Matthew Moscatello, a Glen Crest Middle School student, had a pretty cool experience over the summer after he was chosen for the Illinois Youth Soccer Association's Olympic Development Program in Rockford. The event draws the best soccer players from around the state.
"The Illinois Olympic Development Program or ODP is the start of the identification process for the National and Olympic Teams.
"The Illinois Youth Soccer Association conducts the program for US Soccer under the jurisdiction of the US Olympic Committee. The purpose of this prestigious program is to identify players on the basis of open tryouts and develop them to represent their state, region, and the United States in soccer competition.
"At the state level, players are selected to participate in pool trainings and competitions against other state teams throughout the winter and based on their performance at those trainings, players are then invited to attend the one-day Illinois ODP State Combine."
After six months of tryouts, competing against children across Illinois for this coveted position, 12-year-old Matthew was selected for the training program in Rockford.
As a rostered Illinois Olympic Development Program player, he can be asked to play for other states, and during the Rockford tournament, he was asked to play for the "Dakota" Team, his mom, Bridget, said.
"It's an honor to be asked to play for another state, and it's common at this level," she said.
Soccer is His Passion
Matthew's participation on the Glen Ellyn Lakers, a competitive soccer team that is ranked No. 1 and is undefeated, no doubt contributed to his success.
Matthew was only 7 when he joined the Lakers. He made the B team in his first year, but it wasn't long before he was moved up to the A team. The team was invited to join the National Premier League, competing against only other Elite teams from up to 11 other regions across the country.
His mom says he has been "obsessed" with soccer his whole life.
"He self-initiaties practice daily and is always in our back yard for two to four hours practicing his skills," she said. "He typically has smaller kids coming over because they want Matt to 'train' them. All he does is practice soccer or play soccer FIFA or watch soccer on TV."
She said his ultimate goal is to play soccer professionally.
"He's always asking to go to overnight soccer camps during the off season so he can improve his game," she said.
And it's not just soccer that he's learning. Team sports teaches him sportsmanship, competition and the ups and downs of winning and losing, she said.
"He learns through these dynamics that it is more important to 'reset' after an error, mistake, loss and move on than to dwell, which is an important life lesson for all."
He also played on a No. 1 baseball team, The Rangers, as pitcher, and plays basketball through a Glenbard South "feeder" program run by South's basketball coach, Wade Hardkte. But he still maintains a solid B or B+ average.
"He is pretty well-rounded," Bridget said. "He also likes to wakeboard, tube, four-wheel and swim with his brother and cousins in the northern woods of Wisconsin.
"Matt is a very active, athletic boy."