After a thrilling time at SCI Salou 2023, DME Academy shared with us a recap of their time in Spain:
WOW, what an experience. The 2007, 2010 boys and 2012 girls from DME Academy recently returned home from their Thanksgiving trip to Salou Spain for the International Surf Cup. With hundreds of teams from across the world present, this event changed the lives (for the better) of many of our players and families. We left our bubble of Florida soccer and our eyes are now open to what soccer and commitment should and can be. To experience cultural immersion and the highest level of competition imaginable in another country simply cannot be replicated. Let’s dig into what made this experience life-changing and instrumental in how DME Academy, Sarasota will grow as a community over the next few years.
Travel & Cultural Immersion
For nearly 95% of the 45 athletes, this was a first experience overseas. Holding their passport in a customs line, experiencing a 10-hour flight while enjoying full meals crossing the Atlantic Ocean, wearing the new DME Academy custom hoodie (sponsored by Integrity Over Income), and answering questions from bystanders at the airport about who they were and where they were going- all firsts for this group of aspiring athletes. Upon arrival, players boarded buses and traveled from Barcelona to Salou, roughly 1.5 hours to the most beautiful sports complex/resort a player could dream up complete with housing, pools, turf fields, eateries, and shops, and nearly 1,000 athletes from across the world sharing these services. The only downside was getting accustomed to the time change, something every parent and player had a challenge with. As the week went along, the players used their Spanish with more confidence and it felt right to try and speak Spanish when possible at local establishments, to referees, and to other players. We even started eating meals late (dinner at 8-10) after a tough day on the fields a few siesta’s happened during the day as well.
While winning is key to all competitors, many friendships were established between nations and teams. Soccer is an international language itself and while words may get lost in translation, passion, effort, and skill translate through performance. We are a lot more similar than we think and through this experience, our players created relationships, if only for a week, that will impact their lives.
The 2010 boys participated in a friendly futsal street game with dozens of other players from across the world. The event organizes split teams not by who they knew but by who they didn’t, forcing players to unite. For many of our boys, this mini-tournament under the lights against friends and with strangers displayed the true joy of the sport. Winners still won, but the smiles on players’ faces as they played freely were the true prize.
For the 2012 girls, it was a quarterfinal match-up against the mega-club and world-famous FC Barcelona. After a stunning victory (we’ll get to that later), these 24 girls connected despite not understanding each other and having just played. FC Barcelona supported the DME girls in their semi-final match from the sideline, gifted items to all the girls, and showed true sportsmanship. The DME girls can’t stop talking about the Barcelona team and how nice they were. Many now wearing Barcelona colors.
For the 2007 boys, meeting with and socializing with other athletes seemed easier. However, their eyes are now open to the level of play needed to be successful. Their tough matchups against professional clubs proved an awakening moment for them. This team now realizes the level of play needed to succeed and if nothing else, their performance in the last two games proved that they do belong with the best of the best.
Other moments of sportsmanship and friendly competition included the bus trips from the resort to the sports complex. This usually involved back-and-forth banter via song between nations and clubs. The lunch/dinner hall conversations centered on sportsmanship with a lot of “good game” messages being spoken between players and coaches. There was no laughing or pointing fingers here, even though some scorelines would say otherwise. In fact, many international teams appreciated the American resolve to never give up and keep fighting until the last whistle, and not just out of pity, they genuinely desired our effort levels and competitive spirit.
Side note: We need a DME song/anthem, many clubs, especially from Spain had full-on bands in tow.
There were lots of moments, almost moments, and missed opportunities for our teams but one thing is for sure. We do not see competition like this in the United States. Jefferson Cup, Dimitri, and Disney (all good in their own right) do not touch this event. Fact.
We can say with certainty that every DME athlete came home a better player and it’s OK to say, many lessons were learned through defeat. This wasn’t playing a local tournament in Orlando against 75% of the same teams we always play, this was an international stage with all-star teams and professional clubs. In fact, it’s safe to say, that we may have been one of a handful of one-club organizations on the lineup card.
The 2010 boys earned a victory over Canada in the warm-up game but with a short roster, unfortunate illness, and injury – the cards were stacked against them. The boys, a very strong state-side team, learned through defeat that to play at the highest level, an increased level of commitment and resolve is needed. For moments their passing and skill turned heads, but consistency throughout the game is a nonnegotiable.
For the 2007 boys, a rough start turned into a sense of belonging. The last two games ( 2-0 and 2-1 loss) proved to the boys that they do belong and can fit in. At this crucial time of their soccer journey, the time to buckle up and dig in to pursue those college aspirations has never been more clear.
For the 2012 girls, it could not have been scripted more beautifully for an American Cinderella story. Barcelona was 3-0 leaving group play and the #1 seed. DME was a one-team club out of Sarasota that had been losing in group play. With close to 1,000 fans in attendance at the main field (under the parent bar area), our girls fought hard and pulled off the upset of the tournament, a 2-0 victory and advancement to the semi-finals. This win turned heads not only within our group, the tournament organizer but throughout campus. The American fight and resolve were even praised by FC Barcelona’s coaching staff.
So what’s next? Our players return home tired, a little shell-shocked but certainly motivated to succeed. Their on-the-field classroom sessions are complete, we get back to work and prepare for the second half of the season. The boys jump right back into the EA Showcase. The girls, prep for some upcoming tournaments. The staff gets back to work on technical preparation for practice implementation based on the feedback of professional club coaches who watched our teams play.
Will we travel again? Bigger and better next time? The answer is a YES.
This summer the 2010 boys will compete in the Northern Ireland Super Cup, and next year we will re-visit a trip back to Spain for all teams!
This experience was life-changing for many. A guiding light to the future of their passion for soccer. To be the best player, the best person, the best leader, the best student – it takes more. The words our players have been throwing around are “do more”, “get back to work”, “work harder”, l”earn from the losses”, “play faster”, and “train better”. These words are just that words for now, but if these words to action – watch out for DME Academy players. They are on a path to living successful lives.
“I only have words of gratitude to God and DME Academy Sarasota for allowing my son Adriel #2 the opportunity to have this great experience of playing soccer in Salou- Spain with super competitive and professional teams. Definitely one of his dreams come true and to all those people who with their donations were part of this journey and dream, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU ” – Lany, Mom of 2010 Boy
“It’s a wrap in Spain after coming up short in the semi-finals vs pro academy team RCD Espanyol So proud of Maddy for giving her all, helping her team in whatever position was asked, and showing up at every game! Thanks to DME Academy Sarasota for inviting her! We had an amazing trip exploring Europe and are so excited for the future!!” Stephanie, Mom of 2012 Girl
“What an amazing experience for these boys, made friends with kids from Lithuania, Nigeria, and Estonia just to name a few. Lucas loved every minute with his team!” Patty, Mom of 2010 Boy
“Finally home. You simply can not replicate this. From culture to soccer level- our lives are forever changed.
Leaving the bubble of the peninsula of Florida has opened my eyes to what and how to grow DME Academy Sarasota. I am forever grateful to my friend Tommaso Trevisan for helping our club take the blinders off and travel abroad to play.” Jared, Dad of 2010 and 2012 and DME Owner
We leave a bit humbled, a touch more cultured, a lot better, and more determined than ever. The mission to Ignite the Dream through sport has never been more present as we aim to support the dreams of passionate and committed players on their journey. Until next time, thank you Spain. You were great.
Learn more about our upcoming 2024 events HERE!