Prose and Kohn: Ryan Kohn.
I’ve never seen the Premier Sports Campus parking lot so filled, cars overflowing April 28 into the United States Postal Service parking lot down the street.
If you drove on State Road 70 this weekend, you noticed an uptick in traffic. The sea of humanity was created by the 2018 Sarasota Cup, a youth soccer tournament hosted by FC Sarasota at Premier. More than 250 boys and girls teams, ranging in age from 8 through 19, arrived in Lakewood Ranch for the event.
Most of the teams were from Florida, but a handful of teams came from outside the state or even the country, such as(FC Shana of Haiti.
The Sarasota Cup is more than just a fun time for the players. It’s important because coaches from 46 colleges were on hand to scout teams U16 and older. Included in those 46 colleges were NCAA Division 1 schools Penn State, Florida Atlantic, Dayton, Wofford, Northern Illinois, Stetson and Mercer.
Those scouts probably loved watching Noah LaBelle, a Lakewood Ranch Chargers U17 player. LaBelle recorded two goals and a beautiful assist in the Chargers’ 4-0 win against the Charlotte County Soccer Federation on Saturday.
LaBelle, who attends Saint Stephen’s Episcopal, doesn't get nervous because scouts are in attendance. Well, he tries not to, anyway.
“Of course, if there’s a penalty kick or free kick, that gets to you a little bit,” LaBelle said. “Other than that, it all comes natural. I’m interested in playing at the next level, so with those coaches here, it’s another reason to play better and give 100% of your heart on the field.”
For the younger age groups, the Sarasota Cup is supposed to be mostly for fun. It becomes less fun, though, when you black out during your second game of the day. That’s what happened to Chargers U11 girls player Annalise Miller.
“I was trying to get the ball, and I got it,” Miller said. “Once I had it, (the defender) shoved me and I turned and fell backward and hit my head. It still hurts a little bit ... probably because I only ate a pretzel today.”
Thankfully, Miller was fine and in good spirits after the game. Her team won its first game and lost its second, and she joked that it would probably tie its third game since that’s what usually happens at tournaments like this.
I’d argue that the result of any of the games is less important than having a good time, which she said she did, despite her collision. Miller likes soccer because she gets to hang with her friends, she said, so the more games the better.
“I’d probably be doing nothing at home, otherwise,” Miller said.
With so many kids staying busy, and having a great time doing it, the Sarasota Cup is a great event. Not only does it encourage players to spend the whole weekend outside, but it gives them a taste of what the recruitment scene looks like, and maybe even open a door at their dream school.
Now if only there was a way to magically reroute traffic, I’d say Premier should should host such events every weekend. Until that happens, a few times a year is a pretty good deal.