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Braden River Soccer Club serves 1,500 Sarasota, Manatee kids

Players on both the recreational and competitive teams form family-type bonds.

Abby Frint, Giselle Bostock and Allison Stibral have become good friends through the Braden River Soccer Club. The girls said a trip to regionals in North Carolina solidified their bond even more.
Abby Frint, Giselle Bostock and Allison Stibral have become good friends through the Braden River Soccer Club. The girls said a trip to regionals in North Carolina solidified their bond even more.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer
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As Giselle Bostock was wheeled onto the soccer field by her dad, Jack, only a day after having an appendectomy, her teammates stopped practicing and ran to her side. 

“You have a built-in family when you’re on a soccer team,” teammate Abby Frint said.

The girls play for the Braden River Soccer Club, a nonprofit organization that serves about 1,500 girls and boys in Sarasota and Bradenton each year. The club offers recreational, competitive and Top Soccer, which serves children and adults with intellectual, emotional or physical disabilities. 

The soccer fields are well-groomed and massive, occupying 42 acres behind Lakewood Ranch High School. 

Children can start playing as young as 4 years old. Giselle Bostock is in ninth grade. She started playing in sixth grade, which she called a late start. Her 12-year-old brother, Xavier Bostock, plays, too. 

“It was important for us to be somewhere where it felt like a community,” Jack Bostock said. “It's been 25 years now that Braden River has been a presence in Manatee County.” 

Giselle Bostock is surrounded by her coach and teammates. She can't practice tonight due to an appendectomy, but Bostock will be back in cleats as soon as possible.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

Xavier Bostock is still playing in the recreational league, while Giselle Bostock has moved to the competitive league. 

There are 16 games per season when playing competitively, half of which are away games. The furthest the family has had to travel in season is to Wellington in Palm Beach County. Most games are within an hour and a half drive. When Giselle Bostock’s team played its way to the regional tournament, the family hit the road to North Carolina.  

Jack Bostock doesn’t mind traveling because the club’s affiliation with the Elite Clubs National League gives his daughter a chance to play in front of college scouts. The ECNL also has its own scholarship program for its members.

As a dad, Bostock’s only intention when signing his kids up was for them to have fun and be a part of a team, but as his daughter moved quickly up the ranks from recreational to competitive, his perspective began to shift. 

“A lot of college scouting and recruiting happens through the ECNL,” he said. “So if you’re going to play somewhere and you’re going to devote your time and energy, you want it to be somewhere where you can potentially get some type of exposure and benefits out of it.”

While most parents pay for their children to play with the Braden River Soccer Club, because it's a nonprofit, the club offers a robust scholarship program. 

“We do a lot of scholarships for kids who can’t afford to play but want to play,” Club Administrator Gemma Gallaway said. “We’re very big on making sure that everyone who wants to play can play.” 

Pricing varies between leagues, but the club relies heavily on volunteers and does a steady amount of fundraising to offset the costs. 

Giselle Bostock is greeted by her soccer teammates after having an appendectomy the day before. "They make me feel better," Bostock said.
Photo by Lesley Dwyer

In return, players receive specialized training, learn teamwork and make lasting friendships. 

“I’m still a little hurt, but I just wanted to be out with my team,” Giselle Bostock said from her wheelchair. “They make me feel better.” 

The girls practice together three times a week, and clearly felt Bostock's absence. They flocked around her wheelchair, offering hugs and well wishes, which Gallaway said was an example of what's truly at the heart of the club.

“They love each other like a family. They’re a little soccer family,” Gallaway said. “A lot of these kids started off in the recreational and they built themselves up to be great players.”



Lesley Dwyer

Lesley Dwyer is a staff writer for East County and a graduate of the University of South Florida. After earning a bachelor’s degree in professional and technical writing, she freelanced for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Lesley has lived in the Sarasota area for over 25 years.

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