By Roger Gonzalez
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a new series profiling people, places and stories in the youth game. This piece centers on one Michigan team’s road to the Jefferson Cup, an elite youth tournament in Richmond, Va. Jeff Cup 2012 takes place over two weekends in March, with boys action March 9-11 and girls in play March 16-18.
Road trips: Some love them, others despise them. Much has to do with the desired destination. For FC Nova 00 Black from Shelby Township, Mich., the team couldn’t be more excited about where it is headed next month.
A talented team that has been together for five years and has won nearly a dozen tournaments, including the MEAD Cusa Cup and Novi Jaguar Invitational (both three times), FC Nova 00 Black will be marching from Michigan to Richmond, Va. on a 55-passenger bus packed with players, parents and relatives with one target: glory at the 2012 Jefferson Cup, where they will compete in the Under-12 11v11 Elite bracket.
“Everybody is so excited,” team manager Teresa Nardozzi said. “We are just trying to get everything organized.
“We have moms and dads that are volunteers, sponsors that are donating chips, drinks that we need. I can’t believe how much the community has come together for the team. It’s unbelievable.”
Nearly every seat on the bus is taken.
“This team is very committed,” Nardozzi said. “They know the importance of the game, practicing together. We have traveled quite a few places. We did the St. Louis Classic. They know that when it’s time to train, it’s time to train. They are kids at heart. They are a special team.
“There is a lot of talent on this team.”
The squad will play at least three matches in the tournament, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. They may play more, pending the outcome of their group stage encounters.
The voyage was all made possible by community sponsors rounded up by the hard work of team volunteers.
“I composed a letter for sponsorship, and we’ve asked for donations,” Nardozzi said, who praised several local businesses for helping out.
“Everybody has been very receptive.”
Now the team, which is coached by Henry Steinwascher, can’t wait to get things rolling. The excitement continues to build, as does the companionship.
“When we started putting it all together, some of the boys were trying to figure out how to afford to be coming on the bus with their family,” Nardozzi said. “It came all together at the right time. I was truly amazed. They want to be together. They are so excited to be together.”
Before the fun begins on Saturday, the kids will be fed well and entertained during the 12-hour trip in preparation for their time on the field.
“They are going to be watching movies and hopefully be sleeping,” Nardozzi said with a chuckle. “I asked our volunteers for a snack mom, dinner mom, team-dinner mom and lunch mom.
“Everybody stepped up. I even have a DVD dad!”
As their date of departure nears and the team pursues its goal to lift a trophy, Nardozzi said there is also another one that is equally important.
“To have a memorable experience along with our families,” she said.
“My saying goes, ‘anything in life is what you make of it.'”