Trio of Fire FC players selected for Olympic Development Program team

Dawson Spring, left, Tyler Speer, center, and Tanner Holt, right, were all selected to play on the 2000 Colorado Olympic Development Program team. The Fire FC 13-year-olds all were part of the team last year, too.

Out of a mishmash of talented soccer players from across Colorado, three Fire FC soccer players qualified for the state’s Olympic Development Program soccer team.

For the second consecutive year, Tanner Holt, Tyler Speer and Dawson Springer were selected for the 2000 Colorado ODP team out of roughly 100 soccer players in their age group. Classified by birth year, in this case 2000, Holt, Speer and Springer were selected to be among the 16 players who will represent Colorado during the Region IV ODP Tournament in Phoenix, starting Thursday. At stake is the chance to compete in the ODP National Championship, also in Phoenix, later this year.

Fire FC Technical Director Nick Gumpert, who also coaches Holt, Speer and Springer on their Fire FC team, said they were selected for their technical skills and ability to handle pressure, something that is hard to find with 13-year-olds.

“Technical ability is huge for coaches at that level because players hit their growth spurts at different points,” Gumpert said. “It’s important for 12- or 13-year-olds to have those technical skills on the ball. Physical abilities and size will get a kid brownie points, and if a kid is blessed, so to speak, with natural speed. But the biggest skill kids this age can have at this level are technical skills and ability under fire. Can the kid handle the ball under pressure and have those decision-making skills?”

The ability to handle pressure is at the forefront during the Colorado ODP selection process, Gumpert said. The first 100 players in the ODP pool, selected by soccer coaches from around the state, are invited to try out for the ODP team in Denver. From that pool, 32 players make the first cut. Of the 32 in the second pool, 16 players travel to Phoenix.

Gumpert said seeing his players make both cuts was an indicator of hard work and development.

“If you have a bad day, it can cost you a spot on the team,” Gumpert said. “These coaches aren’t spending enough time with these players to see the ups and downs. They only see them in this short window, so it’s a testament to how hard these guys have worked to make the team again this year.”

Hard work is everything for Speer. It’s how players make the team, he said, and it’s also what he sees in every ODP team at tournaments.

“You just have to try your hardest to get on the team,” Speer said. “That’s what they look for. They like the hard work and people who talk a lot. They’re looking for the technical aspects and getting your touches good, but it’s mostly hard work.

“Coming back this year, I knew what to expect and had confidence. I was mixing with the other kids good, and I felt like I was doing better this year.”

Spring said they have a different coach this year, but having previously qualified for an ODP team boosted his confidence. He said knowing what to expect allowed him to play his best.

“It does give me confidence, and it does drive me,” Springer said. “It drives me to work on my game during the offseason, work at my house, to get back to this point. (I’m) just trying to get better.”

Although most of the players on the ODP program play soccer year-round, Spring credited basketball as one of his offseason conditioning methods.

The three boys agreed the hardest-working teams perform the best at ODP tournaments, and it is evidenced by Southern California teams. Holt said seeing quality teams from other parts of the country pushes him to improve his own skills.

“I just want to gain more skill,” Holt said. “Watching a team like the Cal South team ... and how they play shows me what’s out there. It helps with awareness and being quicker on the ball.”


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