MANATEE COUNTY — At the time, Braden River Middle School seventh-graders Christian Womeldorph and Callum Baldwin had no idea they were being watched.
The two 12-year-olds simply maneuvered up and down their respective soccer fields working on drills, as they would during any other practice. Only during this particular spring practice, all eyes were on the two former Braden River Soccer Club teammates.
Luckily, Womeldorph and Baldwin didn’t feel the pressure they otherwise may have felt had they known they were practicing in front of a scout. And, the boys’ talents paid off as the two were selected to play for the 12-and-under SuperClubs National Team July 31 through Aug. 11 in England.
“It’s crazy,” said Baldwin, who plays goalkeeper for the Braden River Soccer Club. “It’s really exciting. I didn’t believe it at first. It’s a dream come true.”
Womeldorph, who plays center midfield for Wesley Chapel, agreed.
“I didn’t think it was real at first,” he said. “I didn’t know I was being scouted.”
During their 12-day tour, Womeldorph and Baldwin will train twice a day with the rest of their SuperClubs National Team teammates in preparation for their five games against some of England’s top academy teams, including Birmingham City.
In addition, the boys will have the opportunity to tour Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, attend a West Ham United versus Deportivo La Coruna soccer game and explore downtown Chester and London.
“I’m looking forward to playing Birmingham City because they’re in the English Premier League, and I (believe) they’re the best team we’ll play,” Baldwin said.
Womeldorph began playing soccer when he was 3 years old after his father, Geoff, a former collegiate soccer player, started teaching him how to kick a soccer ball around when he was barely old enough to walk.
“I like the passion and excitement that’s in each game,” Womeldorph said. “It’s not boring like other sports.”
Baldwin, a native of England, took up the sport a year later.
“Growing up in England, soccer was a big thing,” Baldwin said. “So when the opportunity came for me to be on a team I just took it.
“I like how it’s fast-paced and exciting,” he added. “It’s fun to play and you can basically play it anywhere in the world.”
Shortly after moving to Florida from England in 2005, Baldwin joined the Braden River Soccer Club, where he and Womeldorph were on the same competitive team. The two boys played on the same U9 and U10 teams; and now after having spent the past two years on separate teams the boys are eager to be teammates once again.
“It’s good to have someone on the team that you know,” Baldwin said. “And if my players aren’t listening to me then he’ll be able to help me out.”
“It’ll be nice to have a friend over there,” he said.
In preparation for their tour of England, the two boys have spent the offseason practicing with a U15 team three nights a week. Baldwin also spends four to five nights a week working on goalkeeper training.
Now the two are hoping their hard work will pay off, as the two prepare to face some of England’s top Youth Professional Academy teams.
“It’s only once in a lifetime,” Womeldorph said. “It’s a very rare (opportunity).”
“I expect it to be an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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