ECNL BOYS ATLANTA: READY FOR THE BIG STAGE
This weekend, the 2022-23 national events schedule kicked off with ECNL Boys Atlanta. The event was a unique one as it marked the first time for these U12 and U13 players to experience the excitement and atmosphere of an ECNL event.
Palm Beach United Boys Director, Jonny Frias, described the experience as an invaluable one for his players. “This year, the fact that they’re able to travel together and have an experience together is invaluable,” Frias said. “This is going to be an experience that they’ll take for the rest of their lives.”
Not only was the experience great for his players off the field, but the competition on the field will be important to his team the rest of the year. “The higher-level competition really pushes the kids mentally and physically in all aspects to raise their level,” Frias said. “I think as a group we can go back into training the rest of the year and put this experience as the focal point for how we prepare to grow from this. We’re going to utilize a lot of these experiences for the rest of the season.”
Novi Marojevic, president and director of coaching at Indiana Elite FC, echoed those same sentiments that the competition level early on would help his team improve as they move forward with their season.
“These kinds of events we’re facing some of the greatest clubs in the country,” Marojevic said. “This is going to help them. To experience high level soccer, knowing they need to challenge themselves and work hard enough to be able to compete on this level.”
Not only did the weekend provide competitive games for Indiana Elite, but Marojevic said it was just an enjoyable weekend for his players to play on such a big stage. “Definitely this is a huge honor, and they just enjoy it. They enjoy the league and enjoy the competition.”
The professionalism around an ECNL event is also something that really stood out throughout the weekend. From pristine fields to the unique ECNL signage, these elements all elevate the experience for players. United Futbol Academy U13 head coach, Dan Dawson, noted that not only is the competition important, but having his young players see that level of professionalism is also important for their development.
“The level of competition is a step above what they’ve played in the past, and then obviously playing against teams from other states, other conferences is also a great measure of where we are playing,” Dawson said. “The level of professionalism that follows everything is a good start for them moving forward.”
That level of professionalism does not just come from the league though. Going to a big event and seeing how other teams prepare and carry themselves was a great learning experience for all the players this weekend.
“It’s important that they learn how to prepare for games because there’s other games going on,” Dawson said. “They focused on their game. They arrive on time, and they represent the club in the best way that we would like them to, because there are other great clubs at these events, and everyone is looking at everyone else. We want to be a club that stands out for doing the right thing.”