EVANSTON — “As soon as I step out there, everything else goes away.”
That’s how 13-year-old Caitlin Grenfell of Evanston describes her love of soccer, a love she has been cultivating her entire life.
Caitlin was recently invited to attend the U.S. Soccer West Region Olympic Development Program (ODP) player camp in Colorado this summer, one of only six Wyoming girls her age who received the invitation. She was invited last year as well, one of only two girls in her age division from Wyoming.
Caitlin, daughter of Chuck and Amy Grenfell, has been playing soccer for literally as long as she can remember. She said she’s been officially playing since starting AYSO at the age of four but has been kicking a ball around since long before that.
In February she traveled to Laramie to try out for the U.S. Soccer ODP player camp and found out in mid-April she had received the invitation. As her mom Amy describes it, “She is over the moon excited.”
The U.S. Soccer West Region includes Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska. The same coaches travel to tryouts in all of the states and then invitations are issued to the players the coaches find most impressive in all areas, including not only playing ability but attitude and interpersonal skills as well.
There are four regions in the U.S., and the summer camps give coaches an opportunity to evaluate all of the invited players in one setting. From each camp approximately 30 players from the region in each age division will be selected to be in that region’s player pool to feed the team that will play against the teams from the other regions. Ultimately, the regional teams feed into the U.S. national soccer team development program.
The camp this summer will consist of five days of intensive soccer, including two-hour training sessions in the morning and the afternoon, classes and meetings, and, for Caitlin, a lot of fun mixed in with a lot of hard work and learning.
She said she’s looking forward to meeting new people and spending time with people who share her love of soccer.
“The love of the game in people from all over is really cool,” she said. “It gives us something in common.”
Her passion for the game carried her through multiple years of AYSO and now has her playing with multiple teams. Caitlin plays for the Evanston Express club soccer program, and currently plays with the Wyoming 307 team and guest plays with the Bridger Valley Soccer Club this spring. She has previously played as a guest with the Casper Soccer Club as well.
She said she loves the friends she has made playing with other girls from around the state. The Wyoming 307 team, for example, gets together every three months to practice and travels to premier tournaments all over the western U.S., with recent locations including Albuquerque, Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Even though they may not see one another often, Caitlin said the girls on the team have developed close friendships. She even chats with some of them on a daily basis. “The teams are more like family,” she said.
She said she also enjoys the way Wyoming teams have to come together so quickly and problem solve to be able to compete. “Everybody assumes we’re not going to be good because we’re from Wyoming and don’t get much practice time,” she said. “It’s fun to prove them wrong.”
In addition to her friendships with other girls around the state, she has guy friends who love soccer as well, many of whom also play with Evanston Express. She also recognized Evanston High School senior Jess Richins as a sort of role model and someone she looks up to as a soccer player.
For Caitlin, who plays outside mid and forward, soccer also means lots of time spent with her dad, Chuck. He has been her coach through the years of AYSO and now with Evanston Express. He’s also the head coach of the Evanston High School girls’ team and will be her coach there when she moves on to high school in the fall.
She said the two spend lots of time together and soccer has given them a close bond, which is another one of the many things she loves about the game. However, she also said part of what has been good about playing for Wyoming 307 and as a guest player for other teams is to have a coach who isn’t also her dad.
“There’s an expectation to work harder than the other players when the coach is your dad,” she said. Amy chimed in and said, “People seem to think players whose parents coach get special treatment, but there are no favors having your dad as the coach.” Amy continued, “The game comes home with her and vice versa. You have to make sure what happens on the field stays on the field, and what happens at home stays at home.”
Caitlin’s involvement with soccer requires sacrifices. She currently travels to the Bridger Valley twice a week for practices and to Casper for weekend practices with Wyoming 307, along with ODP workouts a few times a year. The family plans spring break and other family trips around soccer tournaments as well. None of that inhibits her love of the game, however.
When asked if there are ever times when she just doesn’t feel like playing, Caitlin said, “No, not really. Most of the time even around the house I have a ball at my feet. The time I put into it is probably what I love the most.”