It’s easy to watch the U18 teams put their skills on display at the Memorial Day Tournament and forget all the hard work and determination that went into reaching that level. The Junior Division of the Memorial Day Tournament serves as a great reminder of the countless hours spent honing your craft and learning the intricacies of the game that separate good players from great ones. In Hopkinton, MA on Sunday we saw a lot of young players working hard to become future stars, and having a lot of fun in the process.

“Playing in these types of programs, they learn the nuances of soccer better,” said Elihu Selter, the father of an 09 GPS South Shore player. Players were constantly receiving tips from the sidelines and working on new skills that will help them continue to build off of their fundamentals. William Davis, an 08 player for GPS-Maine said he’s received a handful of tips from his coaches this weekend. “I learned a lot of new skills like opening up and getting wide for the defenders to pass it to me,” he said. William and his Mother, Gia Davis, both emphasized that the competition has been “well matched,” which provides a great learning environment for players of similar skills levels at such a young age.

Lilian Keefe, whose son plays for GPS-Metro Boston 09, said GPS has given her son an environment that’s conducive to growth as a soccer player over time. She explained, “It’s great being with kids who really want to learn and play and develop their soccer skills. Here, all the kids want to learn, they want to improve, and they want to play the game.”

Olga Winner, who also has a son playing for GPS-Metro Boston 09, said it’s been great for the kids to meet players from other teams during the Memorial Day Tournament. “It’s definitely nice to see them meet so many people, so many teams from different regions–meet new friends and get more exposure to different regions” she said. Keefe added, “Most importantly they’re having fun, they’re having a great time.”

Some of the winning teams even got their first taste of post-game press conferences. Parents crowded around as players from championship teams answered questions about their performance and their team’s path to the finals. Win, lose, or draw, everybody left the fields on Sunday afternoon with new friends, new soccer skills to build upon, and youth soccer memories that last a lifetime.