Timbers Academy Training, 9.20.12
Photo by L.M. Parr

An opportunity hundreds of miles from home

The Timbers Academy teams kicked off their inaugural 2012-13 U.S. Soccer Development Academy seasons this fall. In the beginning, Academy Directors and head coaches Mike Smith and Adam Smith had the task of putting together all the pieces. Most importantly, they took on the task of putting together a squad of young talent from the ground up.

For many of the players selected to the rosters for the Timbers U-18 and U-16 teams, the opportunity came close to home. But for a select few, they found themselves moving hundreds of miles from home to pursue the opportunity to develop as soccer players in the Timbers Academy.

“Seeing these boys give the sacrifice of leaving home is a good reminder to all of us,” said Timbers U-18 Academy head coach Adam Smith. “It’s a reminder to not take what we love so much for granted. These players give their best right alongside their teammates. It’s really commendable to watch them grow and bond as individuals, friends and teammates.”

In total, seven Timbers Academy players have relocated from their hometowns, some as far as Southern Oregon, Montana, Nevada and Utah. They have left behind the comforts of home, school and friends, to the Portland metro area, staying with teammates, relatives or host families.

“Being able to play at such a high level and sacrifice things to help me reach my goal of playing (professionally) is really big,” said Timbers U-16 goalkeeper Joe Wheelwright, who is 750 miles from his hometown of Pleasant View, Utah. “It is a really good opportunity for me to grow.”

In new surroundings, Wheelwright and the others who have relocated have settled into their new daily routine of school, training and homework. As with any life change, it can be difficult.

“There are highs and lows with this type of commitment,” said Wheelwright. “I recently have been feeling home sick, but the coaches we have on our staff have helped me keep my head up and striving to succeed.”

Midfielder Sam Werner moved from Bozeman, Mont., to live with his grandparents in the Portland-metro area so he could join the Timbers U-18s. He knew that the challenges of leaving home would come his way.

“The first week or so was a huge adjustment for me, especially coming from Montana,” said Werner. “It’s really been a worthwhile sacrifice with what the academy here can give me.”

As the Timbers Academy teams get settled into their long season, which goes into the month of June, the Timbers U-18s and U-16s are beginning to find their form, with players from both near and far stepping up to the challenge.