Soccer players swap Durango for Albuquerque

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Kate McKinnis, Reporter

When you are as talented and passionate as some of the athletes of Durango High School, it is important to expand your horizons in order to reach the highest possible level of competition and skill possible. Some of these students include So. Jael Larson, So. Emily Badgley and Fr. Kyla Tucker. These girls travel down to Albuquerque every Friday to practice and play for other competitive club teams. They also played for DYSA (Durango Youth Soccer Association) in Durango.

“There are so many pros and cons of traveling; the New Mexico league is a lot more competitive than DYSA is. When you go down to play for Albuquerque, the intensity is always there and it never stops running,” said Tucker.

Traveling has improved many of these players skills and presented unique opportunities to these dedicated athletes. They gain more touches on the ball and will find more places to play in college. These girls’ footwork has improved and will continue improving with the added playing time.

“Traveling has helped me a lot because I am playing at a higher level. Also, playing teams from around the country has helped me find opportunities. Playing for Albuquerque and DYSA has helped keep me in shape for the High School season,” said Larson.

Many soccer players start at a young age and begin developing their skills. Emily Badgley began playing soccer when she was only four years old.

“I started with Parks and Recreation when I was four and began my goalkeeper career when I was eight. I choose to try goalkeeper because I thought it would be fun. I just fell in love with the position” said Badgley.

By choosing to play in Albuquerque, these players have had many experiences to raise their skill level to a higher point. DYSA can only do so much for them because Durango is such a small town.

Many athletes play for DYSA, however, most of what goes on in the background isn’t noticed. Amanda Raso, the director of goalkeeping for DYSA, has also helped to direct the U-13 (7th grade) to U-19 (12th grade) age group.

“Our area limits us, so traveling to bigger cities allows for more opportunities and more coaches to help develop our skills. I wouldn’t recommend it to players who don’t want to play college, but if they want to, go for it. Most colleges are looking for all around players, good students, understanding of the field, etc,” said Raso.

However, the players don’t all enjoy DYSA and feel as though the environment isn’t competitive enough or worth the time commitment. Many players stop playing after they reach the middle school age. The desire to play can fade as many more important things come up in an athlete’s life.

“DYSA is kind of a joke after U-12 and caused my desire to play to lessen. Albuquerque was refreshing and challenging and it’s a major reason I enjoy playing soccer to this day,” said Badgley.

Many coaches that help coach for DYSA are parents or volunteers. Most of them only have their basic license and have had 2-3 years of soccer experience. Although, this is only for the younger teams, these coaches are the ones that set up the foundation for these athletes’ futures.

“DYSA is great, but sometimes the coaches aren’t the best. Sure, they provide us with skills, but once we go to tournaments we look like fools. However, most the time it’s because the teams mess around during practice, but it’s also because some coaches are confused,” said a player who asked to remain anonymous.

Teams appreciate the coaches of DYSA, but some players also feel like they’re not getting their money’s worth.

“There isn’t any sort of toughness with some coaches. I have to say that one of my favorite coaches was Darren McKinnis because he yelled at us, but he made our team stronger and tougher. One thing that I remember him saying is, ‘I’m going to make you run until you puke!’ This has stuck with me and I will always remember those days,” said another anonymous player.

Those that travel to play agree that Albuquerque coaches are tough and strict, but when their teams go to tournaments, it pays off.

“My Albuquerque coach is a bit of a screamer; while that sounds awful it has helped me handle any kind of coaching style headed my way,” said Badgley.