Grand Junction soccer star foreshadowed goals in book
A child’s soccer dreams are jotted on 15 pages with black marker.
Over a glossy, dark-orange background of the hardback cover, the ballooning word “GOAL” drops diagonally, the letters alternating blue and yellow. The ‘O’ is filled with a pattern of a soccer ball.
When fourth-grade Appleton Elementary student Baseley McClaskey penned the story of Molly, a small-town Washington girl who went from a timid soccer amateur to a glorious State Cup champion, she was writing about herself.
McClaskey, now 14, had not yet helped the Grand Junction Fire win an unprecedented State Cup championship, attended the elite soccer training facilities of IMG Academies in Bradenton, Fla., or qualified for a U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program Regional team.
“GOAL” was McClaskey’s action plan.
Molly went first.
But McClaskey has surpassed most expectations — even those of her fourth-grade fantasy.
She knew that if she made the shot it would definitely secure her spot on the team. This was it, she thought. “Right corner. Low.” – Baseley McClaskey, “GOAL.”
McClaskey didn’t glance at the goal when she ripped a one-time shot.
“It went into the lower-right corner,” McClaskey said.
No time to celebrate. It was the second half of a U.S. Youth Soccer international tournament on Feb. 28 in San Jose, Costa Rica. McClaskey had charged to the top of the 18-yard box.
The nervousness from her first start in the four-game tournament was gone when she put the U.S. Olympic Development Program 1997 Region IV team ahead 1-0 late in the second half.
McClaskey’s celebration, the simple act of throwing her hands in the air, didn’t last long. Teammates mugged her. It was as thrilling as her Costa Rican experiences of zip-lining over a rain forest, bargaining in Spanish for bracelets at a local market and showing orphans how to swing on monkey bars.
Region IV defeated Cartago 2-0.
Even more, the Region IV team, a Far West Regional League team comprised of 18 players under 17 years of age from 14 Western states, went 3-0-1 in the tournament and was the champion.
McClaskey was playing up in age. Once again.
“The Costa Rica girls, they were not girls,” McClaskey said. “They were more like women, ages 16 to 30. I kind of had to be tougher and I thought I did a good job of adjusting.”
Last Aug. 23, the day before her 14th birthday, McClaskey made a much bigger adjustment.
Like a flower uprooted and tossed aside, she moved from Colorado to the tropical climate of Bradenton, Fla.
Having left West Middle School to attend the highly-touted IMG Academies for elite soccer training, the eighth-grader is experiencing a gumbo-like mixture of cultures and ethnicities and has found a place among some of the nation’s top youth athletes.
She moved there alone.
Molly was a little scared, but she also was kind of happy. She was ready to do something with her life — Baseley McClaskey, “GOAL”
“Me and my husband always say, ‘It was that darn pig.’ “
Then Baseley’s mother, Jenny McClaskey, laughs, and her mind drifts to 4-H.
Before Baseley McClaskey approached her mother asking to attend a three-week soccer camp last summer at Bradenton’s IMG Academies, Baseley had raised a 4-H pig. It sold at a fair for $3,500.
Jenny McClaskey told her daughter she couldn’t afford to send her daughter to the camp.
The price tag? $3,500.
McClaskey said she’d empty her pig money.
Jenny and her husband, Todd, wrote a list of pros and cons of Baseley going to camp.
“The only con was that we’d be missing her,” Jenny said. “And that’d be selfish.”
So she went.
Who was Mom to stunt the potential of Baseley, who could play numerous positions and flashed uncommon ability to spot streaking forwards at a peripheral glance? For that matter, who had stopped her before?
Long ago, Alex Chaffetz, Baseley’s head soccer coach of the Grand Junction Fire since Baseley was 5, ensured the team would punch through its potential. He sanded snags and sawed overhanging branches that blocked the visibility of the bigwig scouts to this small-town soccer club. The Fire explored the region’s top soccer talent, competing in tournaments in California, Nevada and Utah.
“We showed them what the best teams were capable of doing,” Chaffetz said. “We started telling the players when they were 10 years old: ‘This is a game and who knows where it can take you?’ “
In 2010, the under-13 Grand Junction Fire and McClaskey shocked the Colorado Club soccer world.
... the California team won another state championship.”
“Seriously? I wish someone would just beat them.”
“I know, me too. They really need some competition.” — Baseley McClaskey, “GOAL”
Raised in a hotbed of soccer underdogs on the Western Slope, McClaskey, then 10 years old, began penning the lines in “GOAL” about a team from “rainy Everett-Seattle” that eventually beat three California teams and won a State Cup. The plot was of a small town toppling the big city, David slinging a rock at the head of Goliath.
The words came true in the 2010 under-13 State Cup. The Grand Junction Fire U-13 girls defeated nationally recognized Nike Rush, 1-0, marking the first time a boys or girls team of any age on the Western Slope of Colorado won a State Cup.
“GOAL” already had been dedicated to: “Alex Chaffetz,” McClaskey wrote, “my amazing soccer coach who always believed in my teammates and I, and always coached us to be the BEST!”
The State Cup championship likely helped McClaskey gain attention from ODP scouts. Last summer, while training with Colorado West Select Soccer Club in Grand Junction, she became one of 36 female youth soccer players selected to the United States Olympic Development Program’s Western U.S. training pool for players born in 1997.
“She’s not, like, the fastest kid,” said Josh Pittman, who for five years was McClaskey’s coach and the director of the Grand Junction Soccer Club, now Colorado West Select. “But I think she could play nine different positions. She’s a very steady player. And I’ve never seen her play in her own age group.”
Also in August, she was invited to an under-14 national camp at the University of Portland in Oregon along with 69 girls from across the country.
That’s also when McClaskey began attending IMG Academies full time.
“She’s loving it,” Todd McClaskey said. “A lot of people think we’re crazy, just sending an eighth-grader away for a year.”
In November, McClaskey became a member of the Colorado ODP team and later that month was selected to the 1997 Region IV ODP team that played an inter-regional event in Boca Raton, Fla.
Last month, the Region IV team played the international tournament in Costa Rica.
McClaskey is hoping to be invited to an under-15 U.S. Youth Soccer camp this summer.
“Now she’s 14 years old and playing international matches for the U.S.,” Chaffetz said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her and what she’s done in such a short time.”
The news was on and there was something about the Olympics on. The U.S. had won yet another World Cup. Molly took one look at that and wished she was good at something. — Baseley McClaskey, “GOAL”
McClaskey would like to add to her book, perhaps another chapter, maybe even a different ending.
“I’d add about all the struggles and obstacles Molly went through,” Baseley said. “And then at the end, have a moment when she realizes how many obstacles she overcame.”
The end, for Baseley, is not in sight.
Her next major goal: To be selected to the 2014 U-17 Youth World Cup.
Only the future remains, because Molly long ago faded away, her fictional life ending on the final sentence of an inspired author: “They proved that they belong at the TOP!!”
For Baseley, however, a new book begins, full of college national championships and World Cup highlights, events she already has scripted in her head.