Mexican father, she was offered a spot to represent Mexico as a youth but later switched to fulfil her dream of representing the land of her birth.

“Never give up, which sounds cliché, but growing up no one ever thought that I could play professionally because I’m from a very small town,” she told the players at the dinner, in a message that should resonate with them because of Cayman’s small geographic size.

Sofia Huerta and Arie Smith.

“It doesn’t matter where you are from and never give up and don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If you believe you can do it, just believe in yourself and go forth with your dreams,” Huerta, who plays professionally for the Chicago Red Stars.

Huerta, who made her debut for the US senior team this year, also encouraged athletes who want to further their development to embrace opportunities to go college or university “because you grow so much as a player and a person”.

That message is likely to stick with two players who have represented the Cayman Islands at the Under-15 level and were in attendance. Ashley Ebanks, 15, and Brianna Poy-Fong, 16, are being sponsored by Smith’s Dream Out Loud Foundation to visit Lander University in South Carolina to meet coaches and hopefully land a spot on the roster for the NCAA Division II school.

Smith with Ashley Ebanks (left) and Brianna Poy-Fong (right).

“I’ve seen they also have the same passion for the game that I do,” Smith said. “They work hard off the field. You see them before training getting in extra laps and after training, they’re running additional laps and taking free kicks.”

Pointing out that they are not only promising footballers but good students, Smith added: “I hope these two get to play at the highest level and get their education through football because academics, at the end of the day, will be the most important aspect for them going forward.”

As part of preparation for the visit, Smith arranged free one-month gym memberships for the duo.

Below: Photos from the camp

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