Family traditions are experiences or activities that are passed down between generations. These traditions can be as unique and special as the family itself. They can inspire positive feelings and memories that family members can share and also provide a sense of continuity across generations.
For Darcie Saar and her son Jasper, that shared experience is soccer.
Darcie Saar played in Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association’s Olympic Development Program during her high school years. Through ODP, she was able to play overseas, experience great coaching and meet lifelong friends.
Now it is Jasper’s turn, as he was recently named to the U13 Chester Boys ODP team.
“My mom and I found out that I made the team online when I got home from school,” Jasper said. “I was super excited to make the team and I am proud of myself. Coach Jason Moll, one of my FC Revolution coaches, called my mom to congratulate me. He is an ODP coach, too!”
Jasper said that he’s been kicking a soccer ball around for his whole life, but started playing organized soccer when he was only four years old because Darcie was running the U6 Wilson Jr. Soccer training sessions. Years later, Jasper would find himself playing for FC Revolution out of Reading and Wilson Jr. Soccer Club. Mike Moyer, the club owner of FC Revolution, coached Darcie at Wilson High School.
Darcie was first introduced to ODP by watching her older sister play and thought that “everything was amazing.” Those feelings stayed and were cemented when she got her run through the program.
“First and foremost, ODP took my soccer to the next level,” Darcie said. “It really exposed me to some great coaches and lifelong friends not just from Pennsylvania but other states too. We had a chance to play overseas in Germany and Holland and it was very cool. You make these friendships and when you get to the playoffs in high school, we’d be playing my ODP teammates so it’s just a neat network that still exists. Every once in a while you get these memories that come up on Facebook and then a string of texts go around. It definitely opened my eyes to soccer past my little quadrant.”
Those eye-opening experiences are just a fraction of the reason why Darcie wanted her son to play and why Jasper was so eager to try out for ODP. He has heard the stories of his mother playing collegiately at Penn State and overseas and was excited to possibly do the same.
Despite all the connections to the Olympic Development Program, Jasper still had to go through the tryouts. Instead of going to the Lancaster or Allentown locations where he knew some of the players, Jasper tried out in Chester where he did not have those bonds.
“I was very nervous because I didn't know what to expect, but once I got on the field, the coaches were really nice and supportive,” Jasper said. “They gave me confidence to show them what I could do. The coaches encouraged us to show teamwork by talking and looking to pass the ball. I think that helped everyone play really well.”
Watching from the sidelines, Darcie also felt comfortable with the coaching and the environment.
“It’s just the type of soccer I support -- full child development, learning different positions, have fun, work hard, very skill based,” Darcie said. “Watching him when he went on the field, it was cool. I’d like him to do his thing and he went out there and I watched him connect with these kids with a big smile on his face, playing hard and when he came off he was like, ‘That was fun, I can’t wait for the next tryout.’ It felt good that he felt comfortable in the environment and I could see he was connecting with the coaches.”
One possible reason that Jasper was so excited for the tryout is because he missed the opportunity to do so a year ago during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Outside of soccer, Jasper plays basketball on the Young Hooperz AAU team and the Wilson Van Reed A team, and has been playing tennis since he was three. In fact, he takes lessons from his mother's tennis coaches.
Jasper also plays electric guitar, ukulele and the drums.
With so much on his plate already -- and so much being in flux because of the pandemic -- Jasper did not try out.
“Last year with the pandemic, two of his club teammates had signed up for the ODP teams and it wasn’t as traditional of a season,” Darcie said. “I think he was bummed that he didn’t try out. It was something he kept bringing up. He’s heard me talk about playing overseas and he’s definitely heard how cool it is to represent your team, your country, your club overseas. So he was interested in it and I was really proud of him for stepping up to the challenge.”
Darcie said that she just wants her son to enjoy the game and for him to see that there are many ways for him to challenge himself. She hopes that through ODP he will meet new friends, great people and ultimately broaden his horizons.
Jasper said that he’s looking forward to similar things and is excited to get started.
“I am looking forward to making friends, playing with new teammates, training with different coaches, and pushing myself to get better at soccer,” Jasper said. “I am most excited to get a chance to play soccer in another country. My mom always told me how much fun she had traveling around the USA and Europe to play soccer. I am psyched that it is my turn to play on the ODP soccer team!”