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Kicking It Forward

U.S. National player holds clinic

Approximately 75 of the village’s best young soccer players got to experience what it is like to play with one of the best players in the world. On a recent Friday evening, the Garden City Centennials held a clinic given by U.S. National Team player Heather O’Reilly for the Under 10–12 girls travel teams. O’Reilly began her career with her first international goal in 2002 and has been a key player in three Olympic gold medal wins and two World Cups, as well as owning the longest consecutive games played for the U.S. Women’s team.

The 90-minute clinic was focused on giving the youngsters an idea of what it’s like to perform side by side with a professional athlete in a sport they love. From the time Heather arrived to the minute she left, the girls were in awe, not only of her fantastic soccer abilities but of her demeanor. O’Reilly demonstrated to the girls that you have to have passion, commitment and dedication to succeed in all you do. She told them that coaches will eventually notice a great attitude, and they respect that.

After running the girls through a series of three different drills, O’Reilly spent some time talking to the girls and answering some very focused questions. The girls got a kick out of hearing what her most memorable moment was as O’Reilly related “it was when I was able to score the winning goal in the Olympic semi-final match off a pass from my hero Mia Hamm. And the best part about it was the fact that I didn’t score about five minutes earlier on a clean shot and Mia encouraged me to hang in there, it will come. And it certainly did! So if there’s one thing I would tell a young girl starting out, it would be to hang in there no matter what – it will come.”

O’Reilly also spoke of how she fit in on the national team since she started playing so young, “Every time I’ve competed in the Olympics, it’s obviously been a different role on the team. In 2004, I was probably the last player chosen on that team. I was just a young kid, only 19, I was just happy to be there and happy to contribute and play with some of my idols like Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, those legends of the game. Then in 2008, my role grew and now I’m seen as a veteran player. So my role has grown even more to guiding players like Alex Morgan through her first Olympic Games and share what I’ve learned in my games.”

As O’Reilly closed out the evening, she posed for pictures and signed autographs for each of the girls along with photos, soccer balls, playing cards, cleats and jerseys.