Three local youth soccer players recently returned to Centre County after earning invitations to week-long overseas camps, where they trained with a professional team from the English Football League Championship.
John Cobes and Ryan Wales, both seventh-graders from Park Forest, took part in the mid-level tour, while Corl Street fifth-grader Joel Torbic competed in the high-level trial. Torbic actually had the potential to be signed afterward.
The trio earned their right to participate after advancing from a State College summer camp last year to a national camp in Georgia. From there, they impressed enough coaches to garner three of the roughly 50 invitations handed out around the world, according to State College youth coach Dan Meehan and Joel’s father, Darren.
“My overall experience was unbeatable,” Joel wrote after his trip. “If you put anything up against this, they would lose. It was just ‘futbol, futbol, futbol.’”
The three worked on their soccer skills with the Wolverhampton Wanderers, who play in the second-highest tier of English football, right behind the Premier League. Wolverhampton started playing in 1877 and helped found the English Football League in 1888.
All that history wasn’t lost on the Centre County kids, either.
“We toured two soccer stadiums, Old Trafford and Molineux, which were amazing,” added Ryan, referring to the respective soccer fields of Manchester United and Wolverhampton.
Said Joel: “My favorite part of the trip was probably going to Old Trafford. … I also got to see all their silverware/trophies and sit in the actual seat that (former Manchester United manager) Alex Ferguson sat in during the games.”
In addition to soccer, the trio also toured some of the local sights — including Cadbury World, which Ryan referred to as “a bizarro Hershey World.” (He still enjoyed the caramels.)
All three compete in State College’s Celtic Soccer Club leagues. The Celtic Soccer Club will once again help organize a Wolves ID Camp in State College from June 26-28, in the hopes that more county players might move on to nationals and then head to England.
For anyone attending in the future, Ryan had a bit of advice: Stay intense and make friends.
“There was no messing around, or else you’d already be a step behind because if you missed any of the coaches’ instructions, success was difficult,” he said. “I felt the coaches pushed me to my limits, and sometimes beyond that.
“I believe I have become a much improved player, and also a ‘top lad,’ as they said in camp.”