Upson-Lee sophomore Jake Sayer has been playing soccer since he was four years old. Now a standout for the Upson-Lee Knights soccer team, Sayer has become of the best players in the state in his age group.
Jake is one of 40 players who were named to the ‘97 Boys Georgia ODP Team. The ODP (Olympic Development Program) Team consists of the best players in the state who were born in 1997. Jake and his teammates are some of the rare players which coaches feel they can develop into possible National Team players. The program was started over 25 years ago, in order to help the United States keep up with other countries around the world in developing Olympic caliber players.
“This has been my dream since I can remember,” said Sayer. “I remember watching my sister Shelby play soccer when I was little, and watching her made me want to get out there and play. Ever since then, I have fell in love with the game, and I want to try and go as far in soccer as my ability will take me.”
It’s that ability which led to Jake being a starter for the Knights’ soccer team as a freshman last season. Jake was also a key player for his AFC Lightning Club Team out of Fayetteville. Jake led the team in goals and assists, and was in the top three in the Classic One division in total points. His ability is also a reason why he will be competing this weekend for a chance to move to the Regional ODP Camp, which will be held in Alabama in July.
“I think we will have a really good team this year at Upson-Lee,” said Sayer. “I know that playing with the AFC Lightning has enabled me to play well at the varsity level in high school as a freshman, but playing with the ODP Team is on a whole different level. The players are really good and the game is a lot faster that a club game or a high school game. It’s definitely been a fun experience so far.”
The ODP Team was developed for the sole reason of identifying players who could possibly play for the U.S. National Team, but with college coaches on many of the ODP Team staffs throughout the country, playing on the ODP level is also a great way of getting recruited for college scholarships.
“There are a lot of college coaches watching the ODP team, but they are not allowed to talk to any of the players on my team until our junior year in high school,” said Sayer. “My goal is to one day play for the defending National Champion North Carolina Tar Heels.”
Jake, who plays the left wing position for the ODP Team, says his favorite aspect of soccer is setting his teammates up with chances to score goals, just like his role model Gareth Bale of the Totenham Hotspur English Premiere Team.
“Gareth is so explosive with his quickness and his speed,” said Sayer. “He has some of the best crosses in the game, and really likes to set up his teammates for scoring opportunities. He also plays at left wing, like myself.”
Jake and his Team Georgia teammates will participate in games in North Carolina this weekend. From those games, around 20 players will be chosen to participate in the Regional Camps in Alabama. From the players who advance to Alabama, players will be chosen for National competition.
“I have been working hard for this opportunity, and my parents have been behind me every step of the way,” said Sayer. “They have taken me to and from different soccer events over the years and have spent their time and money on my dream. I appreciate everything they have done for me, and I’m going to do my best for them.”
Jake and the Knights will begin their 2013 soccer season in a new region, and should be one of the favorites to claim a Region 4 title.