Boys Soccer Players Compete at ODP Competition

Jacob Nakasone, Reporter

     Within the past year, three varsity soccer players had the opportunity to attend the Olympic Development Program (ODP). Junior Nicholas Gaston and Sophomores Jacky Davis and Joshua Ishizaka were able to travel to Boise, Idaho for a regional camp tryout during the summer of 2018. Gaston was able to play with the ODP team in Bradenton, Fla. after performing well in the tryout, Ishizaka played with the ODP state team in Phoenix, Ariz. during winter break, while Davis traveled only to Idaho.

    “ODP is the Olympic Development Program which is a program (where) college coaches choose a bunch of players from a certain region and they choose the best players to represent the region and we all play in a camp together, training for weeks, and after that, we compete against other ODP teams from different regions and we can also play against international competition as well,” said Gaston.

    Reaching the ODP camp was a two step process. To make it to Idaho, each of the boys had to first attend a tryout in Hawai’i. “There was a camp here — the No Ka Oi camp — where all the college coaches and the ODP coaches came down and chose the players that they (wanted) to come up to the regional camp. (The camp) was at the Waipio Soccer Peninsula,” said Davis.

    At the Idaho camp, there was a highly competitive atmosphere due to the various skills the players were being judged on. Hundreds of players from the west region of the United States competed at the camp. “It’s definitely pretty eye opening, especially being from Hawai’i where you play the same people over and over again. But you get to play people from Israel, you get to play people from England, you get to play the IMG (International Management Group Academy) team itself and the competition is very fierce up there. But it kind of shows a perspective of how good you are as a player and it’s really helpful to possibly moving forward in your career,” said Gaston. Ishizaka added, “In my age group, I’d say anywhere from 50 to 100 players attend the region camp. It’s very good, it’s a high standard. It’s the best players from each state, so it’s really, really competitive. And we try to get the best out of each player by competing at the highest level.”

    While at the camp, the boys experienced many challenges that tested their physical and mental strength.  These problems were encountered both on and off the field. “(One challenge was) probably the fact that most of the players are ginormous and I am not. I may be tall here at six feet, but I was playing against competition which are 6’2 plus and sometimes it can be intimidating,” said Gaston. Davis added, “A mental (challenge) was being sleep deprived because the time difference (in Idaho) is a lot and the sun came out (at) like four in the morning. (Another one) was just having to go to the two trainings a day and being tired.”

    In addition to these physical problems, there were several mental obstacles that they had to overcome. The experience of playing away from home added pressure to the players. “When you go up there, you kind of sometimes think that you’re not going to be able to handle especially because they’re all big — but you seem to find yourself as a player and you can find your strengths, your weaknesses against these other opponents and sometimes, (that) will help you out in your favor,” said Gaston. Ishizaka added, “At ODP you’re there without your parents, so being disciplined in eating the right things and getting the right amount of sleep and doing what you gotta do to prepare for the tournament, it’s definitely hard.”

    For each of the players, they’ve created future goals for themselves. By going to ODP it has helped them gain experience by playing under college coaches — for Gaston, he has already received several offers to play soccer at the college level. “My dream goal is to get into a good college and get a scholarship so that I can help my parents pay off my college bills. (My father) went to college on a baseball scholarship so just being able to (get a scholarship) and help my parents pay for college would be very helpful,” said Ishizaka. Gaston added, “I would say that my number one goal is just to make a college team so I can help pay for college. I feel like it would really help out my family and I believe college soccer is going to be a good experience for me.”

    Although Davis and Ishizaka weren’t able to make it to the Florida camp, the experience has helped them grow as players. By attending the Idaho camp, they feel that they’ve gained useful insight for the future. “ODP gives you a technical report when you’re done and it’s also a competition of the highest (level) players from each state. So I believe with that technical report and with the high competition, you get to improve yourself and get better each year,” said Ishizaka.

    Back at home, the three players have brought back their experiences and want to utilize it in order to improve for their upcoming club season. They also plan to have more of a leadership role for their teams. “I would say (ODP) does (help) because it helps you become a better leader by being able to play with a bunch of strangers from all over the island and not only that, but you’re playing at a higher competition than you would at this island so being able to get better (at) that is definitely helpful,” said Ishizaka. Gaston added, “As a soccer player, I was not very confident my freshman year because I was a benchwarmer and I really didn’t do a whole lot to help the team out. Come sophomore year, I actually had a very integral role in my team and that really boosted the confidence in me to become a better soccer player (because) you actually mean something to the team. Now coming to my junior year, I had the confidence to lead a little bit and going into my senior year as a captain I know I need to take (on) that leadership role.”

    Gaston and Ishizaka were selected as two of the four captains for the upcoming MHS varsity soccer season in the 2019-2020 school year. The three players hope to improve during the off-season to prepare for next year’s high school soccer season.