By Kari Jim
Every year, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Center located in Orlando Florida, holds a country-wide elite soccer showcase. And this past Thanksgiving, I had the chance to go. I have been playing soccer since I was 5 years old, and have been dreaming of going to this tournament ever since I first heard of it.
This year my soccer team, PA Rush, qualified for the Disney Showcase Tournament. We have been trying to get in for the past two years and finally, our wish came true. When my team first found out we were going to this showcase, we were all so excited. We knew we were going to have fun on this trip, but we weren’t expecting to have as much fun as we did.
We scheduled our flight to be on the last day before Thanksgiving break officially started. We arrived in Orlando around 8 o’clock that Tuesday. Only a couple of my teammates were already at the hotel so we decided to meet up with them. I remember not being able to sleep at all that first night, because I was too excited for the next couple of days.
Wednesday was our only full day with nothing planned. Since we didn’t have any games scheduled for Wednesday, we decided to do something fun. Some of the girls went to Animal Kingdom while some went to Universal Studios. I was one of the few that went to Universal (and we had more fun than the girls that went to Animal Kingdom). We spent the whole day—from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.—walking around, going on practically every ride we could. We didn’t even realize how late it was until we saw people clearing the roads, getting ready for what looked to be a parade. And it was in fact a parade—a Christmas parade. The parade lasted for a good 30 minutes and then we decided to finally go back to the hotel and get some rest. The next day would be our first game and we honestly had no idea what to expect.
Walking into the ESPN Wide World of Sports Center the next day, no one imagined it would look the way it did. We walked past the widely recognized big red globe, and it looked like we were walking into a 5-star resort. There were palm trees lining every sidewalk and there was an overwhelming sense of elite competition. With too many soccer fields to count, it took us almost 15 minutes to find our playing field.
After warming up and walking over to the players side of the field, my teammates and I looked over to the sidelines to find many college coaches already seated and ready to watch us play. I was already nervous to begin with, and knowing that there were college coaches watching, made me even more nervous. But the game went pretty well: we ended up winning 2-1. By the time the game was over it was nearing 5:00, and everyone was hungry for some Thanksgiving dinner back at our hotel. Our whole team sat at one long table, enjoying our food, grateful for the opportunity to be in Orlando, and talking about how excited we were for our next game.
The next day we had to get up early for our game. Although we were feeling very confident, we lost the game 3-1. None of us were too mad though, because we knew we played well. And since our game was early in the morning, everyone was too excited to go to a park afterwards. Most of my team decided to go to Magic Kingdom. Once arriving at the park, we realized that any other day would have been better to be in Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The sidewalks were so crowded; it took us 20 minutes to just get past the entrance. We didn’t end up doing a lot that day, all the lines were too long for our tired legs.
The following day, walking out of the ESPN complex and towards the fields, there was incredibly dense fog everywhere. You couldn’t even see past the first field. And of course, our field was in the very very back. Once again we walked for about 20 minutes before we reached our playing field. We were competing against a team from Florida, and by the looks of these girls and the dense fog, we figured this game was going to be interesting. It was about 65 degrees outside, pretty warm if you’re from PA—but the team we were playing thought otherwise. About half of their players were wearing Under Armour long sleeves and gloves. One of the players even wore leggings under her shorts. We watched in amusement as they complained about how cold it was.
The game was very tough but we came out winning 2-0. It was not an easy win by any standards. The girls were very aggressive. I ended up having to leave the game for a short time due to a bloody nose after a strong elbow to the face. After many many fouls and even a few opposing parents cursing at the referee in Spanish, we walked out of the complex with our heads held high. We were so proud of ourselves in this highly competitive tournament.
Many of my teammates left that day, and the few who stayed went to yet another park. Some of us even managed to visit two parks. After spending a few hours in Hollywood Studios—riding Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster—we decided to head over to Epcot for our last park. After riding a few space rides and walking around the World Showcase, it was time to head back to the hotel totally exhausted for our last night.
The plane ride home was pretty boring. No one was looking forward to going back to school the next day. Looking back at everything that happened on this trip, I hope I get the opportunity to could go back and compete in this incredible venue again. For any athlete that gets the chance to go to the ESPN Wide World of Sports center, do it. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
Submitted by our members as well as teens across the world.