CONWAY — Two Mount Washington Valley Soccer Club players continue to hone their crafts by playing the beautiful game year round for both the club and in the Olympic Development Program.
Sophie Kummer and Luna Barrionuevo, both of Fryeburg, have suited up for the U17 N.H. ODP and U17 Maine ODP teams, respectively. The girls, who are teammates on the Fryeburg Academy soccer team, would like to eventually play collegiate soccer and see ODP as the right path to help them realize their dreams.
According to the New Hampshire Soccer Associations’ website, the Olympic Development Program, “is a national identification and development program designed to identify youth soccer players throughout the country, to represent their state (N.H.) association, region and the United States in a soccer competition. ODP teams are formed at the state and regional levels made up of the best players in various age groups. At the state association level, pools of players are identified in each eligible age group and brought together as a team to develop their skill through training and competition. From the state pools and subsequent teams, players are identified for regional and national pools and teams.”
For Kummer, who will be a senior at the Academy this fall, ODP has meant a commitment. She took part in a five-week play session in October and November, playing at least on Sundays. From there, she was asked if she would like to play in the ODP winter session in Milford, which was nearly three hours away.
“There were eight to 10 sessions of that throughout the winter,” Kummer, 17, who played left and right back and out on the flank for the N.H. team and most likely will be in the midfield for the Raiders this fall, said.
Barrionuevo, 16, who will be a junior at FA, tried out in Portland, Maine, for the Maine ODP squad on her own.
“I met people and thought this was really cool,” Barrionuevo, who plays in the midfield, said. “There wasn’t a lot of talking, just a lot of games.”
From the winter sessions, ODP formed state teams which Kummer and Barrionuevo played for in a tournament this spring in Delaware. Kummer’s side was competitive in three matches against Eastern Pennsylvania, Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, but went winless June 7-9.
The tournament attracted Division I college coaches.
Barrionuevo was able to make it to one match for Team Maine but is also playing for the Portland-based Typhoons. She will travel to Sweden on July 11 for 10 days with the Typhoons to play in the prestigious Gothia Cup, which, according to its website is “is the largest and most international youth soccer tournament in the world. Every year more than 1,700 teams participate.”
Both say there are subtle differences between playing for MWV and doing ODP.
“The differences with MWV and ODP are that you have to adapt more in ODP because you don’t have as much practice time with the players so you have to adapt your styles more easily,” said Kummer. “Also, the mental game is more different because I feel there is more pressure to perform well.”
“It’s stressful,” Barrionuevo said., smiling. “You can’t let it get to you, which I tend to do. It’s a game, it shouldn’t become work. As long as I think like that I’m fine.”
The goals of ODP are: “To identify a pool of players in each age group from which a United States National Team will be selected for international competition; to provide high-level training to benefit and enhance the development of players at all levels; and through the use of carefully selected and licensed coaches, develop mechanism for the enhancement of ideas and curriculum to improve all levels of coaching.”
Players are selected, in Maine and New Hampshire, on the basis of open tryouts, which are held in late summer and early fall. “These tryouts are conducted by the state association coaches who are recognized for their ability to identify and train players with superior skills,” the website states.
Barrionuevo said she fell for the sport when she was four, making a smooth transition from dance.
“My dad (Antonio Barrionuevo, head coach of the Fryeburg Academy girls’ soccer team) loved that I liked soccer,” she said. “He was never the one who made me play soccer, it was kind of my own thing.”
Kummer said she picked up the sport when she was four or five and attend Bob Hodgman-Burns’ annual Fryeburg Soccer Camp.
“I don’t really know why I like it, but it’s something that I really enjoy,” she said. “It’s fun. With a lot of other sports, they’re just physical but with soccer, I feel like you have to have a mental game as well. You have to be thinking about where exactly you need to be on the field. There is a lot of strategy and decision-making when you are playing.”
David Hart, technical director for the MWV Soccer Club, said he has seen the benefits of the ODP program and recommends it. Both Barrionuevo and Kummer agree its a path worth traveling.
“I feel most kids should try to go to the next level,” Kummer said. “A lot of people don’t challenge themselves enough and they’re not going to grow as much in the sport. I think it’s really important to put yourself out there and try new things and ODP is a great way to do that.”
“I think there is a lot of opportunity in it,” Barrionuevo added.