They've learned to play soccer as individuals. Now it's time to do it as a team.
That's the thinking of Chuck Kinney, who entered a squad of Carroll County 11- and 12-year-olds in the Baltimore Premier Soccer League's under-13 boys division this season.
The organizers of the league, which began play last fall, created it to assemble the best youth teams in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area and provide them with top competition.
Kinney thinks the youngsters on his DP West team, who he and assistant Bill Aversa selected from the Deer Park and Westminster rec programs, can compete in that fast company.
Despite their tender ages, his players are five- to six-year veterans of the soccer wars.
But while they have developed as individual players during that time, there are pages in the soccer book they need to learn.
"We have kids with just as many skills as [the other Premier League teams] but the others play as a team," Kinney said.
That's something his players must learn, said Kinney, a Westminster area resident. And his squad's tough Premier League opponents are just the ones to teach them.
"All of them are club teams. They go out and recruit players from all over to play high-quality soccer," said Kinney.
Among those teams are the Baltimore Soccer Club, which dominated the Carroll County Boys Soccer League when its teams played here two years ago.
Teams in the local boys loop, on the other hand, choose players primarily from their own geographical areas or in-house rec programs.
Besides having excellent individual players, the top clubs in the Premier League also play together as a unit over a period of several years, giving them a cohesiveness that makes their top-flight soccer talent even more devastating on the field.
Kinney said his team also must stay together for awhile to be able to beat such competition.
DP West, though, is a relatively new creation at the moment.
After hearing of the Premier League last fall, some of the players on the Kinney-coached Deer Park under-12 Carroll Boys League squad wanted to play there, he said.
So, he and Bill Aversa, a resident of Westminster who also coached a Boys League team, selected a group of players from their two travel squads for DP West.
So far, it is 0-2.
The locals lost their opener to Baltimore S.C., 5-2, two weeks ago and then dropped a 3-2 squeaker to Cockeysville Friday night at Cedar Lane Park in Howard County.
Nevertheless, Kinney doesn't feel his team has been outclassed and said, "I'm satisfied with the way the kids have played. We've come a long way since we started."
While he'd like to win a few this year, Kinney said his main goal is "to show the kids this is another step forward in soccer and that they can compete against these teams. Our leagues turn out good soccer players but they have to play as a team. That's the essence of the game. There's that need to step above rec soccer."
Accordingly, he intends to bring this outfit back to the Premier League next fall, and he also wants to enter a younger team.
But despite his enthusiasm, Kinney said he doesn't expect soccer to become his players' year-round obsession.
"We're not interested in playing year-round. There are other sports to play, such as basketball and baseball, and our kids like to play them," he said.