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Sometimes, in life, you just find yourself in the right place at the right time.
That’s how two Texans - my son, Liam, and I – with only a passing interest in the English Premier League, ended up hooked as huge Evertonians from across the Pond.
With my three kids, we’ve attended several soccer camps at Town and Country Sports in Austin, Texas, for over a decade, starting way back with my daughter.
For the past few years, my youngest son, Liam, has shown some post-COVID personality traits that we haven’t diagnosed, having missed out on two years of socialising at a time when you learn to get along with people the most. So, when normal life returned, I was nervous about him going to the Everton Soccer Camp… but this time it was different.
Liam hit it off straight away with the lead coach, JP Austin, who we can’t thank enough.
I was Liam’s coach in second grade, and I know that having him in a soccer camp can be a huge challenge, especially with other eight-year-old boys who may have similar personalities.
That first day I was anxiously keeping tabs on my phone for the call to come and pick him up… but the call never came.
I spoke to JP after and he said he was confident he could work with Liam, who also said he had fun, so that was a good start.
I still waited for things to go awry, but by Wednesday JP and his team had figured out how to connect with Liam and adapted his sessions to help him get more out of them and have fun, while learning and offering him more leadership in the practice.
I could also see Liam was more comfortable goofing around with the other coaches, Arsenio and Gracia, so my stress levels eased considerably and, by the end of the week, Liam had improved so much.
He was always competitive and unafraid, but adding skill to it was great to see and he’s carried that through and been much more responsive in future practice.
We’ve started the Academy programme at Town and Country and it is a great fit for Liam, so the change in him feels permanent.
Everton’s Soccer Camp, in partnership with Community Athletic Solutions, was the catalyst and JP the chance connection that really turned around Liam’s soccer career – and put us on the path to becoming a part of the Everton family.
Up until that point, we’d had just one American soccer club come to the camp, so the Premier League wasn’t really on my radar.
Here, we have NBA and NFL and those are easy access. Suddenly, I was all-in with a TV subscription to watch the Everton games live and now I’m signed up as an international member and both Liam and I are big fans.
I kept in touch with JP, who was kindly checking in regularly to see how Liam was doing, and was due to visit Europe on business in October 2022, shortly after the camp.
In the end, I planned my whole trip around a pilgrimage to Goodison for the Crystal Palace game, which was a great experience.
JP kindly sorted out a membership package and tickets, then went above and beyond by meeting me at Lime Street Station on the day of the match and give me a personal escort to Goodison. The People’s Club in action!
I loved it and I can honestly say the atmosphere was one of the best sports experiences I’ve ever had. The 3-0 win was just the cherry on the cake.
Goodison reminded me of a minor league ballpark in Amarillo dating back to the 1940s, but I mean that in a good way. It’s very down to earth and you’re right in there with the local businesses and houses, so it feels like the heartbeat of the local community.
I only wish Liam could have come over for the match and the atmosphere, but at least we’ve still got that experience to savour.
Instead, he got the souvenir of a replica Everton shirt! And this summer? Well, naturally Liam is all signed up for this summer’s camp and can’t wait.
As for my two other kids, they still have to pick up the bug and they’ve flown the nest now, so my opportunities to influence them have waned somewhat.
However, my wife, Amy, now wants an Everton shirt of her own, so it’s a start!
By Rob and Liam Cowart, Evertonians
Everton’s Summer Soccer Schools are back across the US this summer.
Community Athletic Solutions (CAS) are set to run Soccer Schools based upon Everton’s Academy coaching model across 21 US states. The programme will also visit Canada for the first time as part of an ongoing expansion.
As in previous years, the CAS-delivered Soccer Schools will use the same curriculum that is implemented at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground to deliver high quality sessions for players of all abilities, providing an authentic experience of what it is like to train at a top-rated (Category One) Premier League academy.
Coaches will also instil key footballing values like teamwork and communication, while creating a fun environment in which youngsters can learn and make friends.
The 21 states where Soccer Schools will take place in 2023 are: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. The scheme’s growth into Canada will see a Soccer School hosted in the province of Manitoba.
Each location will offer a range of programmes, with boys and girls between the ages of five and 18 catered for. Many sites will also offer goalkeeper specific schools.
North American fans wanting to learn more about the dates and tiers of camps – or to register their child’s place at a Soccer School – can click here for more information.