Ethan Smith is excited about his trip to England next month, and at the top of his to-do list is experiencing something completely new to him.
“Just seeing what life is like over there,” said Smith, 17. “Being able to get out of the country and explore.”
Smith, who will be a senior at Columbus North this fall, was one of eight American high school soccer players chosen to take part in the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy in Leeds, England.
The Academy begins July 29 and will last two weeks. During that time, Smith and his fellow Americans will participate in two training sessions per day and three games, including one against the vaunted Manchester City Academy team.
“This is easily going to be the hardest competition I have ever played against,” Smith said.
Smith was recruited by John Roeslein, the Director of North American Scouts and Player ID for Richmond International Academic and Soccer Academy. Last summer, Smith played on the U16 Indiana state team.
During a regional tournament, Smith’s team played a squad from Missouri coached by Roeslein. Though Smith’s Indiana team lost, Roeslein contacted Smith’s father.
Smith will be staying on the Richmond campus, living in dormitories and eating cafeteria food. Smith said that it will be a true test for he and his fellow Americans.
“They are so much more advanced in England and Europe in general,” he said. “The U.S. is a lot further behind talent-wise.”
Smith plays a forward/striker position, but Phil Presser, director of the Indiana Fire, thinks he can play multiple positions.
“Ethan is unique,” said Presser, 31. “He doesn’t really have a position. He is pretty versatile and a pretty athletic player.”
For four straight years, Presser served as a guest coach at North’s high school team camp.
“Ethan has strived to play in the best environment possible for him,” Presser said. “He’s played for the Columbus Express, the Indiana Fire Academy. Now, his trip to England will give him a true test of reality.”
Smith is hoping the trip will help him in his college recruitment as well as polishing his skills.
“It’ll be something big to put on my résumé for colleges to look at,” Smith said. “And it will also help me discover what part of my game I’ll need to work on.”
Smith said he has been talking to small schools but has yet to receive any offers to play collegiately. He hopes the trip, coupled with his senior year at North, will earn him a chance to play at the next level.
“He is a college player,” Presser said. “His fitness right now isn’t where it needs to be, but he can work on that.
“He can certainly play soccer at the Division I level.”
Smith said if offered to play college soccer in England, or anywhere in Europe for that matter, he’d give it serious consideration.
“But I could absolutely hate it or love it,” he said. “It’s the distance that’s the problem.”
Right now, though, Smith is simply excited to embrace his first trip outside the U.S.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the game is like over there,” Smith said. “For me, it will be interesting to compare myself to the competition over there.”